Connor Morang, a senior studying environmental science in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, spent a week at the Grand Canyon, but it was not a vacation. He was a volunteer removing invasive brown trout.
“I volunteered because it interested me so much and was similar to the work I wanted to do in the future,” he said. “Initially, I was unable to go on the trip due to financial reasons. IFAS was able to provide me with travel support, which made the trip possible.”
The trip was a lifechanging experience for Connor, who plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in Freshwater Ecology or a related field.
“The natural beauty of the Grand Canyon was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The crew I volunteered with was incredible. I learned countless, valuable skills that will help me in my future career,” he said.
The group spent much of the trip backpack electrofishing and taking data on native and invasive fish with National Park Service employees. The Brown Trout Removal Program is focused on eliminating invasive brown trout from Bright Angel Creek. As an invasive species, brown trout are eating some of the canyon’s native fish. This includes the humpback chub – an endangered species.
“Spending time doing hands-on conservation work is rewarding and enlightening. It’s something I think everyone should get the chance to do,” Connor said. “I enjoyed it so much that I plan on taking a year between undergrad and grad school to do similar work around the country.”
He said the knowledge and insight he gained from the trip is priceless.
“I’m so thankful to the University of Florida for helping make it happen!”
Featured image photo above of granaries above Nankoweap at Grand Canyon National Park by U.S. National Park Service.