American Fisheries Society Special Committee on Educational Requirements
In November 2012 AFS President John Boreman appointed the Special Committee on Educational Requirements. One of the charges to this committee was to assemble a list of North American colleges and universities offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in fisheries-related disciplines and to publish the list on the AFS website. A subcommittee consisting of Craig Bonds, Ron Essig, Troy Hartley, Chris Myrick and Trent Sutton worked on this task. Four subcommittee members were each responsible for the geographic area of an AFS Division within the United States and the fifth subcommittee member was responsible for Canada and Mexico.
Data Collection Methodologies
A template spreadsheet format was developed with the desired data fields. This was shared with all AFS Division and many AFS Chapter and Student Subunit leaders who were asked to provide whatever information they could. Schools with fisheries programs who were members of the National Association of Universities with Fish and Wildlife Programs were added to the list. Land grant universities were investigated. The AFS directory was searched for college and university addresses of Education Section and Student Subsection of the Education Section members. The rationale was that schools with AFS members likely had fisheries programs. In addition to the above approaches, the vast majority of the data collection effort was via internet searches.
Categorization of Schools
The subcommittee decided early on that schools should be divided into two different lists. The first list titled “Fisheries Programs” includes schools with programs that have a strong fisheries focus. Schools on this list had “fish” or “fisheries” in their degree titles or had aquaculture programs. Schools with other degree programs were included on this first list if local information was provided that they had a strong fisheries focus. For example, many Canadian schools with biology degree titles are strong in fisheries. The second list titled “Other Related Programs” includes schools with related programs like aquatic ecology, marine biology or biological oceanography. Environmental science (not environmental studies) and environmental biology degree schools were considered for this second list, but instead were added to a third list titled “Environmental Programs.” Even though these programs are related to fisheries, they were separated because their sheer numbers tend to dilute the usefulness of the “Other Related Programs” list. Also, there was uneven effort expended on identifying schools with environmental science programs that resulted in most being within the Northeastern Division geographic area. Again, there were exceptions made for schools when local information indicated that they actually had strong fisheries foci. So the resulting list of schools is actually a single spreadsheet with separate tabs for “Fisheries Programs,” “Other Related Programs” and “Environmental Programs.”
The five separate geographic area lists of schools were consolidated into a master list that the subcommittee reviewed for consistency. Then the draft master list was distributed to leaders of AFS Divisions, Chapters, the Canadian Aquatic Resources Section, the Education Section and the Student Subsection of the Education Section for review. Responses from these AFS units were generally better than earlier contacts because there was information to comment on instead of a blank spreadsheet to fill in. A presentation that included the list of schools development process was given at the 2013 AFS annual meeting in Little Rock, AR. A hard copy of the list was offered for comment at the AFS publications booth at that meeting.
The AFS list of North American colleges and universities with fisheries programs is intended to be a dynamic list. It is expected that there will be changes needed shortly after AFS members are informed of the posting on the AFS website. The Special Committee will take that responsibility. Beyond that, there should be at least an annual review of the information, ideally by the AFS Education Section.
The Special Committee understands that there are many educational paths to a successful fisheries career. They often involve attendance at colleges and universities that are not represented on the “Fisheries Programs” or other lists. They might involve majors and degrees in specialty areas like economics or engineering that would not be part of traditional fisheries programs, yet would be essential for some types of fisheries jobs. They might involve continuing education opportunities that are not represented on this list. So users of the list should keep the proper perspective on its merits.