Project Manager, Central Cascade Fisheries Enhancement Group
Whitman alumna and fellow Westie (2004) Kristen Kirkby is a passionate fisheries biologist working as a project manager for Central Cascade Fisheries Enhancement Group (CCFEG). CCFEG uses funding from Bonneville Power Administration, state government agencies, and local Public Utility Districts (PUDs) to rehabilitate fish populations in the Upper Columbia River and its tributaries. Kristen works to restore habitat for salmon by creating flood zones, taking out levies, replanting riparian zones, and adding structure in the form of stumps and log jams to help create vital salmon spawning habitat.
Kristen greeted us with a truck full of neoprene, snorkel masks, and an enthusiastic smile along the banks of the Methow River just outside of Twisp, Washington. Before we made it down the path to the river she had us stop to dissect a female hatchery steelhead. We analyzed its eggs, held its perfectly round eye lens in our fingers, and even quizzed us on anatomical features of the fish. Snorkeling in the frigid water of the Methow did not seem to faze any of us, with white fish tickling the shallow shore and large Chinook salmon and Bull trout darting through the dark depths. There was an exciting new world to explore just beneath the water’s surface, one seldom seen by recreationists, and even fishermen. One can easily see why this sort of data collection and monitoring is one of Kristen’s favorite parts of her work.
Kristen expressed the importance of salmon as a species for not only their commercial value and recreational benefits, but their ecological benefits as they bring crucial nutrients from the ocean to the valley. Kristen imparted to us the value of a holistic approach to habitat restoration and how it takes careful management and monitoring along with education to help its impact flourish into the future.
By Liam Voorhees