Hello and welcome to the Fenske Fellows blog!
My name is Sam Betances and I am honored to be one of two Janice Lee Fenske Excellence in Fisheries Management Fellows this year. I thought I would begin my blog with a brief introduction of myself and my project. You can join me and my fellow Fenske Fellow and colleague, Katie Kierczynski, on our respective fellowship journeys by checking back here where we will periodically update you all on our progress and experiences!
Before arriving here at Michigan State University (MSU), I received my Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Aquatic Science from Purdue University in my home state of Indiana. After my undergraduate, I started working as a North Pacific Groundfish Observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service in the Bering Sea of Alaska. During my time in Alaska I saw first-hand how anthropogenic impacts are degrading our valuable fisheries and felt compelled to pursue a career in fisheries management. This passion for fisheries conservation lead me to the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at MSU. Currently, I am a second year Master’s student at MSU working in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. I’m advised by Dr. Dana M. Infante, working in her Aquatic Landscape Ecology Lab.
In addition to my work in Alaska, I have previously held other positions within natural resource agencies which have been incredibly rewarding. Working with agencies such as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, both the Indiana and Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and various states’ Sea Grant programs has given me an appreciation for agency conservation work. Ultimately, I hope to work for a natural resource agency after my graduate program concludes where I can join my fellow agency biologists and researchers in conserving our nation’s fishes. The Fenske Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity to make connections with managers and gain an understanding of how agencies operate.
I’m lucky to be mentored by Todd Wills and Jan-Michael Hessenauer, both of whom work in the Fish Division of Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). My project focuses on expanding the utility of habitat data collected by MDNR’s Stream Status and Trends Program. Currently, MDNR collects a variety of habitat variables from streams throughout Michigan. The aim of the project is to identify new opportunities for MDNR managers to use habitat data in decision-making, including proposing applications for the data that have been used successfully in other programs.
My fellowship experience is just beginning, but I’ve already learned so much! My mentors Jan and Todd have given me great guidance and advice in regards to my project as well as how to catch a Chinook or two! I’ve also been lucky enough to attend MDNR meetings which have given me insights on how decisions are made and steps that must be taken to address management concerns. I’m excited to apply what I learn from my Fenske experience to my future career as an agency biologist. I hope that through this fellowship, I will learn skills that I can draw on through my career in public service.
I can’t wait to share more of my experiences with you all. Check back here periodically for more updates!