Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries
Being a Professional: What to Expect
Five days after graduation from high school, I joined the Army, and a month later, boot camp started. At the time (1959), military service was mandatory. Not knowing what I wanted to do about a career, it made sense to get my military obligation behind me. After my active time in the Army, I was employed as a laborer in the home construction business. This motivated me to enroll at Kansas State University to acquire an education. I choose fisheries management as my major. At the university, I learned about education deferment to postpone military service, and I gradually became aware of the war in Vietnam as some of my friends were drafted. I was fortunate that I was working towards completion of my military obligation and most likely would not be deployed to Vietnam. I graduated in 1965, and only three of us found employment. Being employed with a state fish and wildlife agency was extremely fortunate, and having my military obligation behind me played a part in my being hired.
My studies at Kansas State University included Eugene Odum’s pioneering work on the relationship between organisms and their environment. I was aware of the definition of ecosystem, but I didn’t yet appreciate that habitat was the key! Working with habitat didn’t sound as exciting as working with fish, as I loved sampling the lakes and streams. I thought that these investigations assured sound fisheries management but wasn’t fully aware of how the data we collected ended up being used. I soon learned that in addition to science, there were economic and social considerations shaping management plans. Too often, these influences were not aligned with sound biology and ecosystem management. I was dismayed that economic and social considerations often influenced management outcomes by overshadowing science.
Growing up on the Great Plains, I was aware of how the landscape was altered by agricultural practices. I can still remember my amazement at seeing for the first time a stream of clear, cold water tumbling down from the Rocky Mountains. Where I grew up, streams were sluggish, brown, and silt-laden. But, my aha moment about fish habitat occurred when I moved to Alaska—the Great Land—in 1970. Alaska, where fishing was important. Where the fishing industry was the leading employer and the fish-producing environment was largely intact—the preferred habitat for a fish biologist.