Eric works out of the Gainesville Fisheries Office, where he is
involved in several freshwater fisheries projects including the
development of a protocol to monitor the current status and future
trends of sport fisheries and associated fish communities in
Forest Resources and Conservation, 1997,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 1999,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Education / Experience
My professional experience began working for the Florida LAKEWATCH
program during the summers of 1996 and 1997, during which my tasks
were to collect fish, vegetation, and water chemistry samples for
the purpose of long-term monitoring and trend analysis. Immediately
following my graduate work under the direction of Dr. Dan Canfield,
I began working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) under a grant to digitize all paper data of
freshwater fishes located at fisheries offices throughout the state
into electronic form, with the objective of avoiding historical
data loss, and creating a searchable Florida Freshwater Fishes
Database. In the year 2000, I was hired as a Biological Scientist
II with the FWC at the Gainesville Fisheries Office and shortly
after became the project leader. Since then, our project has
focused on freshwater fisheries monitoring in lakes and rivers, and
researching fish and habitat associations throughout Florida
What are you working on now?
The staff at our office are currently working on three research
One project titled "River Monitoring" is designed to develop a
protocol to monitor the current status and future trends of sport
fisheries and associated fish communities in Florida streams.
A second project titled "Gum Slough Flow Diversion Experiment"" is
designed to examine the habitat availability of fishes and then use
a habitat-based model to predict the effects that flow reductions
have on those fish populations. Once the predictions are made, the
actual effects to the fish populations will be observed by
manipulating the stream flow.
The third project is titled Evaluation of the Newnans Lake Black
Crappie Fishery Concurrent with a Rough Fish Removal Program." It
is thought that rough fish such as gizzard shad can contribute to
undesirable levels of nutrients in lakes that consequently violate
state nutrient standards. One management approach used by the St.
Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to mitigate nutrient
enrichment in lakes is to remove rough fish from the systems in
hopes that nutrients, namely phosphorus and nitrogen, may decrease.
Due to the pelagic nature of black crappie where rough fish removal
occurs, the FWC is concerned that the bycatch of black crappie can
negatively affect the population. This project is designed to
examine the bycatch of black crappie from the removal program and
the recreational catch of black crappie by anglers to determine the
level at which over-fishing the population may occur.
How is this information beneficial?
Obviously all life is dependent on water, and it is not an
infinite resource. As the population in Florida continues to grow,
so does the water demand. One of the challenges facing water
allocation and fish and wildlife agencies is balancing the human
water needs with those of the environment to ensure that ecological
processes are not irreversibly harmed. While all waterbodies can be
impacted by hydrological change, the fish and wildlife in streams
are often considered to be most sensitive to changes. Consequently,
researching and monitoring fish and habitat in streams is important
to identify potential harm, and inform water management agencies
with the hydrological needs of fish and wildlife.
The black crappie research in Newnans Lake is beneficial to reach
a compromise between the management objectives of the SJRWMD and
the FWC, since occasionally the management objectives of reducing
nutrients and maintaining a viable fishery are not always
compatible. By closely monitoring the commercial bycatch of black
crappie from the rough fish removal program, and monitoring the
harvest of recreational anglers, models are being developed to
predict when excessive harvest begins to affect the population
sustainability. By understanding this relationship, the FWC can
inform the allowable harvest of the rough fish removal program
while protecting the black crappie fishery.
Was this your original career interest? Why or why
No, I originally went to college for environmental engineering,
but during my junior year I realized that it wasn't for me. I knew
that I liked to fish, hunt, and be in the outdoors in general, and
the courses I was taking didn't necessary support those interests.
So I regrouped and searched for a fisheries major except for one
problem…there was no undergraduate fisheries program at the
University of Florida, and changing schools wasn't an option. After
all, I'm a Gator. The closest track that resembled my interests was
Wildlife Ecology, and after taking the only fisheries course
offered at the time, I was sold. So I spoke to that professor and
he encouraged me to speak with him about a graduate degree when I
was through. I did just that and the rest is history.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
I think my biggest accomplishment is graduating college and
finding a job that I'm truly glad to get up in the morning for. I
don't think I've made that big impact in science yet that many of
us pursue, but I believe those types of accomplishments are ahead
What do you like most about your career?
What I like most is the variety in the research topics and
locations where we work, which helps minimize the monotony that I
think is encountered in many careers. The biggest pleasure with
what I do is working within the resources where I would normally
spend my free time, all while spending it with colleagues that
challenge me and that are close friends. I get great satisfaction
knowing that our products are ultimately done for the greater good
and love of Florida resources.
What do you like least about your career?
Vehicle logs, purchase entries, and timesheet entries among other
forms of paperwork. These are necessary evils of almost any career,
but it's time taken away from squeezing a fish and writing about
what I learned.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenge is keeping up with pace of science. There are
many journals that publish articles pertaining to fisheries
research and management, each containing innovations or
improvements in fisheries techniques and analyses. Being aware and
understanding the contemporary literature is essential to improving
my science, so that our products remain current and relevant.
What advice would you give to someone interested in
pursuing a career in your field?
First and foremost, you have to love it, because you don't get
into this field for the money. Second, try it out for a test drive.
Pursue seasonal jobs, internships, or volunteer opportunities
whenever you can with a variety of different offices. While you're
there, ask questions. This will expose you to the different types
of things we do and help you identify your interests. Finally,
pursue a Master of Science degree. Learning the scientific method
and understanding how to use it is almost a must now in this field.
Consider going beyond the traditional curriculum and enroll in more
focused statistical and spatial analysis courses.