• AJ Mabaka

AJ’s Adventures in Ashton

Wow, having just finished my fifth week with the Henry’s Fork Foundation, I can’t believe half of my time with HFF has passed by! From hiking Fairy Falls trail in Yellowstone National Park to collecting data on the Island Park Reservoir for my project with my mentor, Jack McLaren, I’ve certainly been keeping busy!


To delve a bit more into what Jack and I are working on, we have been going out to Island Park Reservoir (IPR) every Friday to collect water quality data. Specifically, this device, a water quality sonde, collects data for us about IPR’s water like the temperature, amount of oxygen, quantity of blue-green algae, pH, and more! What I find interesting is that all these variables relate to and can affect fish habitat; Jack and I are particularly interested in how these water quality variables might impact kokanee salmon habitat in IPR, since kokanee are a favorite sportfish for many anglers in the area.


By collecting this data throughout the summer, we will be able to see how water quality variables we are measuring change as the levels of the reservoir decrease with drawdown. When Jack and I observe any trends in the data, like how colder water temps have been observed near places where cold springs feed into the reservoir, we might be able to make conclusions about how the variables we measure affect kokanee salmon. For example, the colder spring water feeding into the IPR from nearby streams could be demonstrating that these springs are helping to create better habitat for the kokanee salmon by providing colder water for them to live in, which is a pretty cool (pun intended) ecological occurrence if you ask me!


Photo of Jack’s dog, Oscar, and I getting ready to deploy the sonde at one of our sampling sites.


Picture of myself collecting data on aquatic vegetation in Big Springs for one of Jack’s projects.


Anyway, aside from the nitty gritty of my specific work with my mentor Jack and HFF, I have had a blast living in Ashton surrounded by such beautiful landscapes and a world class fishery. I promised on my last blog that I would have a picture of a bigger fish than I caught last time on the fly, but I kind of cheated and used my spinner rod instead… Nonetheless, check out the picture of this rainbow trout I landed in IPR after a day of data collection with Jack!




Besides fishing, I’ve also pushed myself to hike and explore this beautiful area of the country. One of my favorite hikes, albeit a bit of a nerve-wrecking drive to the trailhead, was the hike to Pack Saddle Lake, which is absolutely stunning! I also got to hike the Fairy Falls Trail in Yellowstone National Park with my family when they visited for 4th of July weekend, which was simply gorgeous, and I’d highly recommend it. Also, I hope to hike to Grand Prismatic Spring and the Cascade Canyon Trail with the other interns over the coming weekends. I must say, I really am grateful for and loving my time here in Idaho so far. Rock climbing in Rexburg with my fellow interns, fishing, and getting DELICIOUS tacos from Tacos Don Javis (a great taco truck in St. Anthony) is one of my favorite ways to spend the evening after a day of work. For my next blog post, I hope to have some pictures of myself and my fellow interns at the beautiful Grand Prismatic Springs, which, by the way, is the largest hot spring in the United States!

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