Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Life Aquatic 2011 - It's a Wrap!

As we finish up the last few days of work here at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I can hardly believe all the amazing experiences this job has given me in just 2-1/2 months. Before starting this job, I had almost no experience working with kids and no strong desire to do so and was a bit nervous about the Youth Fisheries Academy camps. However, when the time came, I was surprised at how easily I related to the kids and was able to teach them something that I had just learned only 2 weeks earlier. Time and time again I was impressed and inspired by their enthusiasm, open minds, positive attitudes, and cleverness. I got fantastic reviews from the campers (as we all did) and made close connections with several of them. The great teachers in my life were so important to me and I could tell that I really left an impression on many young minds, just as they did on mine. I will definitely consider and even seek out education and outreach positions in the future after seeing just how big a difference these types of programs make and after experiencing the rewards that come from working with young people.

I didn’t have any experience in fisheries work before this job either, so all of the field opportunities were new and fantastic. Activities such as electrofishing, freshwater mussel surveys, and stream sampling revealed that there is so much more life in our streams than we can possibly imagine by just peering at them. Being involved in field research like this, along with assisting with screw traps, the Elwha fishing weir, and extraction of coded-wire tags, was very exciting. It was great to be a part of the teams that collect the data that is used in so many different ways to practice conservation. Not only is this work incredibly important, it’s incredibly fun! Getting out into nature and exploring its workings firsthand is very enlightening and certainly something I want to do a lot of in the future.

I have two more years of college left and I plan on earning both a BS and BA degree when I graduate with a focus on environmental science and ecology. I want to get as much diverse experience in my field during and after that time and also plan on going to graduate school and earning a Ph.D. My experience with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been nothing short of extraordinary and has provided me with many unique opportunities that are hard to find while in college. I got a great education in stream ecology and ichthyology, loads of professional experience, and an "in" with an agency that I would definitely consider working for as a career. I hope that programs like this one and the Youth Fisheries Academy continue and grow because they are invaluable to those involved with them.

-- Claire Wood, STEP Fisheries Technician

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