Friday, July 22, 2011

My Life Aquatic 2011 - Introducing Tree

Hello! My name is Tree Steele and I am a Student Temporary Employee Program (STEP) fisheries technician with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and a senior at the The Evergreen State College focusing on organic chemistry and ecology.

My education at Evergreen has included several intensive courses which have developed and amplified my passion for and knowledge of wildlife and education. I was in a year-long program called Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems my first year there. This class integrated aquatic biology, ecology, field methods, and data analysis with human interactions with water, and social issues involving human usage of freshwater. The following summer I interned with the FWS analyzing acoustic tracking data, electrofishing, and cataloging stomach samples from fish caught in Lake Washington. During this time, I discovered I loved field work and I wanted to get out as much as possible. At the end of the summer, I continued my internship but switched from fisheries to education/outreach. During this time, I created a book of nature-based activities for the FWS staff to use when working with children.

I have always been fascinated with animals and the outdoors. I fondly remember family camping trips in Eastern Oregon where I was on a constant search for wildlife. I began volunteering for various environmental and social organizations in middle school, including three summers spent at the Oregon Zoo. I later moved on to a number of volunteer and paid counselor positions for outdoor nature camps, including Friends of Tryon Creek Education Center and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I found the lessons and educational games to be truly fun and deeply rewarding. Once I realized that I could get paid for doing this type of work, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in field and education/outreach work.

This summer I will have the opportunity to focus on both of those career goals, as I have landed a seasonal STEP position with the FWS Washington Fish & Wildlife Office in Lacey, WA. I will be an instructor for the Youth Fisheries Academy day camps, giving youth an opportunity to become fisheries biologists for the day. This outreach work is important for it gives kids a chance to explore the natural world, as well as inform them of careers that involve nature and conservation. The kids are not the only ones to benefit from this program, though; it also provides a great opportunity for me to gain experience in developing and implementing the camp curriculum. In addition, the other STEP technicians and I will be assisting with various field research projects being conducted by the Fisheries Division. The three of us will update this blog throughout the summer as we continue with the Youth Fisheries day camps and field work. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!