The UMass Student Subunit had a very successful fall 2019 semester!
We held our first meeting of the semester in October where we began by electing officers for the subunit: I was elected as President, Meghan Slocombe as Vice-President, Sam Spelman as Treasurer, and Pete Norwood as Secretary. As a subunit we decided that the topics we want to continue to focus on include public outreach about fisheries science issues, professional development, and connecting with other groups and organizations on and off campus.
Our first event of the semester was a fly tying event organized by subunit member Kate Abbott and led by Don Stewart and Gary Metras from the Pioneer Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited. The event was very well attended (we ran out of vices) and we’re hoping to have a similar event in the spring where members of Pioneer Valley Trout Unlimited may also give casting lessons.
Our second event of the semester was a public screening of the film Artifishal by Patagonia. Not only did members of the subunit attend, but students outside of the subunit, professors, and students from other colleges in the area also came to the screening. After the screening, we held a small discussion about the issues of fish hatcheries and stocking and how the issues were represented in the film. The discussion and the variety of people who attended showed that there is a great interest in fisheries science at UMass and we hope to continue to build on that interest. As a subunit, we were very happy with the turnout and support for this event and it has only made us more excited for next semester.
In two months we were able to hold two public events, steadily increase interest in the subunit, and build connections with on-campus and off-campus groups (such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and Trout Unlimited, respectively). In the coming spring semester we hope to do outreach in local elementary schools, take part in a river cleanup, hold another fly tying workshop, and to continue to build membership in the UMass American Fisheries Society Subunit.
The UMass Amherst Subunit enjoyed success in 2018. Students presented their scientific work at regional and national meetings, participated in education and outreach events, and gained traction for future events. In August, 13 students represented the subunit at the annual AFS meeting in Atlantic City and all 13 students presented portions of their research in either oral or poster presentations! Presentation topics included predicting the movements of Permit and Barracuda in tropical reefs, conservation strategies for Atlantic Tarpon, investigating the effects of winter water level drawdowns on lake fishes, testing the effect of changing water temperatures on juvenile river herring, improving fish consumption advisories for data-poor species, evaluating fine-scale movement of reef fishes, exploring network complexity of Caribbean sharks, Alosine recovery in the Gulf of Maine, and recruitment dynamics for anadromous river herring. Phew…that’s a mouthful of work! Well done everyone.
The UMass Amherst Subunit has also spent considerable time and effort engaging the local communities and generating interest in fisheries conservation. Several student members participated in the Massachusetts Envirothon (MA Envirothon) in December, held at UMass Amherst. This event brings together high school students from around the state that are interested in environmental conservation. In a dedicated symposium entitled “What do wildlife ecologists do and how do I become one?”, subunit members reflected on their journeys from high school to environmental scientists and offered tips for success. And in another education/outreach event, graduate students from the subunit participated in a grad/undergrad career paths mixer. Graduate students sat on a panel designed to provide resources for undergraduates interested in fish and wildlife career paths. Undergraduates heard from graduate students about where they’ve been, their most valuable and formative experiences, and how they’ve been successful in fish and wildlife ecology. This work is important to members of the UMass Student Subunit and we will continue to look for opportunities to engage and support the next generation of fisheries scientists.
Currently we are prepping and excited for upcoming river cleanups, a professional development workshop for undergraduates that includes mock interviews and feedback on cover letters and CV’s, and our annual “Day in the life of a fisheries biologist” event. Additionally, we will be participating in the Cambridge Science Festival in celebration of World Fish Migration Day where we will showcase river herring aging techniques, highlight the journey migratory fish make from source to sea, and help inspire the next generation of scientists.