Cashmere High School student named American Fisheries Society Hutton Scholar

11/10/04

Grant encourages minorities to enter fisheries research

WENATCHEE, Wash. November 8, 2004. Sarah K. Eichler, a senior at Cashmere High School, is one of 65 students nationwide selected to participate in the American Fisheries Society 2004 Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program. Eichler's $3,000 scholarship enabled her to work with Dr. Karl Polivka, a research fishery biologist, at the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station. Polivka, based at the Station's Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Wenatchee, mentored and supervised Eichler during her more than 6 week work program at the lab.

The goal of the Hutton Program is to stimulate interest in careers in fisheries science and management among groups underrepresented in the fisheries professions, including minorities and women. For most students, the program is their first exposure to a professional work setting.

They learn what qualities are necessary to be successful in a research science environment and how to work with a team.

"Sarah's participation in my research was exceptionally beneficial to me and the rest of the aquatic research team," Polivka says. "She worked beyond the expectations laid out by the scholarship to see that the needs of each research project were met. I think Sarah learned a lot from the experience, and I certainly learned a lot about being a mentor and thoroughly enjoyed having her in my program."

The program is open to all high school students regardless of race, creed, or gender. But because the goal of the program is to increase diversity within the fisheries professions, preference is given to qualified women and minority applicants. Students are matched with a professional mentor for a summer-long, hands-on experience in a marine or freshwater setting. A $3,000 scholarship is awarded to each student accepted into the program.

Eichler worked on two studies in Dr. Polivka's research program. The first was a study of behavioral interactions among threatened wild stocks of chinook salmon and steelhead trout and reintroduced coho salmon from a hatchery supplementation program. The second study examed small, steep, fishless streams flowing into Lake Wenatchee and their role in near-shore habitat used by chinook salmon smolts migrating through the lake from the upper Wenatchee River basin. The study also analyzed sculpins, or lake resident fish.

Eichler conducted field observations on individual fish, distinguishing fish species under water and making notes of specific interactions among feeding fish. She also became familiar with the aquatic insects in streams that serve as the major food resources for the fish studied.

Her work with Dr. Polivka benefited the PNW Research Station's Aquatic and Land Interactions (ALI) research program at the Wenatchee laboratory. The mission of the ALI Program is to increase the understanding of the effects of natural processes and human activities on the interactions between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

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