Adam Edge, College Intern I
Commercial Fisheries - Dillingham
I am a Biology major at Western Kentucky University, concentrating my coursework on Ecology and Conservation Biology. My goal after attaining my bachelor's degree is to go on to graduate school for a master's and, possibly a Ph.D., in Ecology or a related field. I hope to find a career with a government agency to do my part in conservation research either in fisheries or game.
I worked in Dillingham as part of a team of three members that collected data pertaining to the sockeye salmon migration on the Wood River. Our major responsibilities included salmon population counts, sampling, metadata collection, and data entry.
Population counts were conducted using two scaffolding towers on each bank of the river. Each team member would work an eight hour shift throughout the day resulting in 24/7 surveillance. Each hour, we would count from atop a tower as the salmon swam upstream then boat across to the other bank and conduct another count.
We also used a beach seine to sample within an eddy in the river that the salmon use as a resting area. After the netting process, the sex and length of each fish was recorded along with a collection of individual scale samples for age analysis.
Along with environmental information such as temperature, precipitation levels, and weather, all of the sampling data was entered into the computer. The department uses this information to set regulations for the commercial fishery.
This experience taught me a lot of practical skills such as basic maintenance on outboard motors, boating skills, data collection, and how commercial fisheries operates by always keeping public relations as a high priority.
This was a very memorable experience for me. I have never seen a place like Alaska. It was a whole new landscape with snow-capped mountains, crystal clear waters, and amazing wildlife such as moose, brown bears, and bald eagles.
I had many great moments with the wildlife. I spent my shifts almost every day watching a pair of bald eagles soar and dive through the air. I was even lucky enough to watch one pluck a fish from the river. There are very few bald eagles where I am from and it was definitely an experience for me to see them consistently.
My favorite moment was during one of my night shifts. As dusk came I watched a brown bear across the river sniffing around a resident's smoke shack until a barking dog ran it off. As dawn came, two large brown bears came crashing down the ridge directly behind my tower. I was completely shocked and excited at the same time. Luckily, I was safely in the tower. The two bears came to the river's edge by my parked boat and walked down the shoreline. Once they were at a far distance down the shore, I jumped in the boat and pushed out into the middle of the river. I floated down alongside the bears at a safe distance. One bear stood on its hind legs as it caught my scent. It was massive. This was one of my favorite wildlife memories of all time.
That same shift, once the sun was up, I drifted down the river while fishing and saw a juvenile bear walking along the shore. I saw four bears in one work shift. These were also the first brown bears I had ever seen, which helped to complete the greatest day of work I have had in my life.
Along with brilliant wildlife encounters, I did some backpacking around the area with one of my team members. After pushing past tall weeds and crawling through thick brush, I climbed my first mountain. This mountain was 2500 feet tall which may seem small for an Alaskan, but for a Kentucky boy, such as myself, it was quite a feat. There was a beautiful view of the evergreen forests, stretching mountain ranges, and brilliant, blue lakes. It was a view I had only seen in pictures and I will never forget it.
This internship was a step towards my goal of eventually finding a career in a Fish and Game Department. Not only was I able to view the scientific aspect of the department, but also the public relations that must be maintained. This was an important experience to gain not only to understand more about how the department is managed, but also as a resume builder for graduate school. This internship was a glimpse into fieldwork outside of the classroom and I am very thankful for the opportunity.