One of the strengths of AIFRB is the opportunity to interact with a diversity of professional fishery biologists. In the Board’s discussion about promoting recruitment of young scientists, one idea that was proposed was a volunteer network. Many members are in positions that offer volunteer opportunities that are valuable to people whose careers would benefit from a diversity of professional experience. An excellent example of the mutual benefits of a volunteer network was demonstrated by a *Gulf of Alaska Survey.
Last May, Allan Shimada forwarded a message from the NMFS Alaska Center with an “urgent need for people with the interest and energy to fill spots in the NMFS scientific party aboard chartered fishing vessels participating in the Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawl surveys over the summer.” The UMass School for Marine Science is lucky to have a large group of first-year graduate students, and four of them took advantage of the opportunity. I asked each of them to share their perspectives on the experience.
Sally Roman - I was on Leg 2 departing from Sand Point and landing in Kodiak from June 12th to July 1st on the F/V Gladiator. The cruise was great because I have experience as a fisheries observer on commercial boats, but had never participated in a survey before. Also, my fisheries experience is limited to the east coast so getting to travel to Alaska and see the different species of fish was exciting. The crew of scientists and fishermen that I met were friendly and it was great to get a different perspective.
Adam Barkley - I was aboard the F/V Gladiator during leg IV. I found that being part of research on the West Coast gave me a better appreciation for the complexity of fisheries management. I got a closer look into how scientists on the other coast of the United States were handling management of over fished populations and areas. I also got a glimpse of the process of fishing on the West Coast. I found that the fisherman we work with in New Bedford as well as those aboard the F/V Gladiator were all interested in the science backing management decisions. I enjoyed the fellow scientists onboard and was very surprised to find that many of the problems that we are faced with on the East coast are also problems on the West coast. This was definitely an experience I will never forget, and will indefinitely help me with my future career in fisheries science.
Greg DeCelles - I flew in to Anchorage on July 17th. After a two hour drive through the beautiful Kenai Fjords National Park, I met the boat at Seward and we departed the next day. After the first haul I was already amazed at the quantity and variety of fish and invertebrates in the Alaskan waters. My excitement continued throughout the trip as we came across a salmon shark, several giant halibut, salmon and many other species that I had never seen before. I was also struck by the incredible scenery and beautiful sunsets throughout the trip. While at anchor in Sea Otter sound we were treated to a private show by a pod of four humpback whales. After twenty days at sea and two stops in Yakutat and Sitka we arrived in Anchorage at the end of the trip. While I was relieved to be back on dry land, I was also reluctant to leave behind my new favorite place.
Jess Melgey - My experience on the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Survey was an excellent opportunity to meet scientists and fishermen from the Northwest and learn a new ecosystem. From examining stomach contents of commercially important species with experienced scientists to discussing policy and comparing notes between fisheries in the Northeast and the Northwest United States with a knowledgeable captain, it was an invaluable chance to meet people and widen my scope of knowledge in the field as I pursue a graduate degree.
These four experiences are just recent examples of an AIFRB network that facilitates volunteer opportunities. Barbara Warkentine’s students have been volunteering on NMFS Northeast Center surveys for years. The next time you have volunteer opportunities, please use the AIFRB network to spread the word.