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As I reflect on my fisheries career as an AFS Certified Fisheries Professional, I was fortunate to find an established network of fisheries management professionals within the respective AFS Chapters of Iowa, Illinois, Florida, and North Carolina. These connections helped me to gain insights and address challenges of the fisheries profession. As challenging as it was to move away from my family in Iowa, being able to connect with fellow fisheries professionals inspired my own professional growth and fueled my passion for effective fisheries management decisions based on sound science and applied research. I love what we do!
My professional society involvement started at Iowa State University with the FWB Club. At the time, the FWB Club was a student subunit of The Wildlife Society (TWS) as there were too few students to support a student chapter each for both AFS and TWS. Still, I embraced the opportunity to support the club and fellow students through serving as student chapter president and hosting a Midwest student conclave.
In 1999 I attended my first AFS Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina with support from Wahl, where I met Allen. This opportunity led to my graduate project studying early life history of Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus at three Florida lakes. This experience was instrumental in understanding the influence of networking at professional society meetings. Shortly after, I became a member of AFS and attended more AFS meetings to showcase my studies and network with professionals and students.
I am an active member of the North Carolina Chapter of AFS (NCAFS) and enjoy serving the Southern Division of AFS and the Society as a whole. Opportunities that have prepared me for further society leadership include organizing the continuing education workshops at the Southern Division Meeting in Asheville in 2010, serving as NCAFS Chapter President in 2010–2011, and reviewing AFS John E. Skinner Memorial Award candidates (2015–2019).
In 2018, I was graciously nominated by Wes Porak to serve as the Southern Division AFS representative to the C.W. Watson Award Committee, the most prestigious award presented to individuals contributing to fish and wildlife conservation in the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The opportunity to serve for 3 years with fellow conservation professionals has been a fantastic experience, what a joy it is to collaborate with our conservation partners to recognize deserving individuals!
In February 2020, I initiated the ad hoc NCAFS Mentoring Committee to highlight our Chapter’s dedication to advancing and fostering the next generation of fisheries professionals. In February 2021, I coordinated hosting a student–professional virtual workshop for students interested in conservation careers, with and attendance of over 30 students. Following the workshop, I have maintained weekly or more often email contact with this growing group (up to 65 individuals now), sharing job announcements and career insights through a series of communications.
I fully support the AFS Strategic Plan to guide our Society. I will dedicate my service on the AFS Executive Committee and Governing Board to maintain these guidelines and principles as our priority. I firmly believe in the AFS mission “to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic sciences and promoting the development of fisheries professionals.” I value the relationship among the fisheries professional society and respective partners representing numerous allies within academia and organizations to achieve progress in fisheries and aquatic resource sciences and all our beneficiaries. In thinking about my vision and leadership style, I share three of my focal points to continue our society’s mission.
In my agency, I collaborated with cross-divisional staff to develop a grassroots initiative, Partnership for Inclusion. With an Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Relevancy Roadmap Implementation Grant, our in-house group contacted available vendors that could provide support to our diversity and inclusion initiatives. Despite the pandemic, we adapted to provide two virtual workshops for staff representing agency divisions and offices. With support from our agency leadership, we were able to take a deep dive into elements of culture, capacity, governance, and policy. This immersion was a valuable insight to implementing strategies to promote welcoming and inclusive environments. I will bring the lessons learned on navigating the Relevancy Roadmap with consideration of available strategies for AFS to remain relevant for years to come. I have been inspired by a quote from Arthur Chan, in which he says, “Diversity is a fact. Equity is a choice. Inclusion is an action. Belonging is an outcome.” It is my hope to continue AFS’ diversity and inclusion efforts to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for all those who are and wish to be fisheries professionals!
In 2018, I completed the inaugural North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Leadership Development Program, an agency initiative designed after the National Conservation Leadership Institute. Hugh O’Doherty led the course, along with trainers and graduates from the Insitute, to better recognize adaptive challenges and engage with purpose. This experience was instrumental in identifying my leadership style; I’m a conscientious individual who thrives finding common ground and ensuring meaningful collaboration. I feel this is vital to continue progress in fisheries and aquatic sciences based upon applied fisheries research and sound science. A specific goal of mine will be to engage with AFS membership via meetings, Chapters, Student Subunits, and Committees to actively listen and amplify the voices of our extensive network of fisheries professionals to leaders and policymakers.
Being Inclusive with Empathy
The intent of our NCAFS Mentoring Committee student–professional workshop, referenced previously, was to provide students with a diverse panel of professionals to foster the next generation of conservation professionals in navigating a dynamic conservation career path. In August 2021, we met with AFS Hutton Scholar Program Chair, Mary Webb Banning, to establish a direct connection between the Hutton Scholar Program and the NCAFS Mentorship Committee. Fostering the next generation of fisheries professionals is imperative, and it is woven into the fabric of this 150-year-old organization. I will strive to enrich and enhance the legacy of fisheries professionals sharing and including past, present, and future generations of fisheries professionals to continue our relevance for decades to come.
I sincerely appreciate the consideration by the AFS Nominating Committee to be selected as a nominee for the AFS Second Vice President. I am honored to be considered to serve on the AFS Executive Committee. I would be grateful for your vote to actively serve our profession. Thank you kindly.