Why I Do What I Do

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. This one speaks paragraphs to me but you may require more explanation.

Experimental fish ponds at Knaggs Ranch,Yolo Bypass

There are the experimental fish ponds at Knaggs Ranch in the Yolo Bypass just on the other side of the Sacramento River from the Sacramento International Airport.In the winter these ponds host salmon fry from the Feather River fish hatchery for about 6 weeks as part of an experiment to see how fish will benefit from floodplain habitat. Multiple state and federal agencies cooperate with the rice farmer, John Brennan, and UC Davis Watershed Sciences Center.  I coordinate the public outreach for the project and it is a huge dose of medicine when I can get out there for a couple of hours. It reminds me why I do what I do.

I can imagine what this flood control bypass will look like when the Bay Delta Conservation Plan moves forward and up to 10,000 acres of floodplain are seasonally flooded (with cooperation from the farmers) for native fish--mainly salmon.  It restores a critical habitat for their life cycle that has been obliterated until now.  And it will build some resiliency into the system so the salmon have a better chance of coping with climate change.

Floodplain fatties on the right.

We call them floodplain fatties. The salmon on the right have spent 6 weeks eating zooplankton 24/7. This food is abundant just by holding it in the ponds for a short period. The fish in these experiments (this is year 3) have set new records for weight gain. As a fish biologist with Cal Trout Jacob Katz says, "They are packing a lunch for their trip to the ocean." And they are delaying their arrival in the Pacific to a time when the ocean is ready to provide more food.

It is an honor to be part of this team. I can hardly believe I get paid to do this work!