HFF: Flyin' By!

Monday, July 27, 2020 - 10:54am


AJ Mabaka

I often find myself searching for fun facts about Ashton and the Henry’s Fork Foundation, trying to imagine being there in Idaho to the best of my ability. (Did y’all know Ashton has one of the largest seed potato growing areas in the world?!) Nonetheless, as the days have turned to weeks, and those weeks to months, I find it hard to believe that we are already approaching final weeks for our internship here at HFF. Still, the past six and half weeks have been nothing less than exciting, informative, meaningful and more!! Becoming absorbed in analyzing and organizing data, reading through peer reviewed literature, and utilizing modeling programs has been phenomenal in learning more about the Henry’s Fork watershed and the ecological services/mechanisms that keep: people from across the nation, local Idaho communities, and most importantly the fish coming back to enjoy varied recreational activities.


Recently, I had an experience that truly demonstrated to me how much my internship at HFF really means to me. A friend of mine asked if I had been getting bored or was having a hard time doing a remote virtual internship since it requires: being inside more often for video calls and meetings, missing more of the warm summer days and nights than usual, and not getting to spend as much time with friends. Well, when put in that regard, it’s hard to make a virtual internship seem appealing at all, to anybody at that. However, I explained some of the research I’m doing with my mentor and how it may be useful for determining what affects trout populations the most, which could be useful to fisheries and ecosystem management. This wasn’t the most convincing answer, but in attempting to convince my peer that I was having a good time, I reflected on what my day involves. Meeting with Jack in the morning and catching up on research objectives and our daily lives, riffling through scientific literature for that one paper that confirms an important idea, analyzing and organizing fish, water quality, and invertebrate data, etc. 


While it may not seem so exciting to most, my time at HFF and the routine I have developed thus far has provided a unique gift. It almost feels as though I’m at my undergraduate institution when working on data analyses, being on zoom calls talking about research/weekend fishing trips with my mentor Jack, or even hearing about everyone’s week in our Monday Morning Staff meetings with all the staff at HFF. The warm feeling of being welcome, the enthusiastic environment, and passion for research coupled with learning more about fish and what affects them has been fulfilling my spirit. It makes me excited to: read articles from the scientific section in the New York Times and send the cool/fun ones to my mentor and professors from school (which I never did in the past), think about what variables may affect the fluke, striped bass, and porgies that I often fish for, and most notably HFF has made me thrilled to talk about the research I’m doing with anyone that will listen!  


Nevertheless, with a few weeks remaining I will be working on creating models that assess the net rate of energy intake for target trout species in the Upper Henry’s Fork (UHF). This will involve looking at various factors affecting fish growth, survival, and abundance such as temperature, turbidity, fish size, velocity of the water, and invertebrate availability at multiple sites throughout the UHF. I also will be making a manual for how I’ve done the analyses and bioenergetic modeling as well as a presentation on my mentor and I’s research and what I learned/did overall throughout my internship. It’s interesting, at times I find myself flabbergasted that one can come to care for a place like HFF as I feel I have without ever having been! It makes me wonder how much more amazing it would be to be alongside my mentor in the river collecting data in Ashton. I have some serious incentive to figure out a means to continue working with the Henry’s Fork Foundation in the future after this summer... 

Caught a nice bluefish kayak-fishing, fish tacos here we come!   


Sunset from Shinnecock Bay, where I caught that bluefish. 


My mom took this picture of me when I fell asleep while making bioenergetic models and analyzing data in excel. Sidenote, I had a mixture of almost 2,000 commas, m’s, and semi colons in one of my excel sheets...oops!