Wes is currently working on a black bass genetics project, as well
as studies to determine if stocking hatchery-produced bass can
increase the number of fish in a population and improve the
B.S. Biology, University of Illinois,
M.S. Biology, Tennessee Tech University, 1981
As a senior at the University of Illinois, I worked in a
fisheries genetics lab for college credit, which "got my foot in
the door" for employment with the Illinois Natural History Survey
(INHS). The summer after graduation, I ran an angler creel station
at an INHS fish management research lake, and over the next two
years, I helped with a variety of fisheries research projects on a
power plant cooling reservoir in Illinois.
After the research grant ended in Illinois, I went to Tennessee
Tech University for graduate school. My master's thesis focused on
studies assessing the effects of acid drainage and mitigation of
acid leachates on benthic (bottom-dwelling) invertebrates and fish
in Appalachian mountain streams. While in school, I also used
ultrasonic transmitters and receivers to help track the movements
of sauger in the Cumberland River.
After Tennessee, I took a two-year technical position at the
U.S. Geological Survey's Great Lakes Science Center, which turned
out to be a wonderful experience. Working from the research vessel
Cisco, we used gill nets and trawls to sample lake
trout, yellow perch, smelt, and other species in Lake Michigan. I
also identified, sorted, and cataloged aquatic invertebrates for an
ecological study of the use of invertebrates that live on aquatic
plants (phytomacrofauna) by select sport fish in the
interconnecting waters of the Great Lakes. Toxicologists at our
facility were studying the effects of pesticides on the development
of lake trout eggs and fry. We helped culture the lake trout eggs
and fry, and we built test chambers, or bioassay systems, for
In 1982, I moved to Florida to become a largemouth bass research
biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission. I have worked on a variety of projects, which
- Validated the use of otoliths (ear stones) for ageing Florida
bass and developed ageing techniques.
- Used otolith ageing techniques to determine the basic
information on age composition, growth rates, and survival rates of
bass populations in Florida.
- Incorporated these population statistics into research that
evaluated the affects of stocking, regulating angler harvest, and
habitat management on bass populations.
- Researched and developed techniques for tagging, sampling, and
diet analysis of bass.
- Conducted research on the Largemouth Bass Virus, the annual
reproductive cycle of largemouth bass, and black bass
What are you working on now?
I am working on a black bass genetics project that
certifies all brood fish as pure Florida bass at the Richloam Fish
Hatchery, incorporates the use of genetics marks on hatchery
produced bass to study the affects of stocking, and investigates
hybridization issues for endemic (native) shoal bass in the Chipola
River. We are also implementing rules and programs for private fish
hatcheries to help protect the genetic integrity of Florida
I am also working on studies to determine if stocking hatchery
produced bass can increase the number of fish in a population and
improve the angler's catch. This study incorporates the use of
radio telemetry technology to study the behavior, habitat
preference, and movements of hatchery stocked bass. We are also
attempting to improve the survival of stocked hatchery bass by
conditioning them to predators and prey prior to leaving the
Was work in your current field your original career
interest--why or why not?
Yes, it was. My childhood vacations revolved around fishing, which
gave me an appreciation for fishing and for the outdoors. As I grew
up, I thought it would be great to work for a fisheries management
What would you say is your biggest
Although my wife deserves most of the credit, my greatest
achievement is raising three boys. So far, my most significant
career achievement has been working with Bill Coleman and Steve
Crawford to validate and develop otolith-ageing techniques for
largemouth bass. Prior to our work, there was no basic information
on largemouth bass growth rates, ages, longevity, and survival
rates in Florida because other ageing techniques did not work in a
subtropical environment. The types of information obtained by
researchers who age fish are paramount to understanding the
dynamics of populations and how those populations respond to
management programs and environmental changes.
What do you like most about your career?
The three things that I like most about my career are co-workers,
resource management, and job diversity. My co-workers have
colorful, interesting personalities, and they are passionate and
kind people that create a great work environment. There is a great
deal of satisfaction when our research results improve management
of Florida's unique resources. Diverse responsibilities that vary
from collecting fish to report writing keep the job perpetually
What do you like least about your career?
The salaries are poor. Nobody ever went into a life sciences field
to become wealthy, but the low pay can become very stressful when
raising children and trying to keep up with medical and car-repair
What are some of your biggest challenges?
Florida's natural resources are encountering tremendous pressures,
primarily stemming from human population growth and development
throughout the state. Researchers need to answer many more
questions than we have time or monetary resources to address. While
all of the questions are important, prioritizing needs and
allocating inadequate time and resources to finding answers is
always a difficult process.
What advice would you give to someone interested in
pursuing a career in your field?
Go into this field only if you are very passionate about natural
resources. Do whatever it takes to get your first job; that might
include volunteering, taking a low-paying job, or moving across the
country. Get involved with scientific societies such as the
American Fisheries Society for professional growth. To broaden your
own understanding and to help answer questions that need a
multidisciplinary approach, develop partnerships with professionals
that have other areas of expertise. Set your standards and goals