‘I fell in love with it’

I’ll start this week by saying, that although life for Oregonians will be far from normal for the foreseeable future, the state of Oregon and most counties – including Lane County – saw a relaxing of the COVID-19 restrictions related to anglers, boaters and others beginning last week. 

The normalization allowed access to many of the state’s fisheries at the parks and at the boat landings that dot the banks of most lakes and rivers here in the southern Willamette Valley. 

Although most Lane County day-use parks and boat landings remained open the past couple of months, I felt that the responsible path was to take the lead of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and, like they did, temporarily suspend my fishing report. But, beginning in June. I will once again bring you the most dependable fishing reports from around Lane County and other easily accessible destinations in nearby regions. We’ll do our best to make you aware of any service limitations, too.

This week, I bring you part two of my “virtual interview” with Emma Garner. Dedicated to a lifestyle shared by myself and with people like legendary outdoors writer Bill Monroe. Bill’s stories inspired people to take to the outdoors for several decades. And wonderful young biologists like Emma Garner, who are committed to ensuring that when you are inspired to head outdoors to fish, you won’t be disappointed.

Casting out, June is prime for local anglers; trout, steelhead and salmon are plentiful, and I will have the latest local reports in a couple of weeks.

Question: What are your hobbies and do they relate to your occupation?

Answer: I love being outside! I am thankful that I have a job that supports my passion for the outdoors and blends my hobbies with my work. I had never been camping before I started working. The first time I ever went camping and backpacking was the summer of 2011, I was 24 years old. I was working on a habitat survey crew that worked eight days at a time and most weeks we camped at dispersed sites. The final work stint of that summer was a backpacking trip in the North Cascades of Washington. I fell in love with it and committed to spending more time in the backcountry. In 2013, I took the summer off and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. I spent five months hiking from Mexico to Canada; I lived out of a backpack and tent and spent every single day hiking. It still stands as the greatest thing I have ever done for myself. I am at my happiest when I get to be outside in the middle of nowhere, be it in the woods, on a trail, or on a river. Thru-hiking also introduced me to long-distance running. I like to spend as many weekends as I can running as many miles as I can on trails.

Working under strenuous conditions helped strengthen my self-confidence in what I am capable of. That self-encouragement allowed me to explore other aspects of outdoor recreation outside of work. I think the blending of those two worlds are a big part of why I love my job so much. You take a person who chooses to run 30-plus miles on their day off and ask them to hike 12-plus miles into a work site and you are going to have one happy biologist! It doesn’t even matter how weighed down with gear I am or how covered in fish slime I am. Put me on a trail for work or play and I am going to smile from ear to ear!


Q: In as much detail as you are comfortable with sharing, have you had a really great day on the job; conversely, have you had a disappointment?

A: Before I spent any significant amount of time camping or running, I had a job doing spawning ground surveys on the coast. Being alone in the backcountry was a lot to get used to, especially while hiking over three miles in a river that was flowing over my knees and snow was falling along the bank side. On top of that, I was hauling 20-pound-plus Chinook carcasses over to the bank for sampling. It was hard work, sometimes it was scary, and it pushed me in ways I had never been pushed before. Nevertheless, it was fun and I was good at it! Those moments at work where each day I overcame something challenging were really special. My work history has played a huge part in who I am as a person. It is a big part of why I wanted to work closely with the community. I was so new to this world when I stepped into it and I am so grateful for all I have learned. I want to help other people make that connection. The memories of someone holding their first fish, or a person seeing a 45-pound salmon for the first time, introducing an early career biologist to new opportunities, an intern taking a boat through a rapid, a kid holding a salamander and giving it a name and connecting to something they never knew was there, those memories give me a whole list of great days.

The good certainly outweighs the bad or the heavy. I have lost data and had to resurvey, field equipment has broken onsite, I have hiked for hours into a site just to find it isn’t surveyable, I have allowed insecurities to speak louder than experience, and I have made the wrong choice as a crew lead. These are all frustrating scenarios but the only time I have truly been disappointed is when I have allowed frustrations to overpower my love for my work and cloud who I am as a biologist. I try to take frustrating moments as opportunities to learn and grow. I think that is a much more productive route than being stuck in disappointment. I can still be proud of myself and the work I do because I am moving toward improvement and that will always lead to more great days.



Q: What would you say to other young people who are considering some aspect of the biological sciences as a career path? Can you speak to any of the rewards?


A: I say go for it! It is a great career and full of adventure. I think it is important to know it takes a lot of patience, though. Working seasonally and figuring out your direction can be a slow process. Take time to find your network and don’t be afraid to explore where you want to direct your focus. I think there is a lot of pressure to take a direct path from Point A to Point B. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing it, don’t lose sight of what you love. As long as you hold onto that, those hurdles and bumps feel a little less daunting.

There are many rewards. I have been to some of the most incredible places on the West Coast. At my time at work, I learned how to row a boat through Class III rapids, I have seen a cougar in the wild, I have handled every species of fish in Oregon, I have been in a helicopter, and I have met some really incredible people.


Q: Lastly, would you mind telling me about being a woman in your occupation and would you recommend other women to consider a similar career path and occupation?

A: I would tell any woman who is considering this path to pursue it! There have certainly been hurdles and difficult moments I have faced as a woman and continue to face. Having that network of support I mentioned earlier helps a lot. Over time, I have found trusted allies, supportive advocates, and biologists that create and support representation and equitable space in this field. Being a part of those groups has been empowering, enlightening, and heartwarming. Being a part of that has also made me a better woman and biologist. I am happy to offer any guidance and support to anyone who is leaning toward work in the natural resource world!



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