From Creel Clerks to Modelers: The Evolution of Fisheries Students

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 9:20 AM
Fulton (Statehouse Convention Center)
Rick Eades , Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, NE
New fisheries professionals coming out of graduate school seeking employment have a different skill set than the employers looking to fill vacant starting positions. Today's students are computer experts who can develop models to answer a wide variety of management questions. Rising gas prices and travel costs, combined with the wide availability of computers, computer software, and mobile technology has students spending less time in the field and more time in front of a computer. While these computer skills are valuable, state agency fisheries managers still rely on field sampling for data collection and many students have very limited experience working from electrofishing boats, running gill nets, or conducting creel surveys. Students in the 20th century did not have ready access to computers. They spent a majority of their time conducting field work, getting a great deal of hands-on experience working with sampling gears and interacting with constituents. Those students learned to write, without the luxury of word processors, spell check, online dictionaries, Google, or any other assistance. Today's students spend so much time on computers and smart phones, especially texting, that they seem to be losing a grasp on the English language. A review of manuscripts submitted to AFS's North American Journal of Fisheries Management indicates that student papers are now more often based on modeling exercises than field data collection, hands-on experience has been replaced by Internet searches, and basic writing skills are now lacking. It appears that Universities could better serve their students and improve their chances of landing fisheries management jobs by stepping back a bit from the technology and reintroduce more of the outdoors, hands-on experiences and reinforce basic skills such as public speaking and technical writing. Management agencies are looking for employees who know how to assess a fishery and can communicate their findings effectively to a broad audience, not someone who can predict what a fishery should be like given some values estimated from previous studies.