I am honored to be considered for the position of President-elect of the Georgia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. I am flattered my colleagues felt me worthy of such an important responsibility. I look forward to working with the Chapter’s officers and committee chairs to continue the Chapter’s mission to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals. And I am excited to lead the Chapter’s efforts to offer meaningful continuing education workshops for its members and grow our education outreach program to provide more aquatic/fisheries activities for K – 12 educators.
When I was 3 years old, my older brother taught me how to catch my first fish and I’ve been teaching him ever since. At the age of 9, we began “stocking” my neighborhood retention pond with bluegill we caught from a nearby creek that was difficult to access. These, along with many more childhood adventures I won’t mention, are what ignited my love for the outdoors.
I attended the University of Florida, which led me to my first experience saltwater fishing and my future husband. I graduated Cum Laude in 2008 with a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. My first job was a seasonal research technician position at the University of Florida. Afterwards, I moved to Arkansas where I accepted a research associate position at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. I managed the Aquaculture/Fisheries Research Educational Library at UAPB for over a year which is where I first learned about many of you by reading your publications. After accepting a position with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, I spent the next 3 years helping to manage the Delta Rivers Nature Center and leading education programs in Southeast Arkansas about native fish and wildlife, fishing, and hunting.
Afterwards, my family led me to Georgia where I accepted a position with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in 2012. I started as the assistant manager at Laura S. Walker State Park before transferring to the Fisheries Management Section. I accepted the position of Curator/Educator at the Go Fish Education Center in Perry and have enjoyed this role for the past 6 years.
I reorganized the education program at Go Fish Education Center to focus more on fish and fishing in Georgia and began to drive information and education efforts towards the recruitment, retention, and reactivation of anglers in Georgia. I incorporated an instructional fishing program and kids fishing events (KFE) into all guided field trips, which has allowed me to witness thousands of “first fish” moments. I implemented several new programs and camps to attract and educate new audiences, who had not previously been exposed to fishing. I especially enjoy leading dozens of fish dissection programs each year. I’ve initiated two annual service-based STEM projects which have resulted in thousands of elementary students involved in enhancing fish habitat in Georgia. These projects are now being duplicated in another region of Georgia. However, one of my favorite responsibilities is coordinating the annual Georgia Fish Art Contest.
I am passionate about both fisheries and fishing and feel honored to be considered a nominee for President-Elect of GAAFS. I have been a member of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) and the Georgia Chapter of AFS for 5 years and I currently serve the chapter as chair of the Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program committee. I also assist with other committee efforts and projects, such as fundraising, judging, outreach, etc. When I’m not working, I’m training my two young daughters for the FLW Pro Circuit. My least favorite fish is currently the Bartram’s bass because it eludes my capture. I like to collect rocks and fossils and am immune to the sting induced by catfish venom.
I am grateful to be considered for President-elect of the Georgia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. I understand there will be extra attention and hours required for me to responsibly fulfill the duties of this role, but I also see the great benefits of the potential to work with this Chapter to help carry out the mission of Georgia AFS—to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems. This mission, though simple and succinct, represents a noble but daunting task given the myriad of threats and challenges to sustaining Georgia’s aquatic ecosystems. I know this Chapter will leverage its current momentum to continue tackling complex fisheries issues moving forward, and I’m grateful for an opportunity to be on the team. If chosen as President-elect of the Georgia Chapter of AFS, I will work cooperatively alongside the elected and established leadership of this Chapter to continue its mission.
I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia from the time I was a young-of-year Roopling until I recruited to the third grade. Largely thanks to my parents’ “thirty-minute daily limit” for all things televised, much of my time was spent outdoors. Even in the Atlanta suburbs, I found my way to our small community pond, and shortly thereafter was drawn to the nearby banks of the Chattahoochee River. Little did I know that in a few short decades I’d be on that same river, collecting colorful wild Brown Trout as a Fisheries Biologist for the Georgia DNR. What I did know at the time was that I really enjoyed catching Bluegill in that small pond with my cane pole. This species and tackle preference would transition quite smoothly in 1996 when I moved to Jackson County, where bass-bream farm ponds abounded among the rural landscape. When the time came for college and major selections, I decided on Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, where I studied Marine Science, and enjoyed extracurriculars such as rugby, floating and fishing the Waccamaw River, and wetting a line at Surfside Pier on a regular basis. Eventually, I made my way back home and found a new family at the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, along with a new Bulldog rugby team, and a new major in Forest Resources (with a focus in Fisheries Management). An opportunity to work as a seasonal technician for UGA’s Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeon research project solidified my aspirations for a career in fisheries management. After graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in the fall of 2010, I continued at Warnell to pursue a Master of Science in Fisheries Management. My grad school research project involved an angler creel survey at the state-owned Marben Public Fishing Area, and I’m deeply grateful for my co-advisors Dr. Cecil Jennings and Dr. Neelam Poudyal for their mentorship, guidance, and advisement during that laborious, enlightening, and rewarding period of my life.
Upon completing my graduate program, I accepted a position in the private sector with the role of managing marina operations throughout middle and northeast Georgia. Though outside the scope of my academic field of study, I learned a great deal more about the boating and fishing industries through that experience. While I enjoyed my time in that position, my passion for fisheries science still burned bright, and in 2018 I was elated to accept the position of fisheries biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD). It is a dream come true to work with such diverse fishery resources in north Georgia such as tailwater trout, reservoir stripers, Chattahoochee and Shoal Bass, and even the elusive Walleye. It has also been an incredible learning experience to assist with Georgia’s response to the recently discovered population of Northern Snakehead in Gwinnett County. I also serve as Georgia’s representative for Southern Division AFS’s striped bass committee and as a technical advisor several other fisheries projects. Working with angler communities, NGOs, non-profits, and other resource stakeholders to understand and benefit fishery resources has really opened my eyes to the complexities and challenges of this field. My only slight regret so far in my early career is that I can’t devote more time to these incredible resources, but at the end of the day my number one priority is waiting for me at home (i.e., my family—wife, Brittany, and daughters Tallulah and Paisley). Of course, once the girls are old enough to become registered WRD volunteers, I can bring them to work with me and leave any lingering sense of regret behind (just kidding!).