A message from Georgia AFS President Robert Bringolf

2021 is a year of promise.  Promise of vaccines, attending sporting events once again, mask-burning parties, restaurants returning to full capacity, and being able to sit closer than six feet apart in meetings and classrooms, among other things.  In short, we have the promise of better days ahead.  There is no getting around it, the past year has been difficult.  We have all been affected directly or indirectly by the pandemic that none of us could have ever envisioned.  But amidst all of the cancellations, closures, and other challenges, I was reminded of (or learned) some important things: 1) relationships and personal interactions are essential, 2) we can adapt quickly to rapidly changing circumstances, and 3) being outside is more important than ever.  Although each of these have personal applications, I’d like to expand here on how each connects to our state AFS chapter. 

The inability to participate in an in-person annual chapter meeting was disappointing but certainly understandable.  Many of us ‘seasoned’ pros recognized long ago that relationships are not only one of the biggest aspects of our jobs, but also one of our favorite parts of working in this field.  We look forward to catching up with colleagues and friends each year at the annual meeting to share old stories and create new ones.  But, as in so many areas of personal and professional life, Covid forced us to call an audible and pivot to an online environment.  I simply can’t say enough about the outstanding work by Jamie Roberts, Brent Hess, Rebecca Brown, Jackson Sibley, Dawn Franco, and Kevin Cavallaro to put together and facilitate our first ever (and highly successful!) virtual meeting.  The meeting was educational, interactive, and entertaining (thanks Brett Albanese!).  This was a shining example of making lemonade out of lemons.  Although the virtual meeting experience was very effective for technical content delivery, I (and I suspect many of you) really missed getting together with friends and colleagues who share a passion for fish conservation and management and aquatic science in general.  No doubt we’re looking forward to the promise of returning to a face-to-face format this year where we can actually see if someone is attending the meeting in their pajamas…   Stay tuned for more details soon about the 2022 annual meeting. 

The sticker reads “Fishing: the original Social Distancing”.   Many of us have known this for years and have found great solace in the peace and tranquility of a day on the water.  If fishing license sales are any indication, many others have realized this too.  It’s apparent that many people used the pandemic as an opportunity to either reconnect with the outdoors or maybe even discover it for the first time.  Either way, we have a great opportunity.  More people than ever are asking questions about fish and fishing in our state and this is our big chance to help learn about the special place that Georgia is, with outstanding fishing opportunities ranging from the mountains, through the Piedmont and Coastal Plain, and along the coast.  We also have a golden opportunity to help them connect the dots…between license sales and things like fish stocking, boat ramp facilities, and public fishing areas.  Or between human activities on the land and their downstream effects on fish and aquatic habitats.  Or between invasive species and the risks they pose to our precious (and often rare) native species.  Let’s not waste this pandemic and the opportunities it has afforded us.

Among my top priorities as chapter president for this year is building upon our excellent momentum in areas like workshops, student involvement, and professional development activities.  We’re very blessed to have such a highly talented and dedicated membership and I’m looking forward to working with each of you to build upon our strengths.  But there’s no denying we have some challenges and opportunities as well, particularly in areas like increasing our diversity, inclusiveness, and accessibility.  I’m excited about working and growing in these areas and others that will help make us even stronger as a chapter and as individuals. 

Better days are just around the corner.  I’m thankful for this chapter and the opportunity to work alongside people that inspire me to be better each day as well.  Let’s make the most of our opportunities together!

Robert