I have had tremendous help getting to where I am now, learning and cultivating joy along the way. In each of the chapters I have experienced so far, a mentor, friend, and/or colleague has been absolutely indispensable. In my time at the university library, my friend and former supervisor Susie demonstrated compassion, empathy, and generosity in a way I still am working to emulate. It was actually a colleague at the library who helped me find my way to Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU, and almost as quickly to my major advisor, Dr. Dan Hayes. Like Susie, Dr. Hayes is a generous, brilliant person, who is able to add a bit of fun (and a lot of substance) to the work that we do. He also helped me know to look into the water, rather than over it. The Hayes lab functions like a family, with graduate assistants learning, working, and growing together. It is predicated on an eagerness to help one another, individual and lab integrity, and a commitment to improvement. These are a few of the many positive qualities that continue to stand out in folks who have been part of the Hayes lab, and the community they build or associate with as they continue on.
While I found a lot to love being at the university (and recognize how fortunate I am to have worked there as an undergraduate, staff member, and research assistant), I sought to work in this field because of a love of science, natural resources, and the people who benefit from them. Starting out wasn’t as simple as “I want to do this, so I will.” It was part of an escalating pattern of trying new and challenging things:
- Try to get a graduate position in my favorite professor’s lab
- Run for president of the graduate employees union
- Develop a project to tackle a contentious issue, with the help of two overachieving mentors
- Interview for a Fellowship in honor of an amazing woman who was the first female fish biologist in the DNR (and one of my mentor’s mentor)
- Apply for dream job among many qualified applicants
- Work every day to earn the confidence and respect I have been shown by people who have been so supportive
Each of the above was a privilege to even have the opportunity to attempt, and for each of them I could name one or several people who encouraged me to try, to persist, and to accept additional help. Similarly, each of the above represents just a facet of a broader experience. It was not – get into grad school, check that box— it was be part of a lab family, learn about new fields, meet other students, professionals, manage a field crew, go live on a trout stream…
Through my Fenske Fellowship mentors, I had an opportunity to meet leaders in American Fisheries Society (AFS), be part of meetings I would probably not be aware of otherwise, and— important to where I am now—get to know a bit more about the DNR. Through my Fenske experience and interacting with my mentors, I was able to substantiate my impression that the DNR would be an excellent place to make a difference for the people and places I treasure; that my colleagues would be exceptional; and that I could apply my talents and interests to conserving, protecting and managing natural resources for the benefit of people here today, and who will inherit it from us. My Fenske Fellowship also gave me an opportunity to demonstrate who I am to my now-employer.
What I have found is that the more involved I am in natural resources, the more I am surrounded by people who care about the things that matter to me, and have a special sort of satisfaction that I attribute to getting to do what you love for a living.