A Lamprey Legacy
BY JOANNA GILKESON, REGIONAL OFFICE - EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Credit: Joanna Gilkeson, USFWS
Tim Sullivan, or “Sully”, is no ordinary U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee. Since he can remember, Sullivan’s dream job was to be a biologist with the Sea Lamprey Control Program and help preserve the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem through controlling this invasive species – the mission of the Sea Lamprey Control Program.
Sullivan is a second generation sea lamprey control employee and has a special connection to the Program. The program was established in 1956, and Sullivan’s father was part of this original team. Sullivan describes his father as a “pioneer” in the program, working on the front lines developing control and treatment techniques. Tim now holds the same position as his father did – Treatment Supervisor. For him, this is not just a job; it is his legacy, supported by teamwork and a strong sense of mission and passion. Sullivan’s father worked in the Marquette office and eventually helped to establish and start the Ludington office for sea lamprey control, where Sullivan is now stationed.
Sullivan got his start studying Fisheries in college. He graduated from Lake Superior State University in Michigan with a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management, and spent a few years bouncing back and forth between the public and private sector before he finally ended up in the sea lamprey control program 29 years ago.
Sullivan is as humble as he is experienced. When asked what his favorite part of the job was, he spoke endlessly about the teamwork and partnerships that make this work possible and successful, “It is a challenging, yet very rewarding job. It takes teamwork, and it’s good to know our team is working together to save the Great Lakes fish from sea lamprey.” Sullivan described the sea lamprey control program as a “border blind program” in which the Service’s Marquette and Ludington offices work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada as a team. The two countries plan treatment schedules together and support each other during treatments. For 29 years, Sullivan has been a significant part of building and strengthening this bi-national relationship and fostering this partnership.
Sullivan says that during a treatment, you do whatever it takes to get the job done. A single sea lamprey treatment is typically around 10 days in the field. The staff conduct pre-treatment assessments and determine treatment logistics specific to a single stream and then spend 3-5 days treating the streams, “I have very talented people on the team. It takes a lot of people to manage, steer and adjust the treatment as weather conditions are constantly changing.” Sullivan said. Whether this means working an overnight shift or a double shift, the team goes the extra mile.
Sullivan made a point to end on this note, “I am very fortunate to be a team member here. No one is more or less important than others on the team. I’m very lucky and we all support each other.” From this one interaction it is easily understood that Sullivan is dedicated to the mission, his team and the legacy of protecting the Great Lakes, all while working in his dream career field.