Ian Hackett, College Intern II
Sport Fish Division - Palmer

Photo of Ian Hackett with salmon

Coming into this internship I had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into. Here I am, a little undergraduate student wanting to get some experience in my field of study. I had a flight booked to Anchorage, AK and my bags packed for three months out in the field. Coming all the way from Wisconsin some 4,000 miles, I had to put a lot of trust in ADF&G and more specifically the Palmer office. However, I could not have been more pleasantly surprised with the way I was treated and taken care of in these unknowns. The men and women working in the Palmer office are some of the most accommodating and incredible people I have had the privilege to meet. Without these wonderful people I would not have had the same experience this summer.

With all honesty, interning for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game has truly been an experience, in all forms of the word. The most impressive part to this internship was how well rounded the experience was and how many things I had the opportunity of doing that I never could have dreamed of. Here is just a short list: forestry skills, boating skills, swift water skills, effective rope knots, fish handling, fish ID, construction, just to name a few. Much of those opportunities arose because working out of a remote field camp is unique. I mean this in every sense. It is hard for me to explain everything I have learned because there is just so much there but I'll give you the condensed version.

The funny thing is that this internship is centered on salmon in the Big Susitna system, and though I learned an unexplainable amount about these amazing creatures it was but a part of what I took away from this summer. However, what I learned about salmon this summer stemmed from one of those unique camp dynamics; that is working with the same person, 6 hours a day, every day for 3 months. This was amazing because any question that I had about fish, or really anything, could be answered almost right away. It was like having a Alaskan mentor. Because I loved to gain knowledge and am not afraid to ask questions I learned so much from my daily co-worker.

In addition to fish knowledge, I learned a ton in the area of soft skills as well. Again, because we were at a remote camp you had to get along with your co-workers or learn to get by with them existing there. No matter how hard you try at camp, you cannot avoid people. We were incredibly blessed with the group of men and women we had working at our camp at Mainstem. It was pretty amazing to observe what a group of hardworking, dedicated, and driven individuals can accomplish. I learned so much about teamwork, conflict resolution, composure, efficient problem solving, flexibility, and adaptability.

Photo of sampling salmon

In a lot of ways some of the most memorable experiences I had this summer where directly link to the people I worked with and what the internship entailed. However, the most memorable thing for me was something I experienced individually. That is the simply the wilderness. I have tasted a little bit of wilderness in the past but this summer I got a full meal of it. There is something intrinsically good about experiencing the wild. Things like having huge cow moose walk into your camp, or cruising untouched river banks in a boat, even falling asleep to the sounds of nature in your tent every night. I cannot express how much I loved this. The plants, the wildlife, the mountain, the river, the fish, it was pure and it was good. "There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." (Aldo Leopold). I now know what Leopold was talking about with this statement.

My passion has always been and still is fisheries and more specifically salmon. My goal for this summer was to discover if this area is what I truly wanted to pursue after my schooling. I really couldn't think of a better place to answer these questions than Alaska. I can't begin to tell you how much this experience has deepened my passion for and call to protect these amazing creatures. This summer has solidified my vision for my future as well as nailed down what I want to work with. The internship this summer has lead me to also consider graduate school working with salmon.

Photo of Ian Hackett with salmon

To wrap this up, this summer was been amazing. The skills and knowledge that I have gained through this internship are invaluable. I have met some amazing people, and yes I have fallen in love with Alaska. Aldo Leopold said it best, "If the land Mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering."" (Leopold). This quote was put to firsthand experience this summer. Through this internship with ADF&G, I have had a sense of accomplishment and pride knowing the work I am helping with is preserving the wonderful resources of Alaska for the future. That's why I love my field of study and this internship has been a big part of helping me realize that.