Interview with Tyler Johnson, Southern Oregon Flyfishers scholarship winner
What drew you to Oregon State and the Department?
I knew that Oregon State had one of the best fisheries and wildlife departments in the Northwest, if not the country. I have always loved the state of Oregon. So when I moved out here in 2012, Oregon State was a no brainer as the school I should attend to complete my fisheries degree.
Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Idaho. I lived all over the state but spent the lion's share of my life there in the Boise area. My parents lived 30 minutes outside of any major town. I graduated from Marsing High School in a graduating class of around 28 students. Marsing itself had a population of ~800 people. I certainly got the small town experience. Growing up, my parents were avid outdoor enthusiasts, so camping, fishing, and hunting always have had a place in my life.
Tell us a little about your interest in fisheries and wildlife.
As I stated previously, I spent a lot of my childhood outdoors. Catching lizards and collecting bugs were common pastimes for me as a child (and still are today). I think all this time spent outdoors sparked a lot of my curiosity in fisheries and wildlife. My mother worked for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game helping with their chinook salmon programs, so even when I was young I would occasionally spend time at hatcheries and weirs. I guess being interested in fisheries and wildlife runs in my blood. After high school I obtained an internship doing high desert plant surveys for the Bureau of Land Management. After being in and out of school I worked for IDFG and eventually as a contractor for Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. I've spent the last 6 to 7 years ageing different structures from different species of fish to give population and recruitment information that can inform management of the given species. This has all served to fuel my passion for the natural world and fostered a want to protect and understand it.
What will you do with the scholarship?
I don't think it's any big secret that college is expensive. I have been in and out of college since high school often, primarily due to the cost. Currently, I am working full time for PSMFC in the NOAA fish ageing lab in Newport as well as attending school full time to make school financially viable. This scholarship will go towards making ends meet and reducing the debt burden I am taking on to attend school.
What opportunities will this scholarship provide for you that you might not otherwise have gotten to experience?
This scholarship will allow me to spend less time focusing on finances and devote more time towards learning from my classes. Having more breathing room also means that I can spend more time doing the activities that help me connect with why I am getting a fisheries and wildlife degree in the first place, like camping, fishing, hiking, etc.
What are your hobbies and other interests?
I spend a large amount of my free time fishing. Growing up in Idaho, I had been primarily exposed to trout fishing in high mountain streams. Being able to fishing off the jetty and beach has been a pretty big change and a ton of fun. I try to go camping a few times a year and am considering hiking to the top of South Sister this summer. When I'm not outside I enjoy video games, painting, and Netflix. I keep a few planted aquariums. One is a 75 gallon with pumpkinseed sunfish and another is a 4 gallon with some tiny rasboras.
What are your plans for next year?
Next year will be more of the same. I plan on continuing to work full time as I enjoy my current job a great deal and feel the work is impactful and rewarding. I will continue to attend OSU through the Ecampus and work towards my degree. I am also weighing options for extensive internship during summer 2017.
What are your long-term career goals?
While working in Idaho, I was lucky enough to coauthor a paper regarding precocial life histories of male chinook salmon. This experience was not only rewarding on a professional and academic level but also on a personal level. It allowed me to get a taste of what research in the fisheries field is like. I plan to go on after my bachelors to get my masters so that I may be able to have ample opportunities to help better understand the natural world. I would like to stay in the Pacific Northwest if at all possible and am leaning towards a career in fisheries, preferably with a research focus.
If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
This is a tough one. I am torn between something that can swim and something that can fly as I believe either of those would be an interesting experience. I think I might have to go with a Great Gray Owl. That way I could not only experience what it's like to fly but also have night vision and excellent hearing. That's three super powers for the price of one!
What else would you like us to know?
I would like to acknowledge how grateful I am for being selected for the scholarship. Additionally, I would also like to point out that I'm not sure I would have been able to attend Oregon State if it were not for the ecampus. The ecampus has allowed me to learn from where I am around my work schedule. I'm sure it does the same for a lot of the students taking classes through it, and I just wanted to stress how important it is to nontraditional students like me.