Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Career Days at the CRFPO - 2012

The CRFPO held its 2nd annual 'open house' a couple of weeks ago. We renamed the event to career day, a term which better describes this program.  Two groups of high school students were invited this year on separate days to interact with some of our fish biologists.   This event was meant to showcase careers in science as well as with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a whole, and to give the students a closer look at some of the specific activities performed by our office.

Using electricity to capture lamprey.
This year there were four stations.  Each activity lasted about 1/2 hour, enough time to get our point across, but not too much time to let anyone get bored.  Not that they would, with all the cool stuff we had to show them. 

Anesthesiology 101 demonstrated the various ways we use electricity to either catch fish or put them to sleep so that we can tag them.  This activity was a big hit, mostly because we had live fish.  The GPS activity showed students how to navigate to different locations.  After a quick introduction and lesson on how to use a unit, each student was given a GPS to find six locations.  Most every field crew in the office uses a GPS unit to either find a sampling site or to mark a site.   Students also learned how to locate fish using radio tracking.  Two large tubs filled with corks, some marked demonstrated how we estimate fish populations and depending on the effort, how accurate the numbers can be.  Finally, for the first time, we set up one of our automated marking trailers.  Although it did not have fish, the students were able to see the machines run and also got a chance to tag a fish (cork).

Radio tracking
Some of the feedback we recieved from the students follows.

“I enjoyed the GPS activity the most.  I haven’t had the experience of doing anything like that before.  It was fun.”
“I most enjoyed learning about the machinery in the 1.3 million dollar trailer and how accurate it is with cutting the adipose fin.”
“I enjoyed the shocking station.  I found it interesting because I learned many new things about how electricity works with fish.”
“I kind of liked the cork/population estimation a lot because it was the most hands on.”
“I liked looking for the fish tag in the field, because it was less ‘talk’ and more ‘do’.  I don’t like lectures that much.”
“I enjoyed all the activities very much.”
Students touring the auto marking trailer
Besides showing the students some of what we do and explaining why we do it, we hoped the students took at least two more messages back to school with them.  1.)  Biologists often need many more skills to perform their jobs.  Sure we all know alot about fish but we also need to know how to use special equipment as well as have the skills sometimes to build some of the research equipment needed such as PIT tag antennas.  2.) The CRFPO could not function as a unit without the much needed support of people such as our purchasing agent, accountants, contract officer, and computer specialists, to name a few.  Thus, even in a 'fishery' office, numerous career opportunities exist.

All in all, both days were a success.  Here's a note one class left us.

"Career Day was Awesome, Interesting, Informative, Job-Qualifying, and Educational"

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