Newsroom Midwest Region

New research vessel honors U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish biologist

November 27, 2017

R/V Stanford H. Smith in Rogers City, Michigan. Photo by Mark Holey/USFWS.
R/V Stanford H. Smith in Rogers City, Michigan. Photo by Mark Holey/USFWS.

Dr. Stanford H. Smith dedicated his professional career to understanding the fisheries of the Great Lakes. His published peer reviewed work from the 1960s and 1970s illuminated why at the time the Great Lakes were suffering from degraded native fish communities and damaged freshwater ecosystems. His research went on to inspire decades of Great Lakes restoration work that continues to this day. In recognition of Smith’s contributions to the Great Lakes fisheries community, his name and his legacy are now forever honored on the bow of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s newest vessel in the Great Lakes fleet, the R/V Stanford H. Smith. The 57 foot vessel will be used by the Service to assess the success of lake trout and other native species restoration work within the Great Lakes.

Prior to its maiden voyage, the daughter of Stanford H. Smith, Karen Risch, was given a tour of the vessel that now bears her father’s name. After an emotional tour of the R/V Smith, Risch shared a few of her father’s research tools, including Smith’s measuring board, spring scale, and a rolodex of his fellow researchers and Great Lakes experts. The well-worn tools, a testament to a rich research career, will be mounted in the vessel in remembrance of their late owner.

“This brings such joy to my heart to have my father honored in this way,” said Risch. “I am sad that he is not here to see this, but hopefully he is seeing it from above.”

The R/V Smith will enable the Service to safely complete fish sampling in the wide range of weather conditions encountered on the lakes. The vessel’s assessment capabilities include gill nets, bottom and midwater trawls, hydro acoustic sampling to measure fish size and numbers, and a scientific winch for water profiling and other sampling. Work using the R/V Smith will focus on lake trout and lake whitefish, but when required it can also be used to complete fish community sampling of both bottom dwelling and midwater dwelling fish species such as cisco, alewife, smelt, sculpins and gobies. It is the vessel’s unique ability to support current work to restore Great Lakes cisco, more commonly referred to as lake herring or chub, which ultimately led to the name choice.

“I have worked my entire 39 year career on Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, and reading Smith’s papers on Great Lakes cisco was a very important prerequisite when starting out. When we discussed naming the vessel, Smith’s name was mentioned early and in the end was really the best choice,” said Mark Holey, project leader at the Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Wisconsin. Holey helped to oversee the project and worked closely with the ship’s designer, SeaCraft Design, and the ship’s builder, Moran Iron Works.

In early November the R/V Smith completed sea trials in Michigan, where it was built. This spring it will sail to its home berth in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, where it will be used by Service employees to continue the fisheries restoration work on Lake Michigan that Smith set into motion decades before.

Karen Risch and her husband aboard the Great Lakes research vessel named in her father's honor, the R/V Stanford H. Smith. Photo by Mark Holey/USFWS.
Karen Risch and her husband aboard the Great Lakes research vessel named in her father's honor, the R/V Stanford H. Smith. Photo by Mark Holey/USFWS.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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