A fine kettle of fish

With the third highest species diversity of fish in the country, Georgia has a lot of fish-and a lot of fishermen.

“People appreciate being able to go 10 or 15 miles down the road with their families and fish for large-mouth bass in lakes and ponds or giant flathead catfish in Georgia rivers,” says fisheries professor Doug Peterson. “In Georgia, we’re really quite fortunate to have such a rich resource so close to our homes.”

The fisheries program at the Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at UGA is the only program of its kind in the state. Campus facilities include experimental ponds, a fish-holding facility and a biometrics laboratory. Graduates are fisheries ecologists “with an appreciation for the social and economic importance particular to our science,” says Peterson.

The work of fisheries scientists ranges widely, from studies on the long-term dynamics of fish populations, to threatened and endangered species recovery and commercial and recreational fish management, to the transfer of contaminants through aquatic food webs. In fact, every 2003 fisheries graduate either went on to graduate school or found a job in the field.

“Qualified graduates in this field are in very high demand,” says Peterson. “In this economy, not too many programs can say they place every single one of their graduates.”

High placement rates are not the only attractive feature of UGA’s fisheries program. Peterson points to a poster on the wall. It has a picture of a river flowing through a forest. The text at the bottom reads, “This could be your office.”

In fact, fisheries ecologists do not spend leisurely days cruising along on fishing boats. Per capita consumption of fish and fish products in the United States has increased more than 50 percent since 1970, and abundant, healthy fish populations do not just happen. Fisheries ecologists spend a good part of their time managing competing needs. They have to integrate land and water resource management, develop techniques for estimating the size and distribution of animal populations, determine the effects of invasive species on resources use, develop environmentally friendly aquaculture systems of commercial production of high-value fishes, and more.

The UGA fisheries program is unique in providing a balance between field-oriented and laboratory research, with a range of facilities available for teaching and research throughout Georgia, the Southeast and globally.