My understanding of diversity in fisheries started young; my grandmother taught me how to fish. I loved those youthful days at camp, fishing off the dock for hours, smelting late at night, or hunting for worms in the woods. I always offered to clean whatever fish were kept for grilling and learned fish anatomy during the process. I did not realize fisheries was an actual profession until junior year at Siena College. My focus changed from pre-med to fisheries biology, and I earned both my master’s and Ph.D. at the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).
I have worked in the private sector for the majority of my career; currently, I own my own consulting firm and teach at two different colleges. My experiences have provided me with a useful vantage point for an AFS president—from local and regional conservation challenges to interactions with industry and government agencies related to fisheries issues, mentoring, and engaging youth in understanding fisheries and their value.
I began my leadership in AFS as a master’s student at the urging of my advisor and mentor, Neil Ringler, by becoming president of the SUNY-ESF Chapter (1990–1991). I have served in many positions since that first experience, including president of the New York Chapter (1998–1999), Northeastern Division (2004–2005), and Water Quality Section (2013–2015). I chaired the Strategic Planning Committee in 2013–2014 after remarking how much fun I had as a member of the previous committee. This was the opportunity to bring together a diverse committee with many viewpoints and create a plan for the next 5 years. This was one of the most active and determined groups, and together we created a shorter, more streamlined document, while still keeping with AFS tradition. In today’s fast-paced technology driven world, we wanted a document to help AFS Unit leaders with achieving goals and reporting activities without mountains of paperwork while also informing others and keeping AFS as the best fisheries organization in the world. The new reporting tool in use by the Governing Board was also a result of those efforts. I am participating on that committee again, helping to keep AFS moving forward and documenting successes with the 2019–2024 Strategic Plan. I am most inspired by the dedication and vision of so many members to our profession and AFS and with whom I am
honored to serve.
I firmly believe the whole is always stronger than its parts and the collaboration of all fisheries professionals, as well as other disciplines, is critical in the 21st century. AFS is that whole and has been at the forefront of some of the critical issues facing natural resources today. We have the opportunity to increase public understanding of the value of fisheries and to foster sound stewardship of the aquatic systems. It is important to continue evaluating these issues and help guide government officials and inform legislation utilizing the expertise of our membership. Given our current political situation and skepticism surrounding science, we need to remain committed in our advocacy for sound science in policy decisions and continue to reach out to our representatives and the general public to help them better understand the environmental and economic importance of sustainable fisheries and aquatic systems.
Through AFS, I have met people and colleagues from around the world. We are an international organization and play a vital role in helping make and maintain these connections. There are numerous careers available to fisheries scientists today that are more diverse than in the past and communication among us is critical. Our interests are varied with members in academia, government, nonprofits, and the private sector. We need to maintain this diversity and develop ways for all members to connect and feel like they truly belong, as well as contribute to the success of AFS. Improvements can be made by reaching out to underrepresented groups; AFS needs to continue to reach out and understand the services these groups require to increase the balance in AFS. Rarely has an AFS officer come from the private sector. I would bring this valuable perspective to the AFS leadership and commit to working on issues of expanding and diversifying the membership of AFS.
Students and young professionals are the future of AFS, and I want to continue to expand our efforts incorporating them in the leadership of the organization. Our younger members provide a fresh perspective and can help keep AFS moving forward and becoming an even stronger organization. It is our job as professionals to listen to their ideas as well as to mentor them on the importance of establishing connections early in their careers and taking an active role in their future.
I am excited and honored at the opportunity to serve the AFS membership. If elected, I will strive to maintain connections with all members and encourage new memberships from underrepresented groups as well as foster new relationships with other groups. I look forward to working with the Governing Board and executive director to maintain our credibility as experts in all aspects of fishery science.