Tag Archives: fish and wildlife service

Moosehorn Hooks in Veterans

The sun shined bright for veterans on Tuesday, June 12th as family, friends, and fish gathered to celebrate the Annual Veteran’s Fishing Day at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Baring, Maine. Service volunteers joined forces with the Maine Veterans’ Home, the Cobscook Bay State Park, the Maine Warden Service and the Friends of Moosehorn to provide a day’s worth of fishing and recreation.

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Friends and family spend the day fishing with U.S. Veterans at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Baring, Maine, for the Service’s Annual Veteran’s Fishing Day.

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge consists of nearly 30,000 acres of federally protected lands in eastern Maine including rolling hills, large ledge outcrops, streams, lakes, bogs, and marshes. Peggy Sawyer, Moosehorn Administrative Assistant and Annual Veterans Fishing Day volunteer confidently commented, “Lesson learned: sun shining on the water, a fishing rod and a hungry fish can soothe a troubled spirit and make a heart smile.”

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A U.S. Veteran sits by a toddler whom is fishing at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge (NWF) for the Annual Veteran’s Fishing Day.

Sawyer, though not a fan of recreational fishing or freshwater fish in general, expressed that, “The simple pleasure of reeling in a fish and the anticipation of fresh trout for supper lit their faces with smiles. I even heard a few belly laughs! Whether they came to fish, or just to get some fresh air and feel the sun, they made new memories however fleeting.”

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A young man and a U.S. Navy Seal Veteran bait a hook to fish at the Refuge.

Volunteers, family, and friends gathered worms, baited hooks, and casted lines for the men and women who are now veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Refuge manager Keith Ramos commented, “Getting to spend a day with men and women who served our country is a great honor and privilege.”

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Joe McBrine, Maine Game Warden, smiles, holding a fish in hand, kneeling beside a giddy senior whom is fishing at the Refuge.

USFWS volunteer Tabitha Ramos commented, “Many of these men and women had not been able to fish in years. One gentleman said the last time he picked up a pole was 60 years ago. Many haven’t fished due to access and mobility, so together USFWS and the State made it possible for them to fish for the day.”

If you’re interested in learning more, please visit the USFWS Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge home page for more information. If you’re interested in getting involved, the ‘Get Involved’ page is available to learn ways in which you can help now.

 

 

We are what we eat: Scientists probe the potential effects of emerging contaminants

When contaminants get into the water system, some people might assume that standard water treatment techniques would make that water free from potential contamination.

The truth is, it is not that simple.

What happens when detergents, flavors, fragrances, hormones, medications, new pesticides, veterinary medicines, and other chemicals make their way into waterways of the Great Lakes Basin? Researchers are exploring these contaminants of emerging concern, or CECs, to help us better understand the potential impacts on wildlife and people.

For example, consider a commonly used over-the-counter pain reliever. Sunlight, temperature, pH or microbial activity will naturally break it down into different smaller compounds. Those smaller compounds, and the medication itself, are collectively termed “contaminants of emerging concern.”

Between the years of 2010 and 2014, our agency, the U.S Geologic Survey, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set out to characterize emerging contaminants present in Great Lakes Tributaries.  From 2015 to the present investigations have focused on assessing hazards and impacts these contaminants have on fish and wildlife species.

Daniel Gefell, biologist for the USFWS, holding a Bowfin at one of the sampling sites, USFWS.

Daniel Gefell, biologist for the USFWS, holding a Bowfin at one of the sampling sites, USFWS.

Funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, collaborators sampled water, sediment, and fish populations from a variety of different Great Lakes field sites. In New York, field efforts were primarily focused in the Rochester area and in the North Country in the St. Lawrence river drainage.

The most consistently studied organism is fish, with few studies directed toward the toxic effects in freshwater mussels, freshwater aquatic plants, or other native aquatic species. Four approaches were taken to evaluate fish populations and the effects of emerging contaminants.

1)         Biologists measured over 200 sampling sites and found that many of these emerging contaminants are consistently present in the water and sediment within the Great Lakes Tributaries.  From this information, biologists determined which chemicals are most often detected and at what levels so they could mimic environmental conditions with laboratory studies.

2)         In the same places where CECs were found, wild fish populations were evaluated for indicators of poor health including changes in physical appearance and reproductive health.

Drawing blood from a fish to send in for CEC analysis, USFWS.

Drawing blood from a fish to send in for CEC analysis, USFWS.

3)         Unexposed hatchery raised fish were caged and placed in the same areas where CECs were found and where wild fish were evaluated.  Hatchery fish were used because they were unexposed to CECs before the evaluation.  Biologists then compared hatchery fish to the wild fish to help determine the impacts of CECs on their health.

4)         Biologists looked at previous scientific publications of field and laboratory studies to take advantage of all the information we know about individual chemicals and their effects on fish. Biologists used the lab information to infer hazards to fish due to exposure of CECs.

So far, lab studies are confirming that many of the CECs have negative impacts on fish including mortality, developmental effects, and reduced reproductive capacity. Many studies have also confirmed that some CECs accumulate in fish.

Tumor on the mouth of a bullhead - Photo Credit Jo Ann Banda, USFWS.

Tumor on the mouth of a bullhead – Photo Credit Jo Ann Banda, USFWS.

What does it mean when other animals–or even people–eat those fish?

Not enough information is known yet to say for sure how eating fish living in a CEC rich environment could impact humans, but a study published in 2015 evaluated a large group of northeastern bats to determine if CECs could be found within those bat populations.

Have you ever heard of the phrase “you are what you eat”? That’s essentially what’s happening here.

Northeastern bats have a high metabolism, meaning they have to eat a lot of food! The bats are eating bugs, which may have lived in contaminated environments. In turn, eating a lot of insects could mean they have a higher likelihood of exposure to chemicals in the environment. The bugs are incorporating the contaminants into themselves from eating or living with exposure to these contaminants, and when the bats eat the bugs, the contaminants within the bugs are being incorporated into bat tissues.

The results of the 2015 study showed that CECs could be detected within the bats themselves. The CECs detected most frequently in samples were PBDEs (compounds used in flame retardants), salicylic acid, thiabendazole(a fungicide), and caffeine. Other compounds detected in at least 15% of bat samples were digoxigenin, ibuprofen, warfarin, penicillin V, testosterone, and N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), all of which are commonly used.

How do these contaminants make their way to bats? Well, we have some clues. When we dispose of household or personal items, or apply substances to our properties, they can make their way to streams. Insects accumulate them because they live in those areas, and then the bats feed on the insects.

Many of the CECs we are most concerned about were made to be biologically active in the human body (i.e. medications) and we know they work well because they made it into the marketplace. That information coupled with the fact that we know very little about the broader scope of CECs, besides lab studies, is troubling.

What this means for human health….we don’t know. A large number of people get their drinking water from the Great Lakes. Emerging contaminants have been found in some Great Lakes drinking water supplies.

These are complicated issues that warrant deeper exploration to determine the potential human and environmental health impacts as well as ways to help prevent the continued contamination of our environment.

We live in a world where these types of far-reaching health concerns have become prominent in our day to day lives. It is a stark reminder of the finite resources our world possesses and that the actions we take greatly impact not only our direct health and well-being, but the global health of all who inhabit the earth.

Learning, Planting, and Preserving Homelands with the Mashpee Wampanoag

The Mashpee Wampanoag (Wopanaak) Tribe, the People of The First Light, have lived in the Eastern Massachusetts area for thousands of years. The Mashpee, are one of the sixty-nine Tribes that existed of the Wampanoag Nation, which extended from present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Today, the Mashpee reside in their traditional village of Mashpee off the southwestern coast of Cape Cod. Nearby, the Waquoit bay area, home of salt marshes, cranberry bogs, Atlantic white cedar swamps, freshwater marshes, rivers, and vernal pools, are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge.

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Not only are the Mashpee NWR and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in close proximity to each other, but they also collaborated for a conservation sharing experience: traditional ecological knowledge from the Mashpee Wampanoag and conservation methods from the Service. In fact, on August 1st, 2017, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Mashpee, Massachusetts hosted their sixth annual Preserving Our Homelands (POH) Summer Science Camp. This year, the Service participated extensively on a sunny, Tuesday, “FWS Day”.

Tom Eagle, the Deputy Wildlife Manager, and Jared Green, the Wildlife Refuge Specialist from Eastern Mass. NWR Complex visited the Tribe and demonstrated radio telemetry tracking. Students engaged during the process by using equipment to track a tagged, symbolic New England cottontail and Northern long-eared bat, while learning about native and ecologically important species in the region. In fact, both animals are species of concern due to habitat loss for cottontails and white nose syndrome in bats. Tom Eagle expressed the experience by saying, “The Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge has had a great partnership with the tribe since the refuge was established in 1995. Together, the Service and partners have protected many acres for wildlife and have cooperatively managed hundreds of acres of habitat for rare species.” Eagle continued with, “However, this is the first time that the refuge has interacted with and connected with tribal youth. It was a great experience to learn along with them about their culture. I hope we continue to work together as a team on conservation issues and that some students continue in their learning and seek careers with the Service.”

The Northeast Regional Office participated at the FWS Day as well. Leah Hawthorn, the Public Affairs Assistant led a pollinator lesson about native species roles and pertinence to daily life. Students were able to make chapstick using pollinated ingredients and create bee bundle habitats with Japanese knotweed, a recycled invasive plant. Chloe Doe, a SCA/Americorp Intern for the Regional Office also designed a jeopardy board and engaged students in answering fun factoids about pollinators. The prize for correct answers were chocolates pollinated by the peculiar, chocolate midge!

As Americorp Jr. Native American Liaison for Northeast and Regional Tribes with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I presented how my Oglala Lakota culture has influenced my pathway to the Liaison position. I explained how my internships with several environmental federal agencies all maintained a similar mission of preserving the environment for future generations. Lakota traditions similarly believe in thinking seven generations ahead in order to ensure the spiritual, physical, and emotional health and stability for the future of our Tribe. These expressed similarities presented the commonalities between the mission of the Service and my cultural traditions. I then segued into career options for the Mashpee Wampanoag youth and received several questions about the Youth Conservation Corp and how they might become involved.

That day at Mashpee, Wampanoag youth were already involved in conservation of their ancestral homelands. In fact, students were encouraged to design their own aesthetically-pleasing and meaningful garden to benefit pollinating insects. Ted Kendziora, wildlife biologist from the New England Field Office led this native species garden planting activity with Mary Kay Fox, the President of Friends of Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge. In all, 185 native plants were put into Mashpee Wampanoag ground for pollinators, including 21 different plant species, 6 of which were host plants for 8 different species of butterflies. Serviceberry, yellow false indigo, New Jersey tea, perennial lupine, New England aster, and butterfly weed were planted specifically for pollinators. Culturally relevant plants to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are chokecherry and American hazelnut.

A Mashpee Wampanoag community member reminded students that decades from now when the students are elders, they can look back upon this garden and be reminded of their contributions to their community. Casey C. Thornbrugh PhD, Director Of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Natural Resources Department and Chuckie Green, Assistant Natural Resources Director also contributed to sharing the traditional ecological knowledge of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and how Mashpee youth can continue to be involved in preserving their ancestral homelands.

The Preserving our Homelands experience was not only a partnership and collaboration between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Service, but a positive learning experience for all who were involved.. It was rewarding to share our knowledge of radio telemetry, pollination, and career pathways, but it was a much greater gift to be welcomed by the Mashpee Wampanoag community. A sincere thank you to the Tribal students who made our day inspiring, exciting, and memorable. The students shared with us their enthusiasm for their home and we are so honored to have been invited by Casey Thornbrugh and Chuckie Green.

In my language, I thank the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe for the Preserving Our Homeland experience. Pilamaya. Wopila.