This October, Fish Tech professor Jim Seeland met up with students in Anchorage to take part in a hands-on orientation with Alaska’s fisheries. FT S230 Alaska Salmon Culture Lab gives Seeland’s students, who are primarily distance students, the chance to interact with their professor, hatchery staff, and fish. The course has run with great success in Sitka, but this is the first year the lab has been offered in an alternative location. Seeland understands that many of his students have families, and full time jobs. “We’re always thinking about how to make our courses more affordable to students,” says Seeland.
Beyond making the course more accessible, the Anchorage based course exposes students to a highly advanced fisheries operation. Built in 2011, the William Jack Hernandez hatchery performs all the typical fish culture functions, but is comparatively cutting edge. Through their visit, students were exposed to the nuts and bolts of fish culture, but it also gave them a picture of what the industry will look like in the future. They are already one step ahead.
The three day program ran seamlessly, largely because of the experience and dedication of the Fish and Game team at the Hernandez hatchery. Seeland expresses his satisfaction and respect for the staff, “They work as a team. Teaching people slows down the process, but they were willing to take the time to work with the students.”
“It was a blast the entire time,” recalls Iris Fletcher, a distance Fish Tech student at UAS. Fletcher felt like the lab complemented the lectures well, and exposed aspects of working in the industry that could not be learned in a classroom. Students gained experience in the theory behind fish culture, maintenance of facilities, feeding systems, sampling procedures, and water quality monitoring.
“Stocking was my favorite part,” says Fletcher. “We got to be a part of the process, but we also got to see how Fish and Game interacts with the public.” Inevitably, a giant tube hurling hundreds of flopping fish into the air draws the attention of the average passerby. In this industry, interacting with people is as important as interacting with fish.
Seeland hopes that labs like this will connect students to industry partners, including USFWS, ADF&G, and a number of private organizations. These introductions will help students down the road. “Jobs are available,” he says.
Adding the option to take the Salmon Culture Lab in Anchorage makes the course more accessible—geographically and financially. Seeland would ideally like to have a hands on experience available to every student, “if there are six or so students, we’ll send someone up there.”
Speaking of the Anchorage program, “I learned a lot,” Seeland admits. “It’s more than what I can teach through a screen.”