Tag Archives: @sciencewomen

Woman Scientist of Color Blazes Path for Others

Today, we will be hearing by Christina Uh, a graduate student at McCall Outdoor Science School through the University of Idaho and former Pathways intern for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This story is the fourth in the Native American Blog Series in observance of  National Native American Heritage Month. This content was originally written by Christina Uh and edited by Patrick Cooney in the The Fisheries Blog.

Adaptation; what does this word mean to you? To me it means overcoming obstacles that obstruct your mission, your goal, your purpose. It is your ability to succeed in the face of adversity; it is your power to be adaptable, strong, and tough.

I am of Mayan and Navajo descent and the first in my family to pursue higher education. Being a first-generation student is a great honor and privilege, and it has not come easy. I realize that to achieve my goals, I must be adaptable.

When reflecting on my journey, I am reminded of our elder: the Pacific Lamprey. Pacific Lamprey are migratory anadromous fish with an ancient lineage to the past. Their numbers are dwindling, and the obstacles they face on their upstream journey are not easily surmountable. Having worked with Pacific Lamprey while I pursued my undergraduate degree, I realized that today’s Pacific lamprey are a product of millions of years of persistent ancestors who lived before, during, and after the demise of so many others, including the dinosaurs. No matter the struggle, Pacific Lamprey have pressed on.


If adaptability is the ability to persist and continue towards your goals and purpose in the face of obstacles, then I too must be like the Pacific Lamprey and be persistent even in the most difficult of conditions. I too have come to think of myself as resilient.

Pursuing an undergraduate degree is one of the most difficult things I have decided to accomplish. There were times in which I felt myself become unmotivated, unsatisfied, and incapable of continuing. I have struggled with severe depression, anxiety, and insomnia, to the point of what felt like madness. My ability to push on was buoyed by the love, support, and encouragement of my mentors, family, and closest friends, without whom I would not have been able to overcome even some of the smallest of obstacles. Many of the select few researchers who focus on ensuring the future of Pacific Lamprey are also the ones who helped lift me up in my times of greatest need. After my first year of school it became abundantly clear that to ultimately succeed, I needed experience in the field of science, but I also needed to maintain a job to support myself financially.

I was fortunate to receive a PATHWAYS internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at the Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Vancouver, Washington as an office clerk. Although my dream job did not consist of shredding paper and booking travel arrangements, I took the opportunity with outstretched arms. While performing office duties, I would ask questions to those around me about their research while making them aware of my ultimate goals. This was my foot in the door into a biologist’s world, and alas, the opportunity paid off.

christina at work.jpg

Over the 5 years working with USFWS, researchers gave me the opportunity to research the feeding requirements of Pacific Lamprey, to capture them in streams and rivers with electrofishing equipment (a common method of catch and release field sampling), and research their upper thermal tolerances. The researchers at USFWS supported me and gave me the opportunity to present our research at professional conferences, publish in a peer-reviewed journal, and meet wonderfully brilliant scientists who became my biggest advocates and mentors.


Much like how lamprey lay down a scent trail to guide the way for other lamprey to find optimal upstream habitats, I have discovered how I can help the next generation of scientists succeed and adapt! I am currently one of two graduate students participating in a National Science Foundation funded project to build Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) identity in Native American Students as I pursue a M.S. in Natural Resources with a graduate certificate in Environmental Education and Science Communication at the McCall Outdoor Science School through the University of Idaho.


I know that there are obstacles ahead that I must overcome, but I have learned how to be adaptable and continue in the pursuit of my goals and purpose. I live in a yurt full time, on campus, with all of Idaho’s stunning backcountry as my playground. My cohort consists of incredible students from across the country and my advisor and professors are all top-notch. Leaving the comforts of my friends, family, and supporters in Portland, Oregon was challenging, but my journey continues, my resilience persists, and life is good.

As I wrap this up, I remind you, that my journey sounds great when it is all laid out like this in words. However, it was the ability to accept support and adapt in response to some of the most negative moments of my life that I was able to achieve what I have. I share this with you because I want you to know that I believe in you. I want you to know that there are others like you -individuals who identify with underrepresented, minority groups, who struggle with mental health, who are first-generation students, who are children of divorced parents, those who come from poverty, and those who have felt like giving up over and over again. We stand with you. I stand with you, and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.

Meet #ScienceWoman Beth Freiday

Beth Freiday Branded

Our #ScienceWoman campaign kicked off during Women’s History Month, and we’re going to keep on rolling! We’re looking forward by honoring women across the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and female conservationists who are making history in our agency and in conservation. With each #ScienceWoman, we’ll share a photo and a couple questions and answers about her work. Stay tuned for more posts later this week honoring Hurricane Sandy Women in Science.

Meet science woman Beth Freiday. She’s a Fish and Wildlife Biologist at our New Jersey Field Office. At Clemson University and the University of Kentucky, she studied the effects of elk restoration on breeding bird communities in Eastern Kentucky.

Beth credits a mentor in grad school as one of her conservation heroes. Says Beth, “she helped me see that doing great work doesn’t mean you have to work around the clock. If you work hard while you are at work, you have time to play hard at home.”


Q. How did you get interested in conservation? A. I became interested in conservation at a very early age. We lived in a city and I only had domestic pets as my inspiration, but as soon as I grew up and moved out of the city I discovered that my pets were just a placeholder until I discovered my true love for wildlife. I am most intrigued by bird ecology (yes, I am one of those geeks who knows all of the bird’s songs). With over 10,000 species of birds in the world to learn about, how could anyone ever get bored with a career in wildlife management?

Q. What’s your favorite species and why? A. My favorite species is the brown pelican. I grew up in Florida and, as a child, my family rescued a brown pelican that was caught in fishing line. That one bird opened up a whole world of birds that I didn’t know existed until that day. Pelicans are so graceful in flight and entertaining to watch feed.


See more #ScienceWoman profiles.

Meet #ScienceWoman Julie Devers

Julie DeversBranded

Our #ScienceWoman campaign kicked off during Women’s History Month, and we’re going to keep on rolling! We’re looking forward by honoring women across the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and female conservationists who are making history in our agency and in conservation. With each #ScienceWoman, we’ll share a photo and a couple questions and answers about her work. Stay tuned for more posts later this week honoring Hurricane Sandy Women in Science.

Meet science woman Julie Devers, a fisheries biologist at the Maryland Fisheries Resource Office.

Julie studied Fisheries and Wildlife Science at Virginia Tech. Her thesis research compared the condition of freshwater mussels in the wild to those held in captivity at White Sulpher Springs National Fish Hatchery.

Julie at Fish ID Class

Q. What’s your favorite part of working for the service? A. The people that I have met.  I enjoy meeting new FWS employees and partners who are making a difference in the conservation of coastal and freshwater species through new and innovative approaches.  I am constantly impressed by the dedication and creativity that people bring to the field of conservation.

Q. What’s your favorite species and why? A. I have to pick a group of species: freshwater mussels.  Each species has unique and incredible adaptations that allow them to survive in streams and rivers and provide important ecosystem services.  Many freshwater mussel species have overcome incredible odds, including sedimentation, industrial pollution, overharvesting and dams, to persist in stabilizing stream beds and filtering our nation’s fresh water.

electrofishing in Clifford Branch

See more #ScienceWoman profiles.