For two and a half months, I had been working at a relatively remote National Wildlife Refuge in Utah known as Fish Springs. Established in 1959, the refuge encompasses 10,000 acres of spring-fed wetlands but totals to nearly 18,000 acres. Being over three hours away from Salt Lake City, not too many people visit Fish Springs, but the birding opportunities there are remarkable.
How remote is Fish Springs? The nearest town, Delta, is at least an hour and a half drive on gravel and dirt roads. During this time, I had gotten to know the refuge’s extraordinary beauty. Within the Great Basin Desert, this is an oasis for more than 298 species of birds as well other wildlife seen on the refuge. Therefore, the refuge requires extensive monitoring and careful planning to ensure that this continues to be a haven for wildlife.
As part of my internship, the majority of my time involved spraying noxious weeds (i.e., perennial pepperweed and spotted knapweed), but I had been occupied with fieldwork, too. Once a week, I conducted evening surveys, with the focus on snowy plovers. As an important stopover site, Fish Springs has one percent of the Pacific Coast western snowy plover population, which breed here annually. Besides snowy plovers, I also surveyed other resources of concern, including American Avocets, White-faced Ibises, Long-billed Curlews, American Bitterns, and Virginia Rails, whose numbers will help influence future management decisions.
For the last three weeks of my time there, I had been conducting sub-aquatic vegetation (SAV) surveys as part of a larger study for 2015 involving eight other refuges. Along with two other people, we sampled a select number of sites within five different refuge units and analyzed the composition of those sites, such as canopy cover percentage, depth, and temperature. This data will also help with the habitat management plan for managing waterfowl and other migratory species that utilize those important food resources, such as sago pondweed, muskgrass, and widgeon grass.
I enjoyed my time out there, but I missed being back home in Indiana. Now that I’m home, I miss the views of the sun rising and setting over the mountains and seeing every star in the night sky. Being in Utah gave me a great perspective on life, and I hope that these memories will last a lifetime.
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University, 2015