Fisheries Research Biologist
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Columbia City, IN
Fisheries, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,
Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Purdue University, 2004
is responsible for conducting fisheries research projects in
glacial lakes located in the northern half of Indiana.
what you are truly passionate about because passion will help make you
successful in whatever it is you choose to do. "
fields of biology do you work in?
Fisheries, Fisheries Ecology.
When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist in 9th
grade. As I grew and learned more about the field, I learned more about
where my specific interests were focused.
What was your college experience like?
I did not do well when I first started college
because I chose the wrong school and major based on what I wanted to do.
After I transferred to Virginia Tech, I excelled and graduated at the
top of my fisheries cohort. I really loved going to school at Virginia
Tech. I started networking at meetings while I was an undergrad and that
allowed me to get a lot of experience in the field as a technician and
also helped me find my dream master's project. Graduate school at Purdue
was a different kind of experience, but I really enjoyed that as well. I
had a very exciting research project that allowed me to get valuable
experience that I still use to this day. My graduate school research
helped make it easy for me to find a job after I graduated.
Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
I started out volunteering at the Virginia
Institute of Marine Science my sophomore year and that led to getting
hired as a summer technician in the following two summers. That was my
first experience in fisheries and my experience was so great that I
often marveled that they were paying me to do the work. In the years
after that, I worked as a technician on several different graduate
projects at Virginia Tech. I was also active in the Virginia Tech
Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, a professional society, where
I also gained valuable field experience.
How did you get your first job?
I applied for three full-time positions while I
was finishing up my thesis at Purdue. My networking, massive amount of
field experience, and successful master's research paid off because I
was offered two of the three positions. It also helped that through the
networking I had done, I already knew the biologists that hired me when
I started working for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
The best thing about being a biologist is that I
am part of a collection of individuals that work together to create
changes that will better protect our environment and better manage the
resources we have left. The research I am a part of has long-lasting
effects on the aquatic resources in Indiana.
Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've
worked on has positively impacted the world?
The best example of how something I have worked on
has had an impact is from my master's research. I characterized the
nursery habitat of young lake sturgeon in an attempt to gain a better
understanding of what would be necessary to protect them in order to
allow them to grow to adults. I developed sampling techniques that now
allow sturgeon researchers a more effective method for capturing these
otherwise elusive fish, which in turn enables them to collect better
Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
I travel about 8 or 9 times a year to meetings and
training events. I have the option of traveling a little more or less
depending on where my interests are.
Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
My undergraduate advisor was an excellent mentor
who showed me what it would take to be successful. She helped me get on
the right path when I transferred to Virginia Tech and continues to be a
mentor even though I no longer work with her directly.
Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
I frequently work in a team situation on
collaborative research projects that span many disciplines of science
where different kinds of experts are involved. I also work alone at
times on projects that I am interested in pursuing.
Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while
working in your current job?
I have a good balance of social/family life and
work with my current job. I have a young family that I am able to spend
time with and we are able to frequently travel across the country. I
would always like more time to spend at home with my family, but I would
also like more time at work for my projects, so I think I have a good
balance right now.
If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
I have wanted to be a biologist for so long that
the realization of that dream has been one of the high points of my
life. I had other interests in careers that I contemplated pursuing, but
I have had some unique opportunities in my professional career to see
what it would have been like in some of those other fields. I would not
have chosen anything different for myself.
Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in
the real world?
I think that both my undergrad and graduate
education almost fully prepared me for what the real world would be
like. This is mostly because in my undergrad, I worked for the Virginia
Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for a short time and in my
graduate research, I worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural
Resources and US Fish and Wildlife Service, so I had experience working
with state and federal agencies before I became a state employee. I
think that experience was invaluable and allowed me the opportunity to
learn whether or not I would be happy working for a state agency.
Because I knew the basics involved with working for a state agency, I
was able to fully integrate myself faster than someone with little to no
Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students
be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
I see biologists in the future doing the same
things we do now – finding ways to protect and manage the resources we
have available. I see the need for well-trained and diversely-trained
biologists in the future being even more critical than it is today.
Multi-disciplinary collaborative research projects are important and
those are the projects that are more likely to receive funds to do work.
The better connected a student is through a professional society not
only in their own field, but also related fields, will afford them more
opportunities for jobs and funding in the long run.
What other advice do you have for precollege students?
My best advice is to throw yourself into whatever
it is you have an interest in doing. Put yourself out there, make
connections with people, cultivate those connections, and ask a lot of
questions. Find what you are truly passionate about because passion will
help make you successful in whatever it is you choose to do.