University of Vermont

2011 Summer Internship with the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Lee Simard

I was lucky enough to spend my summer as an intern for the US Fish and Wildlife Service working out of the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Resource Office in Essex Junction, VT. I spent my summer working with both state and federal fish biologists completing tasks related to Atlantic salmon recovery in Lake Champlain. I began the summer knowing I had a passion for working with fish, but definitely finished knowing fisheries biology was the career path I wanted to pursue in the future.

I began the summer, like most other Vermont residents, by battling the constant rain and high flood waters. I worked with federal fish biologist Nick Staats completing salmon smolt surveys at the mouth of the Huntington River. The high waters limited the time we were able to have our \ rotary screw trap fishing in the river, and thus limited the number of fish we were able to catch and survey. Unfortunately, it got so high one night that it completely swept the expensive trap completely away. I was forced to spend the following workday kayaking down the Winooski River looking for it where luckily we were able to find it! Following this, I spent several weeks developing a database and running morphological analysis on hatchery smolts for a new study my coworkers were starting. In it, we were looking to see if we could visually tell when the smolts reached the correct stage in the smoltification process where they could be stocked and best imprint on the river.

I also spent two weeks working at Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery in North Chittenden, VT. Working here gave me a great sense of the fish culture side of fisheries biology. So much of what happens in the field is dependent upon the success of these facilities. I developed a deep respect for all it takes to raise the fish which then are managed for in the wild. I completed my summer with something completely different, getting to work night shifts performing forage fish surveys out on Lake Champlain. Working out of the state’s 32 foot boat, the RV Dore, I helped run midwater trawls and acoustic surveys of the lake’s smelt and alewife populations. This provided the chance to learn about the effects alewives are having on our fish base in the lake, and learn important skills such as population modeling.
This summer provided me a fantastic opportunity to really experience what to expect as a fisheries biologist. Although I realize that there is additional planning and reports that have to be completed as well, the fun and excitement that comes along with the field work makes it all worthwhile.

My best advice for anyone who wants to have as amazing of a summer as I did is to stay in contact with those employers who can provide it for you. I had gone into the same office the year before looking for a job only to be turned away. After taking a few more relevant classes and asking them again a year later, they were very excited to have me on board. Even when rejected, I learned to keep in touch with people and continue to make yourself more desirable by volunteering and doing well in the classes that count. The extra work will pay off and you could end up getting to play with fish all summer like I did!