It’s Safe Boating Week, what is the one thing everyone needs to know about being safe while out on the water?
Do your research BEFORE you get out on the water. It’s better to know about potential hazards and their locations before you leave the dock!
In parts of the Great Lakes, commercial fishing nets can pose a threat to boaters and anglers. That’s why I've been helping get the net location information to the boaters. It benefits everyone because the nets aren't being accidentally damaged by fishing tackle and the anglers don’t lose gear or get tangled.
Map indicating the location of trap nets. Image: Titus Seilheimer.
What is something cool you learned while working with commercial/recreational boaters?
It has been very interesting learning about the Great Lakes fishing industries, both commercial and recreational. I have really enjoyed having the chance to spend time out on the water with the commercial fishers.
What drove you to work on outreach within the boating community?
As a fisheries specialist, many of my stakeholders are members of the boating community. There was a clear need to provide the information on the net locations. I had help with the trap net maps because the program was already in place when I started, but there was still a need, so it continues.
How did you get involved with Sea Grant? When did you join Sea Grant?
I joined Sea Grant in late 2012, following a six-year long post-doctoral research trek around the country (Oklahoma, New York and Minnesota). I can’t say that Sea Grant was really on my radar during those job-hunting years, but I was attracted to the fisheries and Great Lakes focus of my current position. I was also interested in returning to my home state of Wisconsin. Everything really lined up right and I’m thrilled to be a part of the Sea Grant family.
What is your favorite part about being a Sea Grant Extension agent?
I really enjoy the applied nature of the work. It is rewarding to assist stakeholders with “real” issues and work to find solutions. It is rewarding to see that your work is helping people. I also enjoy the diversity of topics and variety of groups I get to work with.
What is the biggest challenge you face at your job?
Wisconsin has a lot of coastline (~820 miles) with multiple fisheries and food webs. It can be a challenge to keep up with what is happening in the food web, watershed inputs and invasive species. It is even harder to put all those things together into a coherent story, but that is an important part of what we do at Sea Grant. On the plus side, you don’t get bored!
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science?
Science has always been on my radar. Growing up on a lake in the forested Northwoods, I spent a lot of time observing nature. My parents both had graduate degrees in Biology, and even though we made a living as beekeepers, science was always important growing up. During my years in college, I developed an interest in aquatic ecology, and from there, fish (the freshwater organisms you can touch, eat, and people care about … sorry plankton). Now I get to work with fish and people who care about fish.
Titus Seilheimer wetland sampling. Image: Amy Cottrell.
What part of your job did you least expect to be doing?
I think the amount of travel has been a surprise. I knew coming in that there would be travel, but it seems like I spend more of my time outside of the office on the lake, in a wetland, or at one meeting or another. I’m not complaining; a strength of Sea Grant is that we spend a lot of time interacting with stakeholders, scientists and policy-makers. You can’t build a good network from your office chair and computer.
What’s at the top of your recommended reading list for someone wanting to explore a career in science?
I’d recommend Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. So many of Leopold’s ideas are still relevant today. It can be a little distressing that we continue to deal with the same environmental problems over and over again, but at least we have lots of expertise from the past to build on.
And how about a personal favorite book?
I’m a reading generalist, so my favorite book is reading lots of books every year.
Do you have an outside hobby?
I have two small children, so they’re my main “hobby.” When I’m not busy having fun with them, I like to spend time outdoors, especially biking around the Wisconsin countryside. I also brew beer. It’s a winning combination.
What surprised you most about working at Sea Grant?
I've been surprised at how “Sea Grant” could really help open doors. All the great, past work from our Sea Grant programs have built a trust that is a really important tool. I’m still a little surprised when I say, “Hi I’m from Sea Grant and I’d like to go out on your fishing boat” and the answer is, “Sure.”
Safe Boating Week 2015: Sea Grant Highlights