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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
STOCKTON FWO: Dinner with a Scientist
Region 8, December 21, 2010
Stephanie Anderson of the San Joaquin County Office of Education speaks to an interested group. (Photo used with permission)
Stephanie Anderson of the San Joaquin County Office of Education speaks to an interested group. (Photo used with permission) - Photo Credit: n/a
Cathy Parker, San Joaquin County Office of Education (Photo used with permission)
Cathy Parker, San Joaquin County Office of Education (Photo used with permission) - Photo Credit: n/a
J.D. Wikert, USFWS (USFWS photo)
J.D. Wikert, USFWS (USFWS photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

By Pat Brandes and J.D. Wikert, Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office

 

It’s not often scientists get treated as celebrities but recently two biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office had that happen.

 

Pat Brandes and J.D. Wikert participated in the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s 13th Annual Dinner with a Scientist, November 16, at the University of the Pacific. The Dinner with a Scientist Program is a forum for local middle and high school students to interact with professional scientists from many different disciplines.

 

The event was attended by 50 teachers and 150 students from various San Joaquin County schools, in addition to the 29 scientists. Attendees were divided into small groups with one or two scientists at a table for dinner.  The students and their teachers had an opportunity to learn about science and science careers and the program also included a 20-question, science competition. During dessert, students and teachers had an opportunity to move to another table and interviewother scientists.

 

The key-note speaker for this year’s event was J.D. Wikert of the Stockton FWO office. In his presentation, Wikert encouraged all of the students to think about how things work, and to consider becoming scientists.

 

Pat’s Experience

The students and teachers asked questions about what I did, what happens if I make a mistake in my job, how did my job affect my family and family time, and what didn’t I like about my job.

 

 I explained that I studied juvenile salmon survival in the Delta by releasing and recovering tagged fish.  I also shared that the Service supported me in working part-time for many years to allow me work around my sons’ school schedules. 

 

The students and their teachers were interested in the local fish in the Delta, the egg development and lifecycle of salmon and the impact of invasive plants and animals on the ecosystem.  They were provided with brochures on Careers in the Fish and Wildlife Service, Why save Endangered Species and Don’t Plant a Pest.  In addition, they each got a pencil and a sticker from the Service Aquatic Invasive Species Program, to remind them not to release left-over bait into the rivers. 

 

The students in my groups wanted to be marine biologists, engineers, chemists and microbiologists.  One young man visited my table for the second year in a row and said he had read all of the brochures I had provided him previously.  He reminded me that I told him “I’d be looking for him in the field one day” as he wanted to be a fish biologist.   It was a pleasure spending the evening with the students and their teachers.”   

 

J.D.’s Experience:

“Students were very interested in the experiences I related as part of my presentation, and were especially interested in fish.

I was asked about the best part of my job and replied that the satisfaction of seeing a successful restoration project was very rewarding. 

 

During my presentation, I encouraged students to seek out opportunities to embrace science opportunities and gave examples of steps they could take to become more proficient in science. Many of the students were interested in the exciting opportunities that I was afforded by my career path. Among the most popular were the encounters with hippos and black mambas on a trip to Malawi, Africa during graduate school, and encounters with alligators in the Florida Everglades. It was exciting to see the enthusiasm and level of knowledge among the students. It was especially rewarding to have represented the profession of fisheries biologist, as several children were not even aware that you could be paid to study fish!”

 

The Dinner with a Scientist program has grown beyond San Joaquin County, and events are now being held in Merced, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne counties as well. 

 

 

Contact Info: Yvette Sky, (209) 334-2968 x301, yvette_sky@fws.gov