'Miss Fish Hatchery'

by Scott Gates

Name
Jenn Logan

Vocation
Wildlife conservation biologist

Age
33

Home Base
Alamosa, Colorado

Known for
Her efforts to protect and save endangered fish

She says
"I love the challenge of persuading a person to care about suckers or toads."

The very walls were chirping: There were crickets in every crack and cupboard of Jenn Logan’s fourth-floor Denver apartment. In the bedroom, 30 or so boreal toads peered at her from the glass aquariums perched on every flat surface.

Six years ago, Logan filled her house with the toads — and the crickets to feed them — while they were awaiting transfer to a Colorado Division of Wildlife fish hatchery. She managed to keep the endangered toadlets confined to four aquariums, but the crickets were a different matter. "I had a lot of loose crickets running around the house," she says. "I do have sympathy for the poor person who rented that place after me."

Logan followed the little greenish-brown amphibians to their new home near Alamosa, where she now works as assistant manager at the Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility. Here, in the first publicly funded hatchery in the United States to focus exclusively on endangered species, the toads share space with 11 species of fish, including razorback suckers, roundtail chub and redbelly dace. For Logan and her staff, each day brings a new challenge. "The big hurdle here is that most species were never raised in captivity, so there’s no manual for them," Logan says. "Our job is to write the manual."

The "manual" — in the form of stacks of production plans, fish counts and other documents — lies on her desk amid jars of toad specimens and a stuffed toy frog. On the wall, a satin sash reads "Miss Fish Hatchery." Awarded to her by a student volunteer, it sums up the reputation Logan has earned among her colleagues, though she’s quick to dismiss the compliment with a modest grin.

Arriving at the facility in 2001, Logan began the difficult work of figuring out what makes these temperamental fish tick, achieving a handful of victories along the way. One of them is swimming quietly in a side room at the hatchery, alone in a rack of tanks that resembles a pet-store display. Nicknamed Speck, the small, pale-yellow plains minnow survived a premature hatching that killed hundreds of its brothers and sisters. The rare minnows have difficulty reproducing in captivity. Over the years, Logan has tried to encourage them by simulating river systems and flood conditions in the tanks. Speck’s survival is the first glimmer of payoff.

An even mix of purpose and levity keeps the quick-witted 33-year-old plodding diligently through puzzles like this, on behalf of some of the West’s less-than-glamorous animals. "I do enjoy working with the underdog," says Logan. "Endangered species are most often ugly, reclusive and unpopular creatures."

Logan has long had a passion for species conservation. She grew up in suburban Denver, but it was during a high school summer trip that something clicked. After working at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys for a few weeks, Logan came home with newfound drive. She and a few classmates tried to apply what they’d learned as best they could in a state more than a thousand miles from the ocean. "We actually banned tuna that wasn’t caught with dolphin-safe methods from our school district menu," she says; it was her "first little entry" into species protection.

Soon after, Logan landed in wildlife biology classes at Colorado State University, and in her junior year began volunteering for the Division of Wildlife. Throughout school and for two years after graduation, she worked on a variety of wildlife-related projects in Colorado, Missouri and Utah.

Although Florida’s dolphins were "the dream animal to work with," Logan wants to stay in Colorado. A new position as a Division wildlife conservation biologist in Glenwood Springs should make that possible. This month, she’ll leave the tank-lined confines of the hatchery to work in the field with a wider variety of species. Logan is excited about the move: She’s always loved playing in the mud.

The author is a graduate student in journalism in Denver, Colorado.

© High Country News