Openness to the Unexpected: Our Pathways to Careers in a Federal Research Laboratory
Kurt R. Newman, David B. Bunnell, and Darryl W. Hondorp
Many fisheries professionals may not be in the jobs they originally envisioned for themselves when they began their undergraduate studies. Rather, their current positions could be the result of unexpected, opportunistic, or perhaps even lucky open doors that led them down an unexpected path. In many cases, a mentor helped facilitate the unforeseen trajectory. We offer three unique stories about joining a federal fisheries research laboratory, from the perspective of a scientist, a joint manager-scientist, and a manager. We also use our various experiences to form recommendations that should help the next generation of fisheries professionals succeed in any stop along their journeys.
My entry into the fisheries profession surprised me. I always enjoyed spending time outdoors (e.g., hiking, camping, boating, and fishing), but through my undergraduate years, I always wanted to be a high school biology teacher. My first research experience occurred during my senior year in college. I now recognize how fortunate I was to have two fisheries scientists in the biology department of my small liberal arts school who opened my eyes to research and guided me towards M.S. assistantship opportunities in the fisheries field. The more research I conducted, the more I wanted to make it a larger component of my job. I still remember camping along the Chattooga River in South Carolina following radio-tagged Brown Trout Salmo trutta and being amazed that I was actually earning a master’s degree in such a beautiful natural setting.