Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
DetailsOf ADetail
Midwest Region, May 1, 2010
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Posing with a rather displeased adult male Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Posing with a rather displeased adult male Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

Without ever having to leave my desk, I worked a detail with the Columbia Ecological Services office for six weeks.  We in fisheries have often wondered what a day in the life of our next door neighbors was like – and what all those half-sheets of orange paper were for. 

Now I know!  Much like in fisheries, ES daily operations are varied and busy.  The sheer volume of project review letters that come into the office each month (the half-sheets of orange paper) was impressive. 

Often just a basic description of a project is sent with a request to identify any potential endangered species or associated habitats.  The receiving biologist has to interpret the project and determine if endangered species, migratory birds, streams or wetlands may be impacted and, if so, how to mitigate for any damages. 

It takes a biologist’s eye and a lawyer’s knowledge of policy to execute the project proposals.  I also got to use my fisheries background to submit comments to the senior biologist regarding a rather contentious and ongoing floodplain protection project and mitigation proposal. 

This was a real opportunity to pull out the theoretical modeling lessons I learned in graduate school so long ago.  It wasn’t all permitting and policy paperwork, though.  I was invited out to help find Massasauga rattlesnakes as part of a mark/recapture study. 

This wasn’t my first rattlesnake hunt, but it was my first experience holding a rattlesnake barehanded (who was quite cross about the situation).  My fabricating skills were also put to good use creating wire bird traps for a lead contamination study.  All in all, this was a great experience. 

Thanks to the Columbia ES biologists, I got to look at the world from a regulatory standpoint instead of from my normal land manager perspective.  Oh, and those half-sheets of orange paper?  Ellie uses those to track and file all of those project proposals - and the bright color helps prevent those letters from getting lost on your desk!

Contact Info: Patricia Herman, 573-234-2132 x170, Patricia_Herman@fws.gov
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