Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mentor Profile with Dr. Paul Hershberger, FHS President

Dr. Paul Hershberger currently sits on the Executive Committee as the Elected Fish Health Section President. Paul is also the Station Leader and a Research Fishery Biologist with the USGS Marrowstone Marine Field Station where he directs research relating to diseases in wild fish. Additionally, Paul is an Affiliate Faculty member at the University of Washington. 

1.         How did you get to where you are today?
I have always been interested in fish; my parents started taking me fishing when I was 4 years old; and the weekend fishing trips were a source of constant inspiration throughout my childhood.  I had my first formal introduction to fisheries with an ichthyology course I took in college.  Unfortunately, my high expectations for the course left me disillusioned, as I did not find stimulation in the classical fisheries approaches, and I was frustrated with memorizing the Latin names of daces, darters, chubs and minnows that had been in formalin way too long.  However, my passion for fish persisted and I feel fortunate to have discovered the field of fish health in graduate school.  I was immediately hooked; the field incorporated many of the issues, disciplines, concepts, and approaches that I found fascinating.

2.         What do you like most about your current job?
1) I feel extremely fortunate to be able to interact with the people in the fish health community who are committed to advancing our field.  These professional interactions with people, ranging from temporary interns through emeritus scientists, provide me with a great sense of humility and appreciation that together, we are contributing to the advancement of our field. 
2) I really enjoy the challenges inherent to addressing scientific questions.  This job has provided me with the opportunity to address some of these basic and applied questions using unique approaches that involve tools that are adapted from multiple disciplines.  Designing an approach to addressing a question, executing the approach, and obtaining an answer is a very simple process that provides me with great satisfaction.
3.         When and why did you first become involved with AFS and the FHS?
I started attending the FHS annual meeting when I was a graduate student and I’ve enjoyed them ever since.

4.         Who were your mentors as you were an up-and-coming fish health specialist? How did they influence you?
I’m not sure that I could put my finger on a particular mentor as much as I could refer to the collective community of fish health professionals.  I have a keen interest in history and I feel fortunate to have met (and sometimes worked with) some of the pioneers in our field, including Drs. John Fryer, Gary Wedemeyer, Ron Hedrick, Jim Winton, Vicki Blazer, Ted Meyers, Garth Traxler, and Ray Brunson.  Some people I have been fortunate to work with very closely and others I met only once or twice, but made a profound and lasting impact on me.  For example, as a post doc I briefly met a gentleman named Alistar McVicar, who had written several wonderful reviews on Ichthyophonus.  I remember very clearly when he put his hand on my shoulder and said (in a thick Scottish accent) ‘Son, you can spend an entire career working on this critter and still not have many answers.’  I continue to put a lot of value on these professional interactions and I try to learn as much as I can from every conversation, whether it involves the consummate professionalism of Jill Rolland, the edgy pragmatism of Dick Kocan, or the endless energy and enthusiasm of Scott LaPatra.

5.         If you mentor students currently or hire new graduates, what sort of qualities do you look for?
The most important qualities I look for in any student or employee involves a good work ethic, inquisitive mind, ability to work independently, and overall healthy attitude.  These qualities are much more important to me than whatever pathogen somebody may have worked with, or what particular laboratory techniques somebody may have in their tool box.  Tools and skills can be learned quickly by anybody with an inquisitive mind, but a solid work ethic and desire for knowledge are much more difficult to teach.