Two veterans are beginning internships at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center with high expectations just in time for Veterans Day, while the first veteran to complete the program starts graduate school in fisheries on a full scholarship.
Zachariah Fritsche, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, and Devin Robinson, a Western Washington University student who served four years in the Army, this week began internships that will include field and laboratory work with researchers from the NWFSC Watershed Program at the Mukilteo Research Station. A partnership between the Science Center, Washington’s Department of Veterans Affairs and Veterans Conservation Corps, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region and the NOAA Restoration Center created the internship program last year.
“It seemed like the perfect balance between field work, data processing and lab work on subjects that really interest me,” said Fritsche, a Dean’s List student who expects to graduate from the University of Washington Bothell in 2019. “It’s really a balanced approach and an incredible opportunity to work on science that matters, with some great scientists at NOAA.”
Fritsche spent five years in the Coast Guard, which included operating small Coast Guard boats in Puget Sound and educating fishermen and the public on boating and safety guidelines. Robinson grew up in Lake Stevens, Wash., and has studied native eelgrass in the region and sees the internship as an opportunity to learn more about fisheries science in and around Puget Sound.
“It’s a great opportunity to see what’s going on in my own backyard, while building my skills and experience in a field I really enjoy,” he said.
The first veteran to complete the internship, Barney Boyer, assisted with research on the effectiveness of habitat restoration for Chinook salmon in the Snohomish River north of Seattle and tracking changes in nearshore species following a major dam removal project on the Elwha River. He is just beginning graduate school in fisheries at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.
“The goal of the program is for veterans to contribute to our research, at the same time we contribute to their knowledge and experience,” said John Floberg of the NOAA Restoration Center, who helps coordinate the program. “Barney exemplified that goal and I’m sure that Zach and Devin will only add to the legacy that we’re building.”
The joint program for veterans in Washington expands on other programs across NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region to recruit and train veterans in fisheries science, and help build their resumes for a career in the field. This Veterans Day marks the fifth since NOAA launched its first training opportunities for veterans on the West Coast, and veterans now hold key research and conservation roles with NOAA from Southern California to Washington.
“My experience at NOAA was truly an experience of a lifetime,” Boyer recalled. “I hope that the next group of veterans have the same experiences and opportunities that I was privileged with.”