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Shaping Conservation Leaders

Diversity of Internships Helmed by Nationwide Alumni Connections

Article by Kelsey Evans, CNR Editor

At the core of every University of Idaho Fish and Wildlife student’s experience is an internship built upon generations and networks of support. As a requirement for a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries or Wildlife Sciences, internships ensure that every student has an in-depth opportunity by working for state and federal agencies that manage fish and wildlife and their habitats. They also work for organizations such as the Student Conservation Association and the Nature Conservancy, aquaculture companies, tribes, wildlife rehabilitation centers and zoos. Many students do on-the-ground research with U of I faculty and staff, as well as with alumni in their respective agencies and positions.

“Internships are a unique component of our undergraduate education program that makes our students highly competitive for jobs after graduation,” said Lisette Waits, distinguished professor of Fish and Wildlife Sciences.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Lisette Waits, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Resources

CNR 103D


Email Lisette Waits

Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences

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In 2015, Bob Dice ’89, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) manager for the Chief Joseph and Asotin Creek wildlife areas of the Blue Mountains region, helped set up a program to host two summer interns every year. Dice, alongside then Fish & Wildlife Department Head Kirry Reese and later Waits, created a contract between the WDFW and U of I for student internships funded by agricultural lease income from the Asotin Creek Wildlife Area. This allows students to be paid for their hands-on work experience.

Dice is proud that the program helps teach students of all levels essential skills, including everything from towing trailers to fence repair to communication skills, all of which are crucial for obtaining jobs after graduation.

Man knees over a fawn.
Wade Hammon, Wildlife Resources ’23, WDFW Summer 2022 Intern. Credit: Wade Hammon.

“Some of our great U of I/WDFW interns are now in permanent positions with WDFW, such as Emma Charlet, Oak Creek Wildlife Area assistant manager at WDFW, and Reagan Barron Harris, private lands/wildlife conflict technician in Colville,” Dice said.

Emma Charlet went into her internship wanting to prove herself as a hardworking, competent and reliable employee.

“I had supervisors that were willing to make introductions to other WDFW staff, be professional references and help me find other WDFW job opportunities,” Charlet said.

As a result, Charlet made valuable connections.

“The internship led to my current position by giving me the opportunity to introduce myself to WDFW. It has been my experience that if you show yourself as a valuable employee, your coworkers will help you achieve your goal,” Charlet said.

Dice fondly remembers a 2016 dedication ceremony for the 4-0 Ranch Wildlife Area, a 10,000-acre subunit of Chief Joseph Wildlife Area. Amongst the Agency workers, legislators, Nez Perce Tribal representatives and community members that gathered for the ceremony, “our interns were there to help. After, they sat on the grass having lunch with the director of WDFW, U of I alum Jim Unsworth,” Dice said.

My internships meant a lot to me, and I’m thankful as they cemented my drive to have a successful career in natural resources once I graduate. Hallie Morris, ecology and conservation biology major

David Woodall, Chief Joseph and Asotin Creek Wildlife Area Assistant Manager, works with Dice in Clarkston to keep the program running. Woodall conducts interviews and networks before and after internships. Throughout the year, Woodall also regularly hosts daily field trips for other students as a part of the mentor/mentee program in the course “Fish and Wildlife Applications” taught by Waits.

Woodall tries to be understanding and patient with all students. He knows that it might be their first time interviewing, interning and getting work experience.

“I try to encourage them to open up about their passions and goals. I tell them that you have to start somewhere,” Woodall said.

Woman stands over anesthetized mountain lion.
Grace Holwagner, a senior Wildlife Sciences major with a human-wildlife interactions emphasis, interning for IDFG in summer 2023, removing a tooth from a harvested mountain lion to determine age. Credit: Grace Holwagner.

Woodall especially enjoys mentoring because he never had this chance when he was at U of I.

“I was a non-traditional student. So anytime I can help and tell them what it takes to be successful and give them direction, it’s especially gratifying,” Woodall said.

Idaho Fish and Game

Similarly, U of I internship collaborations are gaining momentum at IDFG. In 2022, a new program through state operations debuted, thanks to collaborations between Waits, Chip Corsi, who is an alum, former member of the CNR advisory board, and recently retired IDFG Panhandle regional director, and JJ Teare, who is an alum and IDFG’s Clearwater supervisor. The program has grown to 12 students in summer 2023.

Laura Wolf, regional wildlife biologist from the Panhandle; Cassie Sundquist, fish production program coordinator, and Matt Falcy, of the U of I USGS COOP unit, also played major roles in this growth.

“You get the right people in the right place, with similar attitudes and drives, and then you can be creative to develop programs, such as the U of I-IDFG internship program, which makes a big difference in a lot of students’ lives and careers,” Teare said.

The goal of the program, to Teare, is to make the internship experience a part of “what we do, as alumni and within our agency. It’s something we build together.”

Not only does the student have an unforgettable experience, but the agency gets great help.

“It allows IDFG to use operating funds to give back. And it helps IDFG to develop and recruit new talent in a collaborative way,” Teare said.

The program is still adapting and becoming even more accessible for underclassmen.

“I always look back on those first jobs I had and thought ‘I made it,’ but to be doing that as a freshman or sophomore now — that’s something else,” Teare said.

Aquaculture Research Institute

Fishery Sciences students can pursue an internship with the U of I Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI), which offers two positions directly through CNR every summer: one in Moscow, and one in Hagerman in Magic Valley region, where about 75% of the country’s farmed trout are produced.

Ethan Leininger, a Fisheries Science major and aquaculture minor, spent the summer of 2023 working on the hatchery crew at the ARI Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station, where he played an integral role in collecting genetic samples used in various fish studies. Leininger has a strong interest in aquaculture, having previously worked at Mt. Lassen California Trout and Steelhead farm in Northern California. As an intern at Hagerman, he learned new aquaculture management skills and how to apply critical thinking to solving hatchery and aquaculture problems.

Matt Falcy, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Biometrics and Assistant Unit Leader, Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

CNR 105A


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Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences

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Hallie Morris, an Ecology and Conservation Biology major, showcases that internships like these are not limited to Fisheries or Wildlife Resources majors. Morris has made the most of her time at U of I, starting with an IDFG internship in 2021, in addition to being an ARI intern in Hagerman in 2023.

“My first internship was very broad but amazing. I helped with population surveys, replanted after fires, cleaned up refuges, learned to snorkel and more. In 2023, | further learned about the inner workings of ARI by helping with experiments, sampling, feedings and daily maintenance tasks. My internships meant a lot to me, and I’m thankful as they cemented my drive to have a successful career in natural resources once I graduate,” Morris said.

Internships are a unique component of our undergraduate education program that makes our students highly competitive for jobs after graduation. Lisette Waits, distinguished professor of Fish and Wildlife Sciences

At all locations, CNR ARI interns participate in hands-on aquaculture research, in addition to learning more specialized expertise depending on their interests and the systems at their location, such as recirculating aquaculture water reuse systems for trout, salmon, burbot and tilapia in Moscow, and flow through systems for trout, salmon and sturgeon in Hagerman, for example,” said Brian Small, professor of fish physiology and director of the Aquaculture Research Institute.

ARI also hosts interns from other programs and fellowships, such as NSF EPSCoR Summer Authentic Research Experiences (SARE), IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), Adele Berklund Scholars and the Mandela Young African Leaders scholars.

Biannually, ARI interns also participate in the Coldwater Aquaculture workshop, an intensive one-week workshop put on by ARI to provide training to new and seasoned IDFG hatchery staff, aquaculture company staff, regional tribal hatchery staff and U of I students.

Small’s favorite aspect of the internships is mentoring students, helping them identify their interests and get excited about fisheries and aquaculture.

“Jose Ortiz, for example, was another exemplary intern. He was a sophomore and wasn’t too sure what he wanted to do, but by the end of the internship, he decided he was going to pursue his master’s in natural resources with a focus in trout and salmon appetite regulation, looking at how different fatty acids in the feed might stimulate fish to eat more and grow more,” Small said.

As the first ever summer intern at the Hagerman ARI in 2019, Ortiz worked under the supervision of faculty researcher Vikas Kumar for a project on Nile tilapia titled “Novel Feed Ingredient (processed soybean meal, EnzoMealTM) for Sustainable Aquaculture.” Ortiz then received an Adele Berklund Scholarship to do another internship on appetite regulation in trout, which led to his interest in pursuing his master’s degree.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Brian Small, Ph.D.

Professor of Fish Physiology, Director of the Aquaculture Research Institute

Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station

208-837-9096 ext. 1108

Email Brian Small

Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences

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At the national level, John Oakleaf ’02 and Mexican wolf field projects coordinator for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has hosted students for the last five years.

“Interns do a lot of on the ground management,” Oakleaf said.

Interns get to the heart of the issue, working on proactive projects to prevent conflict with land users.

I was a non-traditional student. So anytime I can help and tell them what it takes to be successful and give them direction, it’s especially gratifying. David Woodall, Chief Joseph and Asotin Creek Wildlife Area assistant manager

Another way students contribute to research is by collecting and running genetics analyses from Mexican wolf scat. They do pedigree analyses in the wild and document animals.

“If you can connect enough scat from puppies, you can reconstruct the DNA and find out who the parents are,” Oakleaf said.

Oakleaf’s team is fostering pups to increase genetic diversity.

“We take young pups less than 10 days old from captive sites across the United States and put them into wild dens.”

The mothers readily adopt the now wild pups, but research is still taking place to determine how successful the process is.

The important part, Oakleaf said, is that “nothing happens in a vacuum. Oftentimes, for an endangered species, there’s a lot of collaboration and on-the-ground work from students.”

Alumni Champions

For every student internship, there’s a team of supporters and organizers. Many students and mentors point to one individual, Waits, for making their internship experience possible.

“Lisette has helped establish the student-internship experience as a pillar of the FW department,” said Janet Rachlow, professor of wildlife ecology and department head of Fish and Wildlife Sciences.

Both Rachlow and Waits are humble, though, crediting alumni specifically.

Janet Rachlow, Ph.D.

Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Department Head of Fish and Wildlife Sciences

CNR 105B


Email Janet Rachlow

Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences

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“Alumni have spearheaded the development of the programs and helped come up with funding at their agencies, in addition to contributing to the Fish and Wildlife Excellence Fund, which we are using to support these partnerships with federal agencies. They model and adapt cooperative partnerships, projects, programs and host students directly. We look forward to continuing to grow this program with our current partners and new future partners,” Waits said.

Campus Locations

Physical Address:
Bruce M. Pitman Center
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264

Phone: 208-885-6111

Fax: 208-885-9119