by Sarah Armstrong
Ohio Northern University
Environmental and field biology student
Ever since I can remember I have always preferred spending my free time outdoors. I have always believed nature has so much to offer — from hunting and fishing to horseback riding and competitive archery, it’s rare to find me inside for days on end.
Since taking my first biology class in middle school, I knew the biological sciences were for me. Upon entering college I found my calling as an Environmental and Field Biology major at Ohio Northern University. It was here that I met so many amazing, like-minded people.
I was immediately drawn to the idea of a molecular ichthyology independent research project alongside one of my professors. For the last two years, I have worked on analyzing DNA from an endangered species of Ohio cyprinid, the tounguetied minnow (Exoglossum Laurae) in order to determine genetic variability for conservation. This research has allowed me to broaden my skills in the lab, while applying what I have learned in the classroom!
Another thing that drew me into this program of study was the field semester which every student within the major must participate in during their fall semester of junior year. This field semester offered an array of two-week field based classes in different parts of Ohio, Florida and South Carolina.
Classes included ichthyology, marine biology, behavioral ecology, interpretive methodology, wetland delineation, botany, entomology and field skills. It was on this field semester that I fell in love with the mountains of South Carolina during our behavioral ecology class on Lake Jocassee, where we studied the behavior of the Common Loon (Gavia immer).
When I found out about the internship opportunity within the fisheries department of SCDNR, I was very interested and excited.
My professor suggested that I apply, and I was fortunate enough to be picked to intern at the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery. Here, I have learned the “ins and outs” of how the hatchery functions to take care of the hundreds-of-thousands of brown, brook and rainbow trout on a day to day basis. From conducting sample counts, checking dissolved oxygen levels for feeding, taking water samples, assisting in loading fish for stocking, transporting growing trout to different raceways, collecting/recording mortalities and interacting with the public, I have learned more than I ever could have imagined.
Through this amazing opportunity, I have gained real-world field experience that has helped me grow and expand my skill set as a field biologist. I can not thank the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery staff enough for making sure I was successful and helping me to strengthen my passion for the fisheries industry, as well as the SCDNR for providing me with this incredible summer internship that I will never forget. Moving forward, I plan to continue learning and researching to strengthen my skills within freshwater fisheries.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.