We’ve been studying headwater streams and Brook Trout populations for well over 20 years, pretty much since I got here. My graduate students and I affectionately refer to it as “the long-term project.” We monitor habitat of brook trout populations in 25 streams at all different elevations in West Virginia. Some of the research is trying to figure out why some populations are resistant to disturbance or resilient to disturbance and others aren’t.
We have several fisheries management-related projects going on right now. There’s a lot of concern about delayed mortality of muskies in the summertime. Muskies are pretty much a catch-and-release fish for most people. There’s concern that after releasing them in the summertime, some unknown percentage of them die. I have two master’s students studying that: one who’s doing a pond study where we know exactly what temperature the fish are caught and what temperature they’re released in; and another student doing radio telemetry on Stonewall Jackson Lake. Those are exciting studies because there is so much interest, and they’re generated by musky anglers and Musky, Inc. It’s really preliminary right now, but in the pond study, if it’s above 82 or 83 degrees, we’ve had trouble even getting them to bite.
If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?
I would probably still be doing fisheries research. I don’t know if it would be at
a federal lab or another institution, but I’m sure I’d still be doing that. I enjoy
doing research and training students and all the stuff that goes along with being
a professor. Ideally, I’d say I’d want to be an actor haha.
Moment you knew what you wanted to study:
I always fished and hunted, and I probably fished more than I hunted when I was growing up in Ohio. Every weekend I was fishing. My parents might catch glimpses of me during the day, but I’d get up, eat breakfast and when it got dark, I’d come back from my day’s activities haha. That and when I had fishing classes at Hawking, I decided I was really into it.
In those days you couldn’t look up jobs online. You had to go to the state office building and look through paper copies of jobs posted. I had been doing that in Columbus for Ohio DNR for a while. I got frustrated with going down there and not finding much, so I popped my head into one of the assistant’s offices and said, “You’ve got to know what positions are open.” She goes and gets the assistant director and takes me to a conference room with a bunch of mounted fish on the wall and asked me to identify them. So I did and did pretty well. I ended up doing an internship for 10 months, and that was when I knew I was either going to be working in biology and fisheries or in some way working with fish.
Moment you knew your current role was right for you:
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Favorite part of social distancing:
Least favorite part of social distancing:I brought in 70 graduate students in the fall of 2019. For me, the worst part is not being able to spend the time I would normally spend with them face-to-face. We’re together on Zoom all the time and on the phone, but it's not really the same experience for them as it would have been before Covid-19.
Just for Fun
Favorite movie/TV show: Animal House, CaddyShack, Groundhog Day
Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: Classic Rock
Favorite local restaurant: Mario’s Fishbowl
Favorite local activity: Hunting with my labrador retrievers