Back in June, I started my first real job with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Unfortunately, it is a seasonal position and I only have one week left. But for one more week, I’m a seasonal fisheries technician on the Stream Survey Team (more like the Dream Team). At first, I was extremely nervous that I wasn’t going to know enough or be able to work hard enough. Now, six months later, I’m more confident in my field work abilities and in my passion to learn.
Every morning I’m excited to go to work, despite the hour long commute through Atlanta out to a little town called Social Circle. One of my favorite parts of my job are the people I get to work with. All of my bosses are kind, funny individuals. Marcus is easily up at the top of my list for smartest people I know. Luke is a sweetheart and even though sometimes he might try to hide it, he really just wants everybody to be happy. All of the other seasonals have been fun to work with as well. My supervisor has gone above and beyond to mentor me and help teach me how to be a better field worker. He would be so embarrassed if I gave him a special shoutout, so of course that means I have to. Boss Man Chad DNR Kaiser, thank you for everything you have taught me and everything you have yet to teach me. You have been a tremendous help so far just trying to get me to understand all that is expected of me with “adulting”. I can’t thank you enough for guiding me through job applications and resume building skills on our lunch breaks. I must admit that I look up to you. Now, whenever we are getting the gear ready before sampling the creeks, I’m secretly trying to be a mini-Chad carrying as much stuff as possible so other people kind of feel bad for not working as hard. I’ve learned from the best stream team there is and I will forever be grateful.
The second best part of my job is being hands on with the incredible freshwater fish biodiversity in the state of Georgia. Yes, since I was born and raised here I do have a biased opinion, but the aquatic organisms here are pretty badass. To me, it’s always disappointing when the average joe is really only excited about sport fish (or game fish). Fortunately, there’s so much more to the average Georgia stream than just sport fish. A of couple good examples of sport fish here would be largemouth bass, trout or “bream”. Bream is the general term that people usually use to describe several different species of sunfish. It’s crazy though because in just one tiny stream we can get upwards of three different species of sunfish. All of these game fish are very well known throughout the state and are in high demand. The saddest part about their popularity is that it takes away from all of the non-game species. It breaks my heart and aggravates me that the average Georgian doesn’t know that there are fish prettier than some tropical fish in our local streams. Some of my favorite non-game species would be the hog suckers, sculpins, shiners, and of course the darters. There’s nothing more beautiful than a colored up male freshwater fish in the spawning season (usually Spring). Unfortunately, since most of the public doesn’t even know these amazing little fish exist in our creeks, they aren’t being protected as much as they should. My two final years at KSU, I worked with Andrea Davis on her research which looked at fish species and fish passages. My professor, Dr. Ensign, who has been studying how human impacts have been effecting the fish populations up near KSU for years taught me everything I know about ichthyology and all of its wonders. He is the reason behind my newfound love for freshwater fish. There’s a lot that could be happening to help the native non-game fish populations, but the biggest factor is educating the public. Once people understand what can be found in a small stream running through their neighborhood, they will be more engaged in its protection. I’m determined to reach out to the public and enlightened them on the beautiful creatures we have here in Georgia.
Below are some of my favorite species from this season: