Students go electrofishing to gauge species’ health

It’s early Saturday morning and Courtney Carpenter (above), an undergraduate, wades into Issaquah Creek wielding an electrofisher. As part of a fisheries ecology course taught by Associate Professor Chelsea Wood, Carpenter and her classmates are out to quantify the population and distribution of different fish species like cutthroat trout, coho salmon and speckled dace. The creek’s headwaters are in the slopes of the Cascade Range and considered to be an exceptional fisheries habitat, particularly for salmon.

Carpenter wears an electricity-generating backpack and sweeps the electrofisher wand over the stream bottom. A gentle electric current temporarily stuns the fish hiding among the cobbles, causing them to float to the surface and be carried with the current. They are caught by students waiting with dipnets like the one held by graduate student Karl Veggerby, pictured at left above.