Hutton Junior Fisheries Program: I’m Hooked!

I am Hailey Gerdts, a high school senior currently applying to universities to study marine biology.  I hope to one day have a job conducting research on marine mammals.

A couple of years ago I learned about a summer internship program for high school students, called the American Fisheries Society Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program. I applied to the Hutton Program in order to help me achieve my goals of pursuing a career in marine science.

The Hutton Program is an 8-week summer internship opportunity for high school juniors and seniors who are interested in fisheries science. The program allows high schoolers a chance to dip their toes in the water and learn real-life skills that will apply to their biological pursuits, no matter the scientific field. Once accepted, applicants are paired up with a mentor organization in the environmental realm and are given numerous field and work opportunities throughout the duration of their work period. The interns are also provided with a stipend that is paid in 2-week intervals throughout the 8 weeks of the summer, making this an excellent program for people of all economic backgrounds.

Over the last winter I applied to the Hutton Program, and after several rounds of interviews and interactions, I found out that I was one of the few high school students from across the United States to receive one of the internship positions. The American Fisheries Society paired me up with the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center (Columbia Springs) in my hometown of Vancouver, Washington.  For about a month now, I have been interning under the Executive Director, Katherine Cory, and working with a multitude of team members at Columbia Springs.  Thus far I have been presented with many outings and fisheries-related opportunities that have aided in opening my eyes to the sheer amount of directions that one could choose to take with a biology degree. 

Specifically, I helped at the Columbia Springs Hatchery by sampling the rainbow trout populations, cleaning the round ponds, and feeding the fish.  I also participated in leading the summer nature camp, helped with education outreach, and contributed to the social media feeds. 

Rainbow Trout. (Cooney)

As a non-profit organization, Columbia Springs has many partners around Vancouver and Clark County, Washington.  Katherine Cory was kind enough to set up opportunities for me to visit some of these partner organizations. I went to Clark Public Utilities for the day and learned about the wetland and stream habitat restoration side of that agency. I was also able to tour around some of the project sites of the Clark Conservation District for an afternoon.  Additionally, I will be visiting with scientists from the City of Vancouver and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week to learn more about their ongoing aquatic research projects.

A beautiful rainbow trout I caught while electrofishing. Patrick said it was the biggest one he had ever seen in Lacamas Creek!

Of all of the wonderful experiences I have had this summer, my favorite opportunity thus far has to be taking Smith-Root’s Electrofishing Certification Course with instructor Patrick Cooney.  Despite having never been electrofishing, and being the only high schooler in the course, the class got me well prepared and excited to get out and go electrofishing.  Following the class, Patrick and I went out to Lacamas Creek on a beautiful morning to put my newly learned skills into action.

We saw a lot of sculpin while electrofishing. (Cooney)

This was a field experience that I was definitely looking forward to; as someone wanting to pursue a career in marine biology, being able to not only learn about but also use technology that is used by fisheries professionals was so special and a huge confidence booster. I had a blast; electrofishing is super cool!

My first time ever electrofishing. (Cooney)

In short, the Hutton Internship program has been monumental in my pursuit of biology! While I continue to focus my school and career path on marine mammal research, I have really appreciated the fisheries and aquatic experiences and opportunities gained this summer and the connections I have made with so many wonderful people. The Hutton Internship Program has been filled with learning and fun opportunities, and I would definitely recommend it to high schoolers looking to go into the environmental field! Though the application process seems a bit lengthy (there are some essays to write, it’s similar to a college application I believe), once accepted, the result is 100% worth it. Take it from me!

A beautiful Cutthroat Trout from Lacamas Creek that I caught while electrofishing. (Cooney)

Article written by Hailey Gerdts

Edited by Patrick Cooney and Katherine Cory

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