Monday, April 6, 2015

Student Profile: Amy Teffer

Amy Teffer is a PhD student at the University of Victoria, co-supervised out of the University of British Columbia, Canada. Her research examines disease ecology of wild salmon, specifically relating to temperature and fisheries stressors currently affecting Fraser River salmon during their spawning migration.

1. What is your current research/position?
I am a PhD student at the University of Victoria and University of British Columbia (co-supervised, best of both worlds). My research is part of a larger study using paired holding and biotelemetry studies to examine the effects of multiple stressors and infectious disease processes on the survival and migration success of Pacific salmon in the Fraser River watershed in British Columbia, Canada.

2. What sparked your interest in aquatic animal health?
I suppose it came from a basic curiosity about how aquatic organisms and ecosystems function, of which animal health is a key component. Specifically, my research takes an ecological perspective on factors affecting wild fish health.

3. What has been your favorite fisheries-related job?
That’s a tough one, but I think my time spent working at the Conte Anadromous Fish Lab in Turners Falls, MA stands out most in my mind. We were tracking shad around the Connecticut River using radio telemetry, running flume experiments in the lab to test fishway performance and turbine passage across species, and I logged some serious hours entering data! It was a demanding job and the weather was often uncooperative, but the work and the people were stupendous. I learned so much so quickly and began to develop a palpable understanding of how fisheries research got done and what I wanted to do with my career.

4. What do you like most about graduate/professional school?

Firstly, the freedom. I thrive in an independent setting, with support available when I need it. My supervisors know how to support my work but give me space to grow. Secondly, the directive. Something that I believe many graduate students forget is that we are here to (primarily) do one thing: finish a dissertation. Ask a question and answer it using the information, observation and experimentation available to us. Looking toward the future and given what is in store for us in academic or other research professions, that is a very simple, straightforward, and exciting task (though still overwhelming at times!). Thirdly, the community. Awesome people with enduring curiosity and diverse expertise.

5. When and why did you first become involved with AFS and the FHS? 

I attended a local chapter meeting at the start of my MSc, which was my first exposure to AFS. The atmosphere was so welcoming and the presented work so interesting and inspiring to this young professional that I joined the Society the following day. I became a member of the FHS at the start of my PhD, soon afterwards attending a local conference in Washington for which I was award travel support by the section. To be honest I was terrified as an ecologist among fish health experts, but again received excellent advice and support for my presented research. Since joining the society and section, I have contributed to AFS as a communications officer for our local student chapter and benefitted greatly through this experience and received multiple travel awards to attend conferences across the country.

6. What are your long-term professional goals (FHS or otherwise)?Any position where I am allotted time and support to conduct research that interests me, whether within academia, agencies, or elsewhere, would be ideal. Teaching is an appealing prospect, as I enjoy sharing knowledge and experience as much as acquiring it. However, like many young professionals in my shoes, I am at the whim of the availability of positions. Keeping an open mind and broad interests centered on a main theme has gotten me far: point your sails where you want to go and let the wind and water do the rest! Regardless, I would like to strengthen my involvement with the FHS in the coming years. I have made valuable and lasting connections within the FHS and look forward to having more time available to attend and assist with section activities.