Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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William Tompkins, College Intern II
Sport Fish Division - Fairbanks - 2012
I worked with the Division of Sport Fish on a smolt mark recapture project in Unalakleet. The project was focusing on smolt migrating down-river to the ocean and is just one aspect of the project which is looking at salmon populations and fluctuations.
This internship was by far the coolest and most rewarding experience I've had working in Alaska. It even trumped working on the North Slope, which is a pretty unique and romanticized job itself. The crew that I worked with was great, it was a good work environment, and we all got along really well. It was particularly nice to be considered "one of the team" right away; none of the "intern, go get some coffee..." type attitudes. Of course, training was required on my part, but everyone was very accommodating and helpful in bring me up to speed quickly to maximize my benefit to the group and project.
I participated in all aspects of the study: driving river boats to check minnow traps, collecting measurements and identifying captured fish, and helping with lab analysis back in the Fairbanks office. The majority of the internship was spent on the mark recapture portion of the study in the early summer (June to the beginning of July). This work consisted of checking traps, taking measurements of captured fish, resetting traps, marking fish, and releasing the captured fish. The days were sometimes long, but everyone kept a great attitude, which made all the difference. I also participated in two different float trip surveys of the tributaries of the Unalakleet River. The first one, in the beginning of July, was a trip most people only dream about. It was sunny and hot every day except one, no major problems came up, we were able to complete our work, and we got to spend 12 days on the river and in the wilderness on top of everything else. The second one, in the end of August, was a bit more difficult. Rain had brought the rivers up considerably, so we had to modify our work for safety reasons.
I learned a lot about salmon, particularly coho and Chinook, over the summer and I got first-hand experience in how studies are conducted and what information like this leads to as far as wildlife and conservation policy and management.
This internship cemented my aspirations of eventually joining Fish and Game in a regular full-time capacity and, in the meantime, applying for more internships and seasonal positions. I'm currently a Natural Science Major at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and my goal is to continue to work in and study the Alaskan wilderness - and play in the wilderness as well, of course.