“Work” for Jessica Radich isn’t a four-letter word. At least not at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The Service is a group of people passionate about conservation and serving the American people. Working here gives you a pride and fulfillment that makes one forget that this is a j-o-b,” says the Franklinville, New Jersey, native.
As a fish biologist at Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery in Georgia, Radich conserves, protects, and enhances fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats. Daily, she partners with other federal agencies, state agencies, tribal partners, and private industries.
“We all work toward restoring our environment to a thriving holistic ecosystem that preserves the native species and the habitats they dwell in for everyone to enjoy generation after generation,” she says.
The team at Warm Springs raises and releases imperiled fish and freshwater mussels, all to restore at-risk wild populations of species found in the Southeastern United States. Fish raised at the hatchery include lake sturgeon, sicklefin redhorse, alligator gar, gulf striped bass, and smallmouth bass.
Radich is the lead biologist supervising work with at-risk, non-fish species. She helps restore freshwater mussels by propagation and culture; rears gopher frogs from the tadpole stage to frogs; and head starts gopher tortoises from egg incubation to their release back into the wild.
“Jessica is an invaluable team member and a driving force to ensure recovery goals are achieved,” says Chester Figiel, Jr., the supervisory fish biologist at Warm Springs. “She is our foremost fish and wildlife biologist”
The collective efforts of Radich and partners are critical to recovering at-risk populations, preventing a species from going extinct.
“I love working with all the amazing species,” Radich says. “The greatest fulfillment is when we release an animal back into the wild and return to monitor its success. Seeing the fruits of our labor and seeing the species we’ve released contributing to the population and thriving is the ultimate reward.”
Radich, who majored in marine biology at Stockton University in New Jersey, also enjoys being part of the Service dive team. She earned her SCUBA certification at 12.
“Diving is one of my lifelong passions, and hearing that it could be part of my job was a dream come true,” she said. "Doing a sport that I love while I’m working is a blessing I am incredibly thankful for."
Radich dives to conduct freshwater mussel and snail surveys; relocate mussels that would otherwise perish; assess habitats; and monitor and plant sea grass to increase manatee grazing areas.
“The Service is a renowned agency with a mission to not only conserve and protect but also to educate,” says Radich who is currently working toward a master’s degree in fisheries at Auburn University. “As an undergraduate, I fell in love with the Service’s mission and knew it was an agency I would be proud to work for. The diversity of the Service is unmatched, and its mission spans beyond the continental U.S. to all states and territories. We work with every type of partner and have a diverse and inclusive workforce.”