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A graduate of the School in the Woods, Rachel Jones followed her dream to work with wildlife. This program immerses fourth-graders in nature and taught Rachel about possible professions including wildlife rehabilitation. Throughout her education and career, she has refined her specialties to achieve her goals.
In her undergraduate studies, Rachel enjoyed her experience tagging 3-5-foot lemon sharks in the waters around Turks and Caicos. When she found her work as a marine biologist pushing her toward employment with for-profit fisheries she quickly pivoted to focus on native ecological systems.
Rachel established herself on the path to reach her career ambitions working for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, back home in the Arkansas River Basin.
Survey work encompassed the majority of Rachel’s days. Her responsibilities contributed to keep an eye on populations, discover problems and solutions, and coordinate with state water boards. One such survey job took her on a 4-day rafting trip down the Dolores River. Rare and perfect water levels allowed them to travel the length of the river through the canyon to collect and monitor native Flannelmouth and Blue Head Suckers. These fish can live to be 25 years old and are impacted by diversions. To survey these fish, a team of 10 scientists and technicians used the method of electrofishing, which temporarily stuns fish so they can be collected, measured, tagged, and returned safely to the water.
This experience gave Rachel practical skills doing fieldwork with wildlife. When she heard about a funded project to work on fish passages, she applied and was accepted to work under Dr. Chris Myrick with CSU’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. In this position, they work to identify how well fish passages perform. All fish need to travel through their entire habitat “connectivity is really important.” Rachel’s Master’s thesis has contributed to tagging more than 600 fish in Longmont to identify what works and what needs to be improved in fish passage structures.
Professor Chris Myrick
As a child Dr. Chris Myrick moved around the world with his diplomat father, living in Mexico, Zaire, Paris, and many other countries, but Panama sparked his love of fishing. Every weekend they debated whether to fish in the Atlantic, Pacific or a freshwater lake or river. In Australia, where he finished high school, fishing became an obsession. From there, his path to becoming a fish physiological ecologist and professor was natural, driven by his love of research and teaching about fish. Reflecting on his goals and achievements he comes back to this personal penchant, “I can’t believe I get to come to work and talk about fish.”
Paying it forward, Dr. Myrick is proud of the culture of his research group at CSU. Every day he strives to give his students the same opportunities he had to find and achieve their professional ambitions. Under his direction, graduate students guide undergrads in conducting field research, giving both practical career experience. Recognizing Dr. Myrick’s dedication to his students, the American Fisheries Society presented him with the “Outstanding Mentor” award.
While it is well known that large fish like salmon migrate, rarely have water managers factored in migration of small fish. Structures for salmon don’t help fish smaller than a cell phone travel.
These “small brown fish” could travel from the Front Range to Nebraska and back before diversions were there. Now there is no mass migration. Dr. Myrick’s work applies research to develop fish passages used by government agencies, completing 6 projects over the past 20 years. His goal is to design low-cost modular units to install along the South Platte River and ultimately restore connectivity from Nebraska to Denver.
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