Kim works at FWRI's Eustis field laboratory, where she is working
to establish standardized protocols for sampling freshwater fishes
in inland waters of the state.
B.S. Marine Science, University of South
M.S. Freshwater Fish Ecology with a minor in
Geography, University of Florida, 2001
As an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina (USC), I
was involved with many different aspects of marine science,
including working in a fish age and growth lab, volunteering for a
graduate student with a hydrogeology study in South Carolina
estuaries, and conducting a summer internship project on several
harmful algal bloom species. I love science and in the beginning, I
found it hard to narrow down my interests. But, one thing was
certain: I could not work offshore. I ended up with sea sickness on
just about every research and recreational boat cruise that I have
ever taken on the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. I learned very
early that although I love the ocean, the ocean did not love
When I graduated from USC and began searching for my next
adventure, fate drew me to Gainesville. I began working as a
freshwater fisheries technician with Dr. Mike Allen at the
University of Florida. When I first started, I couldn't back-up a
boat, I couldn't identify any freshwater fish, and I knew nothing
about fisheries management. Everything was new to me, talk about
green! But with patience, time, and several mishaps with the boat,
I learned my way around the freshwater realm and realized that
freshwater systems weren't all that different from saltwater. I
thought, "Hey, I can still do research on the water, but I won't
get sea sick. Perfect!"
About a year after I arrived in Gainesville, I entered graduate
school and worked on a project to investigate how plant and fish
communities re-establish following a major habitat enhancement at
Lake Kissimmee. This habitat enhancement project involved the
mechanical removal of large amounts of nuisance vegetation from the
shoreline, which left some areas void of plants. I studied how
plants re-established in these areas and consequently, what changes
resulted in the fish communities.
Upon graduating from the University of Florida in 2001, I worked
for a short stint as a biological scientist under Dr. Mike Allen
before obtaining a freshwater fisheries biologist position in the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Kissimmee
field office. This management position involved lots of work
outdoors, from interviewing anglers on the water to sampling fishes
to working with community fishing events and nature camps. Although
I really enjoyed my time in the sun, my greatest love has always
been working with data.
In the fall of 2003, I took a new position in Eustis as a
research biologist. Finally, after nearly ten years of searching, I
was finally right where I belonged.
What are you working on now?
I was hired to establish standardized protocols for sampling
freshwater fishes in inland waters of the state. In the past, each
field and regional office conducted fish surveys independent of
each other. Because of this, data were collected in different ways
with multiple gear types or configurations, and at various times of
the year. In order to streamline data collection and entry
procedures and improve our science-based management practices, a
standardized sampling manual and freshwater fisheries database were
created. My current work mostly revolves around the maintenance and
continual improvement of these products.
Part of my time also involves working with the American eel
(Anguilla rostrata). Florida is mandated by the Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission to conduct sampling of these eels
during the winter months and collect information about the small
commercial fishery that still exists in Florida.
Was freshwater fisheries work your original career
No. Initially, my interests were geared towards marine biology
with a particular focus on marine mammals. However during my
undergraduate career, I was introduced to many different facets of
fisheries, including working with otoliths of spotted sea trout and
barramundi, conducting stream fish surveys with backpack
electrofishing, and participating on a National Marine Fisheries
Service (NMFS) research cruise for a larval cod predation study.
These experiences really piqued my interest in working with fish.
When I moved to Florida and met Dr. Mike Allen, the biggest fishing
fanatic I have ever met (next to my husband), I dove head first
into fishing and fisheries management. I haven't looked back
What would you say is your biggest
I would say that my biggest accomplishment has been the creation
of FWC's standardized sampling manual for inland waters. It took
approximately 2-1/2 years to complete and required gathering and
summarizing information from many different sources, including
researchers, FWC biologists, other state agency protocols, and
peer-reviewed literature. I am very proud of this project because
biologists have been trying to establish such protocols for well
over 20 years. But for one reason or another, the protocols were
never implemented on any broad-scale level. This has marked a new
era in freshwater fisheries management in Florida, and I'm glad to
be an important part of that.
What do you like most about your career?
Mostly, the flexibility and job diversity. I have a flexible work
schedule, so I have been able to stay committed to my job while, at
the same time, devoting as much time as possible to my family.
Family is very important to me so this is a big plus. Additionally,
no two days are alike with my job. There is always something
different to do: a new question to answer or a new problem to
solve. This keeps me motivated by challenging me to learn new
things and improve myself professionally.
What do you like least about your career?
My husband and I both work as fisheries biologists, so it has been
very difficult to find employment in close proximity to each other.
Also, in many cases, in order to get promoted to a higher paying
position, it involves a location and job duty change. This can be a
challenging situation, especially if you have strong ties to a
particular area or become deeply involved in a particular research
or management project.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
Although few people will openly admit this, gender bias in the
freshwater fisheries field is something that still exists and it
can be challenging if encountered. I had the unfortunate
opportunity to experience this early in my career, but I surrounded
myself with people who supported and encouraged me and I continued
to work hard developing my professional skills. Through time, I
acquired the necessary skills, experience, and confidence to excel
in this field and overcome these types of obstacles.
On a more personal note, I feel my biggest challenge has been
balancing family with my career. Thankfully, with a very
understanding set of supervisors and some creative work solutions,
I have been able to strike the perfect balance. Sometimes, change
is needed to overcome a challenge, and I feel blessed to work for
such wonderful, caring people who aren't afraid to institute such
What advice would you give to someone interested in
pursuing a career in your field?
There is so much I could say here, but I'll try to summarize the
main tidbits of advice I would like to pass along to our future
scientists: While in college, get involved with professional
organizations and clubs and volunteer or work in as many different
areas related to your field as possible (not just one). In addition
to gaining valuable work experience, you will also gain important
skills that will help you professionally such as leadership and
time management skills.
- When choosing your college classes, take a look at job boards
to find out what skills are being most sought after. Then, take
courses to coincide with those. Additional skills will make you
more marketable when applying for jobs.
- In the beginning of your career it is easy to be unsure of
yourself and your abilities. You will constantly question yourself,
"Can I really do this?" Yes, you can and yes, it is completely
normal to feel that way. Will you make mistakes? Yes. Will you
learn some hard lessons? Sure. But so has everyone else.
- Enjoy life. Life isn't all about school or your career. There
are so many other things more important, like family, life's
adventures and time with friends. So keep life (and work) in
- Be flexible and open-minded in your learning. By that I mean
don't be afraid to learn and try new things because you never know
what you might be missing.
- Always strive to improve yourself professionally and
personally. Even when you are finished with school, learning never
ends. There are so many lessons in life to learn, so embrace
learning throughout your life.
- No matter how talented you are or how much you accomplish in
life, always retain your humility. Every person, no matter what
their degree or profession, has something to offer to you and the
world. There is a great saying by Reverend Jesse Jackson, "Never
look down on a man, unless you are helping him up."
- There will be people in your life that will question your
abilities, but don't ever let them discourage you from achieving
your life's dreams.