Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries

Leadership Lessons: Past, Present, and Future

Quinton Phelps

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch42

I do not know that I would consider myself a leader, but rather a passionate fisheries management biologist who has had the great fortune of working with students and other scientists in a leadership role. At the end of the day, leadership should be a humble, selfless act, where helping others occurs through training and collaboration.

So who am I as a fisheries scientist? First, you need to know my area of interest. I concentrate my efforts in fisheries management and ecology. My research merges ecological theory across disciplines (e.g., ecology, biometry, fisheries) to thoroughly understand ecosystem dynamics on broad spatiotemporal scales. With all of the research that I have been involved with, I have been fortunate to collaborate with countless fisheries agencies and, in turn, do good things for fish! This positioning has led me to my passion: teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. The students have told me that they appreciate me bringing real-world examples into the classroom and into the laboratory because it enhances the learning process. I am one of the most fortunate people in this world. I can bring my passion for fish and couple that with the student learning process—a happy life.

Before getting into the “lessons learned” over the course of my career, I believe it is necessary to provide the path that has led me to where I am. My affinity for natural resources became apparent early in life, with family outings of fishing (particularly emphasized), hunting, and just simply being outside experiencing family-related activities. From that point forward, I decided that a career in fisheries was what I wanted to do with my life.

As such, I began working in fisheries with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism during my last summer of high school and the beginning of my college career. After completing my A.S. at Coffeyville Community College, I attended South Dakota State University to complete my B.S. in wildlife and fisheries sciences and obtain valuable fishery experience and broaden my education with new people and philosophies. After completing my undergraduate work, I continued my education by also completing an M.S. in wildlife and fisheries sciences at South Dakota State University. Because of the passion and enthusiasm I have for teaching and research, I continued on to gain more experience and education at Southern Illinois University where I completed my Ph.D. Since completing my formal education, my first full-time position was working as a fisheries research biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). My position with the MDC was great. My job duties were very diverse, and I truly developed an understanding of how the real world works.