Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Life Aquatic 2012 - Introducing Clay

A Look at U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Seasonal STEP Employee Experiences through A Fish-Eye Lens

Greetings! I’m Clay Showalter, a Student Temporary Employee Program (STEP) fisheries technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in Lacey, Washington. I’ve been studying computer science and field ecology at The Evergreen State College (TESC) for 3 years.

I grew up in the woods of Kansas where rip-roarin’ bass fishing and beautiful landscapes inspired me to learn more about the ecology of the area. I began to discover that the more I learned, the deeper I could appreciate the beauty and complexity of the natural world. I also learned that many ecosystems are being threatened by habitat loss and toxification.

I enrolled at TESC after high school and initially focused on computer science, math and physics. However, the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest was a constant reminder that I didn’t want to be stuck in an office my entire career. I then discovered the field of eco-informatics, which applies computer science techniques to field ecology. Field sampling by day and analyzing data by night convinced me that my future career should involve being outside and working to protect our natural resources.

This summer’s work experience with the FWS will include collecting field data and focusing on education and outreach through the Youth Fisheries Academy program. My work with the FWS offers an incredible opportunity to apply what I have learned, build on previous experience and pass on my knowledge and love of the outdoors to local youth. I have always been interested in teaching because education and outreach are essential for ensuring that future generations are conscious of the challenges that we are facing. While travelling and working on field projects in Ecuador last year, I was thrilled to gain experience teaching children about ecological issues relevant to their communities.

The Youth Fisheries Academy program here in Washington offers similar opportunities to plant seeds in the minds of youth that we all share some responsibility for the environment around us and that a career in field biology is one of many ways to make a difference in the ecosystems we rely on.

I am excited for this great opportunity and look forward to seeing what the summer will bring!


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