Following my passion, helping the lower Great Lakes


Pathways student Robert Haltner works at the Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in western New York. In this week’s Young N’ Wild blog series, Robert reflects on his venture into the world of natural resource conservation and his position with the Aquatic Invasive Species, Early Detection and Monitoring Program in Lake Erie, Niagara River and Lake Ontario.

It took me some time to find a path I could walk with conviction. After two years studying business administration in college, I was left with a feeling of uncertainty and a lack of interest. It was then that I turned to biology with no specific career-path in mind. For the longest time I had no clue what I wanted to do with a degree in biology, until I read the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After learning about the Service’s mission, I remember watching a television special about the impact of invasive species on the Florida Everglades. I watched as biologists went out and captured exotic snakes and other reptiles that are threatening the stability of the Everglades ecosystem. That sparked my interest in working with invasive species; I wanted to join other biologists in the fight to preserve the integrity and diversity of America’s ecosystems.

Salmon measure

We caught this salmon during an electrofishing survey. As part of our early detection monitoring, we identify and measure all the fish we encounter.

When I found out about the Early Detection and Monitoring Program that was being implemented by the Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, I was immediately interested. The program uses an innovative approach to dealing with invasive species. We go out to random sites to survey and collect data in areas of the lower Great Lakes which may be vulnerable to aquatic invasion. With our sampling, we are not only more likely to discover a new invasion early-on, but we’re establishing a base-line of data which will help us to better understand the environmental impacts caused by future invasions. This is definitely a proactive method to invasive species management as opposed to traditional reactive methods which are carried out after invasions have occurred.

Not long after starting to work here, I noticed that days out on the water seemed to fly by in no time at all. I realized that I finally found the right path for me. I love what I do and I’m proud to be passionate about something that is not only enjoyable, but makes a difference. I am excited to think about my future with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As someone who grew up near the Great Lakes, the work I do carries an added personal significance. Witnessing first-hand the effects from the round goby invasion helped me to understand how such introduced species can have such a negative impact on an ecosystem. I’m very proud to serve not only to protect the integrity of the Great Lakes, but also for the more than 33 million people that call the Great Lakes basin home.

2 Comments on “Following my passion, helping the lower Great Lakes

  1. Pingback: Young N’ Wild | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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