Science Applications Program

2014 Science Leadership Award

Photo of Julian Fischer. Credit: USFWSJulian Fischer


Demonstration of Leadership Traits

As a Project Leader for the Region 7 Migratory Bird Management Waterfowl Division in Anchorage, Alaska, Julian Fischer supervises up to 20 employees ranging from pilots and statisticians to field biologists and geospatial analysts, all of whom work to conduct and maintain an enduring legacy of aerial and ground based waterbird surveys across Alaska. Julian embodies management and scientific excellence through his management of this diverse team, involvement in countless partnerships and collaborations, mentorship of younger scientists, and by demonstrating a selfless commitment to his staff and the long-term mission of his Division, and the Service. He exemplifies the very best in science leadership by supporting continued data collection and analyses that support and improve the Service’s knowledge and management of avian trust resources. 

As both an independent scientist and manager of a specialized group of avian experts, Julian works tirelessly to find scientifically-based solutions to a wide variety of avian conservation issues.  He leads his group in providing data integral to long-term management, recovery, and potential listing/delisting of avian species, fulfilling annual decision processes for subsistence and sport harvest regulations, and supporting assessments of climate change relative to arctic nesting avifauna. 

When critical data and expert review was necessary in developing a status assessment for potential listing of the yellow-billed loon, Julian led his division in conducting necessary aerial surveys, analyses of data, and participation in inter-programmatic meetings, briefings, and review of critical documents in support of the listing process. Similarly, Julian led his staff in developing multiple Conservation Frameworks for species of conservation concern, in support of the Service’s Strategic Habitat Conservation initiative. Most recently, he and his staff have also worked in conjunction with several Alaskan Landscape Conservation Cooperatives to develop studies assessing the impacts of climate change on nesting waterbirds, predicting changes in their distributions, and identifying factors limiting population growth.  With these, as with many other conservation concerns and initiatives, Julian’s leadership strength lies in his ability to repeatedly harness the expertise of his staff to develop and apply the best science to each unique conservation challenge that arises.

The key to Julian’s leadership success is not only his ability to work closely with his staff, but also his enthusiasm in serving as an outlet for his team’s expertise. In addition to his management and field duties, Julian is an integral member of many conservation working groups, such as the Spectacled and Steller’s eider Recovery Team, USFWS Climate Change Advisory Committee, and Inter-Programmatic Cooperative Recovery Initiative, in addition to serving as an expert representative to the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-management Council, North Slope Borough Fish and Game Management Committee, and several Pacific Flyway Study Committees.  Beyond committee involvement, Julian is a strong collaborator with university graduate students, other agencies, and non-governmental organizations in developing research projects and providing long-term data necessary to answering a broad array of avian-related conservation questions.  In short, Julian serves as an integral link between the long-standing monitoring efforts of his program and the information needs of federal and state wildlife agencies, tribal councils, private consulting firms, other important stakeholders, and the public. 
Julian continually strives to bring staff and cooperators together to objectively evaluate information, analyze scientific data, and develop innovative improvements to data quality, utility, and application.  He routinely works across agencies and programs, as well as within his own program, to develop new studies addressing novel scientific questions relevant to species management.  Most recently, he has worked to develop investigations of visibility bias and detection for threatened Spectacled eiders on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, as well as studies of change in distribution, abundance, and detection of migratory birds on the Arctic Coastal Plain, and examinations of visibility bias among aerial survey platforms, as well as development of habitat suitability models and assessments of climate change effects on nesting waterfowl. 

Julian is a leader in providing data and expertise in support of conservation decisions, and developing recommendations that are based on defensible scientific data. He and his staff provide a collective expertise of more than a hundred years and thousands of flight hours monitoring Alaska’s waterbirds, managing a legacy of annual survey data dating from the 1950’ to the present. In addition, all his staff serve as avian experts for a broad array of agency and cooperator committees and conservation initiatives. However, it is Julian who most often serves as the primary point of contact for summarizing and disseminating the long term avian data critical to management and conservation decisions, with almost all of the waterbird species of concern in Alaska are managed via the long-term monitoring data provided by Julian’s program.

Support for Scientific Activities of Staff

Photo of Julian Fischer and staff. Credit: USFWSJulian is a true leader in supporting his staff’s involvement in scientifically-based work and advancing the Service’s mission. As described by his team members, “Julian is the kind of supervisor every employee should be lucky enough to work under at least once in their career”.  Julian not only embodies the type of leadership required to produce good science, but the type of leadership that sustains a legacy of lasting, high-quality data, collected by a team of long-term, quality employees. In other words, Julian is the type of leader that fosters generations of biologists committed to a common purpose – improvement of the understanding and management of migratory bird populations. Julian has sustained this legacy through a leadership spirit that encourages scientific excellence, promotes innovation and adaptation, recognizes accommodation of work-life balance, and integrates the unique talents of his diverse team, all while continually seeking and mentoring new, high quality team members.

Julian establishes a benchmark of professional excellence by setting high standards for his employees and ensuring their success by providing the support they need in the office, field, and airplane(s).  In addition to busy field missions across Alaska, Julian challenges himself and his staff to remain active in professional organizations, present their work at scientific meetings, and publish in peer-reviewed journals, as well as develop in-house collaborations synthesizing historical data sets and developing novel approaches to addressing conservation concerns and survey methodology. 

He encourages each employee to pursue training and professional development and works closely with each of his staff to develop work plans that not only promote the priorities of the service, but seek to advance group and individual goals, all while remaining sensitive to changing personal and group needs.  Given the diversity of his employees, this can range from coordinating aircraft pilot training, to boater safety, to survival courses, to population modeling, database management, geospatial analyses, and leadership development. Besides being a talented biologist and critical thinker in his own right, it is Julian’s ability to capitalize on the potential of each employee by fostering an environment of creativity, autonomy, and appreciation that truly exemplifies the very best in scientific leadership. 

Julian encourages and rewards scientific productivity and professional development at all levels.  He and his staff maintain close ties with scientific societies, as well as university and agency researchers; continually collaborating on research projects stemming from the long-term data they collect.  In addition to publishing results, and meeting their annual reporting requirements for annual harvest regulations, Julian leads the group in initiating collaborative new studies.  He and his team were recently awarded funding for proposals examining survival of midcontinent greater white-fronted geese in boreal and tundra habitats of Alaska, monitoring the molting population of threatened Steller’s eiders and preparing for their reintroduction on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, and demographic analyses identifying factors limiting growth of Emperor Goose populations. Julian has also worked with his staff to develop studies examining how climate change may be altering some of Alaska’s most important waterfowl breeding areas. 

Julian also serves as a field coordinator, safety officer, and mentor, where he coordinates complex aircraft and survey schedules throughout remote Alaska, while also serving as the lead on several large field operations. He accomplishes this, all while shouldering the bulk of office administrative necessities; allowing his staff to focus on biology and helps his superiors focus on presenting their waterfowl work to Alaskan, Flyway, National, and Continental-level managers. His open-door management style, encouraging demeanor, and continued pursuit of excellence, have fostered a strong sense of camaraderie, professional enthusiasm, mentoring, and mutual respect among all those he works with.  This is at least partially evidenced by the high fidelity of his employees, most of which spend all of their 20-30 year careers within the program.

Julian stands apart from many managers in his enthusiasm for the resource, his unequivocal support for science-driven management, and his in-depth and diverse knowledge of ecology and conservation, but it is his unselfish desire to develop a professional and harmonious workforce within MBM that embodies true leadership spirit. He exhibits and expects transparent, scientific excellence, critical thinking, and a love for the work of the service. His direct, thoughtful, and positive approach towards each employee supports their contribution to the team, creates a sense of family, and produces scientific excellence.  It also enhances safety, encourages collaboration, and creates a team of employees who truly enjoy their work and each other. Those who work with Julian would attest that he, "leads without seeming to lead"; his holistic and long-term perspective prioritizes people and their talents. The result is a group that successfully carriers out complex aerial and ground-based missions across the difficulties of remote Alaska, develops innovative new methods, and collects data used throughout the continent. Julian’s natural curiosity and 'can do' attitude encourage s and promotes positive attitudes among all those he encounters. He personifies leadership's role in scientific excellence by achieving the mission of the Service through partnerships, collaborations, and a selfless commitment to his staff, the team they form, and the data they contribute to the scientific community.


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Last updated: November 12, 2021

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