BY MICHAEL WILSON, COLUMBIA FWCO
Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of (little) wealth and taste. I haven’t been around quite since Jesus died, but sometimes it feels that way. You see, I am new to this game. I began my fisheries career just slightly over four months ago. Prior to this, I was, as my family likes to say, a “career student.” Let me explain.
I received my Bachelor’s degree in 1988 at the age of 25. A year later I married a budding sociologist and we moved to Champaign, Illinois, so she could earn her Master’s and PhD at the University of Illinois. Having no real interest to work in the field I had trained for as an undergrad, I walked into a local TV station and asked if they had any openings. I was lucky. The following day, I began what would turn into a career in television broadcasting. And it was a LOT of fun! Every day I went to new places and met new people. Aside from working on stories and meeting deadlines, the atmosphere in the newsroom was that of a party. Everyone was young, eager, and energetic.
I knew there was no real money in broadcasting. Unless one is lucky enough to land a job in a big market like Chicago, Indianapolis, or St. Louis, the pay is sufficient to pay the bills, but that’s about it. So I started taking night classes, sampling different fields and trying to find something that interested me. As time went by, I accepted positions further up the ladder and took on more responsibility at the station. Then one day I looked up and realized that I was sitting behind a desk anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a day. It was time for a change. After all, I had been doing this for nearly 15 years and there was little chance for further advancement. But I still hadn’t found the “right” career field to go into. I had taken countless night classes, spoken with family members, and even consulted career counselors. Then I had an epiphany—for the better part of my early life, I was always around water doing something with fish. Why not make a career out of it?! The very next term, I quit my job and went back to school full time.
In the summer of 2014 I received a Master’s degree in fisheries management and aquatic ecology from the University of Illinois. Two weeks prior to graduation I accepted a position as a biological science technician with the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) and it has been a non-stop thrill ride ever since. In the four months that I have been with this organization, I have worked in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. I have handled juvenile salmonids within a stone's throw of Lake Superior. I have caught sturgeon on the Mississippi River and I have filled boat decks with Silver Carp on the Illinois River using experimental gear. With a track record like this, I can’t wait to see what’s waiting for me around the bend. Thank you Columbia FWCO for such a wonderful opportunity.
BY ANDREW BRIGGS, ALPENA FWCO - WATERFORD MI-SUBSTATION
Presenting to local groups allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to inform the public on the important work being conducted in their area. Not only do the members of these groups build an appreciation for the nature and the work being done right in their backyards, but they often spread the word or even volunteer to help conserve nature on their own. Fish biologist Andrew Briggs of the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) – Waterford substation was recently invited to speak to one of these groups, the Greater Detroit Aquarium Society (GDAS). The mission of the GDAS is to further the study of all forms of aquatic life, to promote interest, to exchange ideas, to distribute information concerning the hobby and to encourage the breeding and displaying of aquatic life. Members of the GDAS take part in raising and even breeding tropical and native fish species.During his presentation, Andrew discussed the research and restoration involving lake sturgeon in the St. Clair – Detroit River System (SCDRS). After a brief introduction on lake sturgeon life history, the presentation focused on the work being done by the Service and partners to combat the loss of habitat in the SCDRS. This includes the construction and evaluation of artificial reefs to increase native fish species spawning habitat that was removed in the 1900’s to facilitate commercial shipping traffic. Five artificial reefs have been constructed since 2004, two in the Detroit River (Belle Isle and Fighting Island) and three in the St. Clair River (Middle Channel, Marine City, and Algonac). The construction of these reefs has been identified as restoration targets for the “Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat” and “Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations” Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) in these two Areas of Concern (AOCs). Andrew also discussed other projects the Alpena FWCO is conducting involving lake sturgeon, including a lake sturgeon movement study and utilizing ultrasound to determine the sex of lake sturgeon. Members of the GDAS came away impressed by the amount of effort being put into restoring lake sturgeon in the SCDRS and thanked Andrew for taking the time to speak to the group.