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Conservation Activities

Desert Conservation Spring Field Trips:

The most recent field trip was on October 9, 2008, to Ash Meadows, Nevada.

The overall purpose of the desert fish conservation trips is to save killifish. The native killies at Ash Meadows are Cyprinodon diabolis, Cyprinodon pectoralis, and Cyprinodon nevadensis mionectes.

To share the experience with the rest of us, here are some field notes & photographs by Douglas Habersaat.

Oct. 9, 2008, time to travel for this year's trip to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. This year our goals are to remove Salt Cedar trees along Jackrabbit spring and add rock substrate to its outflow. We will use traps to remove non-native aquatic animals in Davis, Soda, Bradford, Point of Rocks and Crystal Springs outflow.

We will also snorkel the outflows of Fairbanks Spring to look for convict cichlids and Big Spring to look for bass. Recommended gear to bring along are work gloves and snorkels. Work starts around 9am Friday morning. Among the invasive exotic species to remove were bass, mollies, mosquitofish, crayfish and bullfrogs. Dace and toads are native to the area. Convict cichlids were introduced a few years ago, and should all be gone by now.

At the last minute, I was able to get time off from work and started packing my gear Thursday morning. I am done packing by 4:00 PM, just in time to get entangled with rush hour traffic. After an hour of traffic, the journey to Ash Meadows was clear. I would have to drive all night and start work as soon as I arrived. This time, I will be traveling alone. This is going to be expensive as gasoline prices are peaking at $4.00 per gallon. Every few hours, I stop for coffee, snack food and energy drinks. I also stop a few times for 10-30 minute nap breaks. I manage to make good time and arrive a few miles south of Ash meadows on Petro Road (unpaved). I drive down the road about a half mile until I see a wide enough spot to set up a small tent. That is one nice thing about traveling in the desert, at any time you can just pull off the main road and camp there, no problem. After sleeping for two hours, I head on down to Longstreet Casino for breakfast. Yvonne Castro is already seated just outside the dining area waiting for opening time. We sit down and are soon joined by Jeff Perera, Scott Robinson and Kaz Webster.

After breakfast, I head on down to Ash Meadows and set up a campsite behind the headquarters next to Steve Hulse, Bruce Bernard and John Love. We soon meet up with Peter, Rachael and Trevor Unmack and their school friend Justin. We are also joined by Wright Huntley and Ellen Siegal.

We split up and go to out assigned tasks. Me, along with Steve and John head over to Big Spring to snorkel the outflow from the Bob Love Ranch to Big Spring. The outflow is shallow and narrow at this point so I get volunteered to start out. With the many obstacles overhead, including brush and irrigation equipment, the progress is slow as my snorkel keeps getting caught up. I am also carrying a spear gun in case I spot a bass. The weather is rather cool so you know that as soon as you get out of the warm water, you will be uncomfortably cold for several minutes. By 1:00, I reach a culvert and we decide break for lunch. After lunch, Steve takes over the snorkeling as John and I view the spring outflow equipped with pole spears. After ten minutes of this, I decide to dive into the spring to look for bass and start snorkeling downstream. I will have to move very carefully as to not stir up mud which will obscure visibility downstream. I also have my new underwater camera with me and am anxious to try it out. I enter the Spring from just behind the outflow and take two photos. I then spot an adult bass nearby. One shot from my spear gun, and the 12" bass is now ready to toss onto the bank.

By now, the water is too cloudy to take any good photos and I snorkel downstream until I meet up with Steve. A breeze had started up with a storm threatening. As I get out of the water, I got a nice icy blast of wind. Fortunately, the desert wind dries me off very quickly. The outflow contained many crayfish and livebearers, but few pupfish. There are a few bullfrogs in the spring, but we do not spot any more bass.

We break for dinner in the bunkhouse. It is very convenient to have a full kitchen for preparing our traditional dinner, courtesy of Ellen.

On Saturday, I help pull traps in the outflow of Fairbanks. As it was rather icy cold that morning, nobody volunteered to snorkel the outflow.

Our work the previous year in helping to remove all the convict cichlids from the outflow of Fairbanks seemed to be effective. Hopefully, nobody else will dump their unwanted pets into any more springs. We discovered the convicts several years ago, but the managers of Ash Meadows did not prepare a removal plan until last year. At least the convicts are now all gone. Several of us went to Davis Spring to pull traps to see if anything was there. All we saw were some crayfish. Later, I helped pull traps out of the outflow of Crystal Spring. The last spring I pulled traps from was Bradford.

Me and Bruce were the last ones to leave. As we left, we decided to survey some of the springs south of Big Spring, such as Bole and Last Chance Spring and outside the refuge at Grapevine Spring. One of them was on private property and the other was apparently dry. We stopped in Shoshone for lunch and visited the museum. A nice little museum to check out if you are in the area. After that we went directly home.

   Crystal Spring, Ash Meadows

2005 Desert Springs Action Committee Autumn Fieldtrip to Ash Meadows, Nevada:

October 14-15, 2005

Yearly we travel to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge to perform hands-on restoration and recovery work for native fish species there. This work benefits three threatened and endangered killifish species as well as one dace species. Education is also a primary focus of our outings so all ages are welcome (and non-aquarists too).

Projects chosen to enhance native fish habitats on the refuge are overseen by US Fish and Wildlife Service personnel and by our science advisor Peter Unmack. Work difficulty ranges from strenuous to negligible depending on your inclination.

This happening is always a good time, and a chance to socialize with other killikeepers around the campfire after a day of work and sightseeing in the refuge. Attendance of about a dozen people is typical, but past trips have attracted nearly 30 individuals. Typically, we camp on the refuge or you can stay in luxury at the Longstreet Casino a few miles away (discounts are available).

For more information, please visit the DSAC website:

Desert Field Trip Advice from Doug Habersaat:

BAKA has been involved with local killifish conservation since 1992. Conservation work consists of population surveys, habitat improvement and removing exotic species of plants and animals which are harmful to the survival of native species of killies. The conservation team became known as the Desert Springs Action Committee.

Our goal was simple: we would volunteer to help improve the habitats of desert killifish under the supervision and direction of Nevada state biologists. Not only were we helping to conserve the type of fish that we enjoy keeping, but the work was a lot of fun. After the work was done for the day, we would enjoy a great barbecue. After dinner, we sat around the campfire, under the wide desert sky and talked about fish and other fun subjects.

Getting organized has always been a problem. After a few trips, we decided that everybody was responsible for his/her own transportation and/or carpooling. Those who needed help with transportation, or other items, can contact other members through the email list. Everybody was responsible for his/her own food and lodging. Some of us stayed at nearby hotels, when available, but most of us camped out.

The desert can be a severe environment with high temperatures during the day and freezing cold at night. Severe windstorms can occur. Between November and March, the cold can be especially intense, while between May to September, the daytime heat can be a bit too much. One winter in Preston, Nevada, we had propane heaters and hot cocoa to keep us warm. During hot summer days, we had water sprayers and misters to keep us cool. We always found a way to stay comfortable. Most of our trips are planned for comfortable weather. Check the weather forecast before you go, on some weather related website.

For camping equipment, I recommend going to the REI store. As a membership-type store, they sell only good quality products at a competitive price. If you prefer to buy camping equipment at other sporting goods stores, or discount department stores, always buy trusted name brand gear. Also make sure that you check out all your camping gear before you leave home. It is very frustrating to be hundreds of miles from home and find out that you do not have the poles for your tent or mantles for your propane lantern. This is also true for brand new equipment, still in the box! Be careful when borrowing camping gear from friends and neighbors, make sure that all the parts are there and are fully tested before you leave home.

Here is a list of the items that you should bring along for camping. I have used this list for several years and it has the basic items that you may need:

This should be a low profile shape to shed high winds. Bring extra rope and tent stakes to help keep your tent on the ground in high winds. Three-pole tents are stronger than two-pole tents; the more poles, the better.

Tent stakes:
The ones that come with tents are usually too flimsy; buy a set of extra strong ones.

You'll need a good hammer to pound in tent stakes.

Sleeping bag:
If you are camping out in the high desert between November and March, you will need two very warm sleeping bags. Put one inside the other. For other times, you would probably want a sleeping bag rated for 30 degrees .

You can always roll up your jacket to use as a pillow, otherwise use a compact camp pillow.

Air mattress (or pad):
This helps to cushion the ground.

A good two-burner propane stove works great.

Don't forget to bring fuel for the stove.

A nice propane lantern is nice at night, but not really a necessity.

You'll need cooking gear, plates, silverware, cups.

Butane lighter:
You'll need a lighter for stoves and lanterns and lots of other uses.

Plan for meals, snacks, etc.

Always drink lots of water during the day to prevent dehydration. It's a good idea to carry a water bottle. You'll also need a lot of water for cooking, and dishwashing. Some soft drinks are nice at meal times.

You'll need this to keep perishable food and drinks cold.

Cleaning supplies:
Dishwashing soap and scour pad for cleanup.

You can bring a folding camp chair. A folding camp table is nice, but not a necessity.

Paper towels:
Bring napkins, tissues and any other type of disposable paper products that you may need.

Sometimes we work in shallow water, other times in deep water. Be prepared to go swimming.

Dip nets:
A home aquarium style net is fine; a large dip net is optional.


Duct tape:
It's good for many types of uses. You may also bring along glue, a staple gun or other repair type items.

Pocket knife:
A good swiss army knife is very handy. You many also bring along a Leatherman type multi-tool.

First aid kit:
The type you assemble yourself is better than the commercial kits. Also bring along any type of medications that you may need.

Hand lotion: Your skin can dry out fast in the desert.

Bug repellant: Use the new type with Picaridin instead of DEET. It is more effective and safer to use.

Sunscreen: High SPF and waterproof types are preferred. Also bring some chapstick with 15 SPF sunscreen

Nail clipper: Sometimes we make population surveys of fish. We clip a corner of the tail fin to determine if the fish is caught for the first time, or is a recapture. Small precision scissors also work well for fin clipping. Key ring type, Victorinox swiss army knives also are good for fin clipping.

Bring a kit for soap, toothbrush, and other items that you may need.

You will want to take pictures. Bring extra film or memory cards. Bring a small photo tank to get pictures of fish.

You might want to keep a journal of your trip. Don't forget pens and pencils.

You'll need cool clothing for the day, warm clothing at night. You'll need Work gloves for pulling out exotic vegetation, etc, a wide brimmed hat for sun protection, water shoes (Wading boots, sneakers, sandals and other shoes that can be fully submerged in water or mud), a Coat: for cold nights, cold winter days, and a raincoat in case of really bad weather.

Optional gear:
Power inverter to charge your electronic gear.
Two-way radio: to keep in touch with others, on the road and in the field.
Snorkel, mask, swim fins spear gun (pole type).


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