Hello, my name is Evan Marquardt and I am an Environmental Studies and Biology combined major at Whitman College. I am working at the Water and Environment center at the Walla Walla Community College in conjunction with the Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. My main objective in my internship is to collect data on species abundance and diversity on several portions of the Tucannon River. The species that I am focusing on are fish species as well as macroinvertebrates. I measure fish species diversity and abundance by snorkeling the left and right banks of the river and counting fish as I go. Macroinvertebrates are collected after the snorkel surveys and brought back to the lab for identification. This project began in August 2019 and will continue through August 2020. I plan to have snorkeled and made macroinvertebrate collections from 12 of the below labeled portions of the Tucannon River.
My internship began slowly with lots of planning to develop methods that were to be used in the field. I also needed to become acquainted with the fish species I would encounter. The first day I went into the field I was accompanied by my supervisor and one additional researcher. That day we went to the section of river labeled EM_PA13A. This portion of the Tucannon river flows straight and fast with very low habitat heterogeneity. In other words, a portion of river that was very simple and did not have very much good habitat for fish and was in need of restoration efforts. I was wearing a dry suit that was two sizes too small and had a slate around my wrist so I could record the fish species that I saw. We began our 100-meter crawl up the river. I saw more fish than I ever thought were in the river. Chinook salmon fry and rainbow trout were by far the most common but I also saw a few sculpins and one bull trout. I was feeling good about the methods and my ability to identify consistently but then I saw something unusual. It was a massive fish, a full-grown chinook salmon. I stopped and called my supervisor over but before she could make here way to me three otters came in between us. They swam right up to her then dove to the side. They circled around and came back. I could not tell if they were friendly or defensive. We just sat still and enjoyed the incredible moment.
Since that incredible day I have successfully snorkeled along 5 portions of the river on my own and made macroinvertebrate collections from 8 portions. In the lab I have identified 200 individual macroinvertebrates to the level of family from each of the 8 samples. That is 1600 macroinvertebrates for those keeping track. For now, my attention has turned to analyzing the data for my thesis and getting ready for a project at the Wet Lab at the Community college that I will begin in February. I will complete the final 4 macroinvertebrate samples and 7 snorkels in the spring and summer.
Experiences like Evan’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez