The 2012-2013 Fenske Fellowship has given me the unique opportunity to work on a project outside of my thesis with the Great Lake Fishery Commission (GLFC). That in itself is a valuable experience for a graduate student, but the respect and admiration I have for Jan Fenske has made this fellowship all the more special to me. Being invited into a group of intelligent and motivated women to continue the legacy of the first female fisheries biologist to work for the Michigan DNR Fisheries Division is quite an honor.
My mentor for this project is John Dettmers, a Senior Fisheries Biologist for the GLFC. Coordinating with Dale Burkett (also of the GLFC), we will be striving to create a document outlining a structured decision-making approach for dealing with proposals related to barriers and aquatic habitat connectivity. With the increasing interest in aquatic connectivity, it is expected that agencies will be receiving more and more proposals for dam removals. The difficulty in dealing with dams is the myriad of issues that need to be taken account (contaminants, aquatic invasive species, hydropower, etc.). A structured decision-making process would be one method for explicitly taking into account these different factors and their uncertainties.
The first step (besides extensive background reading related to the topic) was to hold a day and a half facilitated discussion at the 2012 annual conference of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) soliciting feedback from stakeholders on the various issues involved. Following the AFS discussion, the next step will be to present the outcomes and my ideas for moving forward to the Council of Lake Committees, to solicit further feedback from agency members on the most important next steps. After these data gathering steps, I will be continuing to research the subject and starting to outline a decision analysis tool.
As I continue with my project, I know I will be provided with further opportunities to form relationships with other policy makers and experience how an agency works, as well as interact with the Fenske Fellows who came before me. I believe this is what the Fenske Fellowship is all about, these connections and experiences that I would not be having if I only focused on my academic work. I look forward to seeing the products of my endeavors!