Sam would say “No, we don’t look much alike…” I’d told him that infrequently over the past five, now six, years while downtown, I’d been told “Excuse me, there’s somebody else downtown that looks like you.” The mystery was finally solved one morning several months ago when another of the helpers in Charlene Babb’s ALP Math Center classes mentioned it between classes. She said, “I don’t know his last name, but his first name is Sam and he has a daughter named Abby…” I blurted out, “Sam Hunter,” and she allowed as that sounded right. Then I told both young ladies that Sam and I both work at First Pres, and we’re both biologists. That was almost too much information, or as Beckett (a 3rd grade math student) and others might say, “Mind blown!”
Not to worry, Sam’s a bird biologist, while I’m an aquatic (fishery) biologist by training. Like many of my friends at the University of Montana, we continued to study other related fields, which for me included hydrogeology, snow hydrology, plant ecology and even my first seasonal USFS job in Road Preconstruction (engineering) proved helpful as a fishery technician/biologist assigned to evaluate road projects. Knowing what the markings on the road stakes mean provides instant rapport with project engineers. That first job was on the Targhee National Forest, west of Grand Teton National Park (where I’d spent a couple college summers as a busboy, cook’s assistant and one day running the dishwasher when two-thirds of the Colter Bay Village staff fell ill), and the next FS job was with a great mentor fishery biologist who designated projects to his two seasonal guys. Those were great and diverse opportunities, including planning habitat survey projects, planning our equipment needs, purchasing food, scheduling helicopter time and other tasks, not to mention writing up the report afterward. We had an artist in the Clearwater National Forest SO (Orofino, ID) who provided some memorable covers… Like the one of five guys stuck in an inflatable boat on upper Indian Post Office Lake, waiting for a cow moose to depart with her calf from shore so we could return to load the boat with the gear they were standing over. (Electric motor and battery, graphing echo sounder, water sampling equipment and other gear.) The paper I wrote on acid snow for graduate credit in Snow Hydrology, provided a research opportunity that was helpful several years later when Neets Bay Hatchery near Ketchikan sent a couple of their staff members to Hidden Falls Hatchery near Sitka, both large production facilities for chum salmon. They’d lost two-thirds of the year’s production in their egg incubators (fiberglass R-48s, which we also used) and I drew on that paper to tell them that the brown water drawn into the hatchery pipeline from the muskeg (peat bog) was acidic enough to mobilize aluminum from the incubator parts (brackets, screen plates), which erodes the gills and suffocates fish. It doesn’t help eggs or embryos either.