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Final Thoughts: Mentorship and Representation Are Key

by: Katie Kierczynski and Sam Betances

As our time as Fenske Fellows comes to a close, we are delighted to share our insights from the Fellowship on this blog. We have really enjoyed our Fenske experience and have been very busy working on our respective projects and attending various Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR)/fisheries management meetings throughout the state. The opportunity to observe the management process from start to finish as we have gone through our Fenske experience has been an exceptional opportunity that would not have been possible without this fellowship.

We have each had the chance to participate in field work with our mentors: Sam was able to sample Lake Sturgeon in the St. Clair River, while Katie participated in the spring Lake Trout survey in Northern Lake Huron. In addition to seeing how data were collected and processed, we were able to see how the data were communicated to other fisheries professionals at Basin Team meetings, the annual biologists conference, the Lake Huron Technical Committee meeting, and the Lake Committee meeting hosted by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Our attendance at Research Inventory Team meetings and a research section meeting showed us how data were transferred into information used to make on-the-ground decisions. New management/legislation was also discussed at many of these meetings and we were extremely excited when fish orders (i.e., proposed regulation changes) that we first learned about at the annual biologists meeting were approved at a recent Natural Resources Commission meeting.

While we have greatly enjoyed learning about the internal workings of the MDNR, our favorite part of this fellowship has been the personal connections we have made. Our agency mentors, Todd Wills, Jan-Michael Hessenauer, and Dave Fielder have all been instrumental in not only assisting our understanding of the MDNR and fisheries management, but also in connecting us with other professionals in the field. Those professionals were willing to take the time to answer questions that we had, whether the questions were about specific happenings at meetings, general insights into the MDNR and fisheries management as a whole, or even tips for interviewing. In particular, Jessica Mistak and Gary Whelan always made themselves available to us for conversations regarding navigating the job search and potential career directions, introducing us to professionals outside of the region, and showing us how to be more involved in the national AFS goings-on. We are grateful to all of the professionals who have welcomed us at the many meetings and conferences that we have attended as part of this fellowship, and especially to Kelley Smith and his wife, Molly, for the opportunity to gain so much experience in honor of Jan.

While we encountered many great mentors, both men and women, during our experience, it was inspiring to meet so many women professionals in fisheries. In our past experiences, we have had limited opportunities to have women in fisheries as mentors outside of academia. Not only were we welcomed and advised by many of these women, but we also appreciated a vision of us in their shoes in the not-too-distant future. Representation in fisheries really matters, and we are incredibly grateful for all of the women who have come before us that have allowed us this opportunity. Jan Fenske, in particular, was the first female fisheries biologist in the MDNR Fisheries Division. Her legacy lives on in the many talented women currently in the division and will be continued on to the next generation. The impact of this fellowship on our lives will not lessen over time. We look forward to using our lessons learned from this experience as future fisheries professionals and the opportunity to be future mentors to women in fisheries management.

Tying Up Loose Ends

East Lansing, Michigan

I am sad to say that my Michigan State University (MSU) Fenske Fellowship experience has come to a close. Over the last few months, I have been working with my mentors to complete my final report, which details the last two years of my experiences and accomplishments as the 2014-2015 MSU Fenske Fellow. You can read more about my fellowship accomplishments, fellowship challenges, lessons learned, and my advice for future MSU Fenske Fellows in my final report. There, you will also find a reflection of the MSU Fenske Fellowship written by my two mentors, Dr. Bill Taylor and Bob Lambe. You can also view a full list of my MSU Fenske Fellowship-related products and additional products in the other document below.

In the next few months, I will continue to wrap up a couple of related fellowship projects including an article for Fisheries magazine and a presentation about my MSU Fenske Fellowship experience as part of the MSU Graduate Student Organization Research Symposium. I will also attend and present at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) Lake Committee Meetings in March, 2016. I hope to attend other GLFC-related meetings when possible.

Before I depart, I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to my mentors, Dr. Taylor and Bob, and all other individuals from the GLFC who welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home within their organization. I especially thank the U.S. and Canadian Commissioners who personally interacted with me on a number of occasions. Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Dana Infante and the rest of the MSU Fenske Fellowship Review Committee for selecting me as the 2014-2015 MSU Fenske Fellow and supporting me through this process. It has been an adventure. Cheers.

LESSON #29: Be grateful for good opportunities.

LESSON #30: Keep in touch with those who give meaning to your life!

View Molly’s final MSU Fenske Fellowship Report here.

View Molly’s MSU Fenske Fellowship-related products and additional products here.

View Molly’s article, “The MSU Fenske Fellowship: Fresh Perspectives on Fish, Management, and Law” here. This article appeared in Fisheries magazine in 2016.

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“The Fresh Fish of Bellaire”

Just over one month after the Coldwater Resources Steering Committee (CRSC) meeting, I made another scenic journey to Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula. The destination for 12/1/15: Bellaire, home of Shanty Creek Resorts, where the 2015 Michigan DNR (MDNR) Fisheries Division Meeting took place. As soon as I walked beneath the enormous wooden entryway and sensed the unmistakable fragrance of the northwoods, I knew I was in for an enjoyable morning. I entered a cabin-like hallway replete with photographs and paintings of hunting expeditions of yesteryear. I admired the meticulous detail and impeccable accuracy of deer, ducks, and grouse, those animals of endless fascination. In a wildlife dreamland, I slowly made my way to the meeting registration table. To my surprise, there were nametags featuring clear, crisp images of common Michigan recreational fishes and bags with an embossed Michigan DNR Fisheries Division logo! Quite a professional event, I said to myself, thinking of my many undergraduate meetings with the Minnesota DNR (first as a volunteer, then as an employee) during my days at the University of Minnesota. The stage was set for a memorable meeting.

The meeting featured sessions for various Committees of the MDNR, including the Trout Committee, where I presented full results from the 2015 Inland Trout Angler Survey. Whereas my talk at the CRSC focused on differences between angling group members and non-members in Michigan streams, in this presentation (PDF:CRSC_TroutCommtalk) I characterized the factors that drive typical, “overall” anglers to fish streams and inland lakes for brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, and splake. I discussed anglers’ responses to a wide range of questions, including those related to angling experience, fishing trip planning, stream and lake selection factors, harvest and tackle use patterns, and overall satisfaction with trout management in Michigan. I was grateful to hear from managers that I provided the details they sought, information that will help us understand the values, attitudes, and behaviors of public stakeholders as we develop a statewide management plan for inland trout. Another incredible Fenske Fellowship experience!

It has been highly rewarding to see that my research is relevant for fisheries managers. As I reflect on my Fenske Fellowship experiences thus far, four lessons come to mind:

  1. Know your audience
    • A professional presentation is valuable in proportion to how effectively a speaker communicates with his/her audience. In transitioning from my first to second presentation, I made a more conscious effort to consider my audience (i.e., salmonid managers) and the specific information they desired. I am certain this improved the quality of my second talk.
  2. Speak with passion, confidence, and creativity
    • In my experience, professional talks represent outstanding opportunities to channel personal enthusiasm toward effective scientific communication. Speak with your heart, and good things will happen!
  3. Address questions with honesty and an open mind
    • At the Trout Committee meeting I received a thought-provoking question about the degree to which my sample population (N = 4,161) accurately represented Michigan trout anglers. Knowing that survey respondents were typically male, age 50-65, and members of angling groups (and invariably provided their emails after purchasing licenses), I responded to this question to the effect that my sample population was not fully representative. To expect a completely representative population is unrealistic, but it is important to acknowledge the inherent biases in a survey and transparently communicate these to audiences at professional meetings.
  4. Learn and have fun!
    • The MDNR fisheries community is a wonderful group of passionate scientists, managers, and biologists who care deeply about the health of aquatic resources within and outside Michigan. Collectively (and in many cases individually), these fisheries professionals are a walking encyclopedia of information. For a Ph.D. student like myself, networking with the MDNR fisheries community is an incredible extracurricular experience. I’ve learned facts about fisheries research and management that no amount of classroom instruction could provide. And I’ve had lots of fun!
      • In a festive, holiday-themed room, members of the Michigan DNR Trout Committee discuss results of the 2015 Inland Trout Angler Survey after my presentation.

        Trout Committee


2012-2013 Fellow Presents at FW GSO Research Symposium and MIAFS Annual Meeting

Lisa Peterson, the 2012-2013 Fenske Fellow, presented at the GSO Research Symposium on February 21st at the Kellogg Conference Center on MSU’s campus. Her talk, titled “2012-2013 Fenske Fellowship: Structured decision making for decisions about dams” received the best fisheries related presentation award. She quickly followed that up with a presentation at the MIAFS annual meeting in Holland, MI and February 26th.


The 9th Annual Graduate Student Organization Research Symposium program.

2014-2015 Fenske Fellow Application

Applications for the 2014-2015 Janice Lee Fenske Fellowship are due January 20, 2014. The application requirements can be found at:

Fenske Fellowship in the December 2013 issue of Fisheries magazine

Congratulations to 2012-2013 Fenske Fellow, Lisa Peterson, on her recent publication in Fisheries magazine!


Fisheries Magazine

Every day we are faced with decisions. They range from simple choices to intricate, multifaceted issues. Natural resource management is a field where nearly every significant decision is complex. Structured decision making is a way to approach these decisions in a systematic and rational way.When decisions need to be made about resources, making a good decision can save money, avert disasters, and protect fragile environments. Dam management is one of the many complex decisions faced by managers. With the push to restore native species, dam removal has become the focus of many project proposals. However, managers must take into account a variety of conflicting objectives, from aquatic connectivity to preventing the spread of invasive species. It is important to determine which objectives are relevant and to look at the trade-offs and uncertainties in a transparent and organized way. This is where structured decision making can be most useful.

Fenske Fellows Reunite in Little Rock!

At this year’s annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society, Fenske Fellows gathered at The Flying Saucer to share stories, experiences, and great food! After hearing about the research we’ve done, the connections and impacts we’re still making, and the mentorship we continue to receive, it’s safe to say that the Fenske Fellowship experience has enriched our graduate degree programs and has provided us with an opportunity unlike any other! The work we’ve done has been nothing but satisfying, and the support along the way has been wonderful. Although the weather in Little Rock was hot and slimy this year, it didn’t stop us from having a great time!


(From L to R) Dr. Dana Infante, Dr. Abigail Lynch, Marissa Hammond, Lisa Peterson, and Jess Mistak.

Lisa Presents her Fenske Project to the Council of Lake Committees

Lisa Peterson has been working with John Dettmers of the GLFC to develop a structured decision making (SDM) framework for riverine barrier decisions as her Fenske project. The purpose of this framework is to guide managers through a SDM process to make decisions about dams in a transparent and organized way. She presented her work to the Council of Lake Committees (CLC) at the beginning of May. She described the steps of the framework and some of the examples that would be included in the final product. The CLC showed support for her work and looked forward to receiving the finished framework. Following the meeting she received inquiries for more information from managers in the Great Lakes region; she is excited her work is resonating with people!


CLC Meeting Room (you can spot Lisa Peterson presenting in the back of the room!). Photo Credit: Nick Ebinger

New Fenske Fellow 2013-2014 Announced: Congratulations Marissa Hammond!

The 2013-2014 recipient of the Fenske Fellowship is Marissa Hammond. She is a student of Bill Taylor’s and we welcome her to this group of women following in Jan’s legacy. Congratulations Marissa! We look forward to hearing about you and your Fenske project!

Lisa talks with undergraduates at SMU about Jan Fenske and the Fenske Fellowship

On Wednesday, October 10th, Lisa Peterson was the professional development speaker at the biweekly meeting of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) group at Southern Methodist University. She participated via Google+ Hangout and told the students about graduate school, Jan and the Fenske fellowship, and being a woman in the sciences. WISE is an undergraduate student group with members from all four class levels and majors ranging from Mechanical Engineering to Biology.

This was a great opportunity to connect with younger female students and discuss Jan’s legacy. The group was really inspired by Jan’s story and impressed by the opportunities provided by the Fenske Fellowship. They all agreed that building a network of intelligent women with similar interests was a fantastic goal of the Fenske and that it would be good if there were similar opportunities across the country. The students were particularly interested in Lisa’s experiences as a woman in graduate school and asked many questions about what it is like, when they should apply, and what they could expect. Lisa very much enjoyed relaying advice and words of wisdom.