How did you discover Western?
I moved to Gunnison in 2006 for a wildlife biologist position with Bureau of Land Management after leaving a research position with the Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in Manhattan, KS. Making a career move from research to land management was a difficult change. I saw many research needs in the land management arena but found myself too busy in my work priorities to tackle them. The solution was to bring on undergraduate students from Western as interns to help collect this data and this has grown into a strong relationship between our agency and the University. This relationship has provided me the opportunity to present many guest lectures and field trips over the past 14 years, with the goal of creating courses that help Western students learn the connection between coursework they are receiving, and how to use this knowledge in making decisions in land management.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
It has been my good fortune to work with several different species over my career, in many different places. Jobs have moved me from northern Wisconsin forests studying songbirds and owls, to Kansas prairies determining effects of military training on small mammals, birds and elk, then to Colorado where I focused on sage grouse and big game until I switched to fisheries in 2016. One of the greatest opportunities I have had was working on my master’s degree on the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco. Here I lived with only a few people for months at a time on a 100 acre island studying the largest seabird breeding colony in North America south of Alaska, while surrounded by sea lions, elephant seals, sharks and whales.
What excites you about your field?
I work for an agency that has a strong multiple use mission that was built on the premise of having land for the use of the people. As a biologist, it means an everyday attempt at balance between competing land uses and the conservation of species. In my opinion, this is one of the most challenging positions a biologist can be put into, making the decisions more difficult as I weigh conservation of species with social and economic values of land use.
What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?
The Gunnison Valley has provided my family a community that has the same interests that we seek for our lifestyles. Outdoor activities like mountain biking, fishing, hiking, hunting and skiing are all close to town while not feeling crowded. Gunnison has a small town feel similar to where I grew up in Wisconsin, but with amazing amenities, such as the University, that normally only a larger town can provide.
My current emphasis of research is gathering information through sampling and stream assessment to determine distribution, habitat requirements, status, and ecology of the “Three Species” consisting of Bluehead Sucker, Flannelmouth Sucker, and Roundtail Chub. This is done in order to ensure my agency is working towards the goals of the Rangewide Three Species Conservation Strategy through decreasing barriers to movements, conserving habitat, and continuing to determine level of hybridization by other non-native species.
I also work to expand populations of Colorado Cutthroat Trout in SW Colorado. This is done by determining historic extent and evaluating those streams for possible reclamation.
Finally, I continue to evaluate streams and fish populations to ensure there are quality game fish populations for angling opportunities on public lands.
- Payton, Adam C.; Hayes, Sandra J.; Borthwick, Sandra M.; and Japuntich, Russell D. 2011. Short-Term Response of Shrubs, Graminoids, and Forbs to Mechanical Treatment in a Sagebrush Ecosystem in Colorado, Natural Resources and Environmental Issues: Vol. 16, Article 24.
- Hubbard, R.D., Althoff, D.A., Blecha, K.A., Bruvold, B.A., and Japuntich, R.D. 2006. Nest characteristics of Eastern Meadowlarks and Grasshopper Sparrows in tallgrass prairie at Fort Riley Military Installation, Kansas. Trans. of the Kansas Academy of Sciences 109: 168-174.
- Japuntich, R.D., Althoff, D.A., Gipson, P.S., Pontius, J.S. 2006. Comparison of Strip-transect and Fixed-radius Point Counts for Detecting Birds at Fort Riley Military Installation, Kansas. Proceedings of the 2006 North American Prairie Conference. Kearney, NE.
- Marks, D. R., Japuntich, R.D., and Howe, R.W. June 2002. Encapsulation of Turf Seeds as a Deterrent to Seed-eating Birds. Turfgrass Trends.
- Japuntich, R.D. 2002. Effects of Short and Long-term Climate Changes on Pigeon Guillemot Chick Growth on Southeast Farallon Island, CA. M.S. Thesis. Natural and Applied Science. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.