Enhancing Ecosystems


Do you know what tui chub is? If you’re Kristen Harris, you are well-acquainted with the invasive species. In fact, after this summer, you may need a break from the tui chub relationship.

Harris, a 2012 OSU-Cascades graduate with a bachelor’s in Natural Resources, spent the summer out at East, Paulina and Lava Lakes as a part of the fisheries enhancement team for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

That means removing pounds of tui chub from the lakes in order to keep the rainbow and brown trout populations healthy. The chub are big-time breeders who take over the trout’s food sources. For the last few years ODFW has been trapping and removing chub from these lakes.

Three times a week, Harris empties big huge nets of chub and removes thousands of pounds of chub from the lakes.

“My dad’s a fish biologist and he warned me this would be one of the hardest jobs I’d ever do,” she says.

After the summer, Harris is continuing her work with ODFW—and fish—as an environmental biological aid monitoring the middle Deschutes River where she’ll study the fish population and habitat.

“My goal after graduating OSU-Cascades was to get in with an agency that’s goal-oriented in making a difference in the world, whether it’s large or small,” says Harris.

The Natural Resources program at OSU-Cascades prepared Harris for the challenges of field work.

“The professors instilled in us that while the field is great, it isn't just fun and games. There’s a lot of data entry and analysis,” says Harris. “They really drove home the importance of good scientific study in our work.”

And when she’s out on the lake and the wind is about ready to blow her over, she reminds herself of important lesson she learned in the program.

“The ecosystem is constantly changing. You’re never going to face the same day.”

Harris says Central Oregon is the perfect place to study Natural Resources. There are so many different ecosystems nearby, from dry desert one way to wet forest the other way, that the field work done in the program is invaluable.

She loved the personal relationships she was able to develop with her teachers and peers in the program. They often gathered before class just to talk about articles they came across or experiences they had in the field.

“I’m really going to miss the challenge of the coursework,” says Harris.

Along with preparing her for her job with ODFW, the Natural Resources program influenced Harris to step up her personal sustainability game.

She’s decreased her consumption, stopped using plastic bags, buys used, made reusable shopping bags for all her friends for gifts, and lives life simply.

She hopes that through her work with ODFW and the way she lives her life, she can enhance one aspect of the ecosystem at a time—and hopes other aspects will follow.

Learn more about the Natural Resources program at OSU-Cascades.