The Pacific Northwest is a region of the U.S. known for both its beauty and its richness in biodiversity. My name is Katlyn Fuentes and I was born and raised in Washington state, surrounded by lush forests, snowy mountains, large expanses of countryside, and gorgeous coastlines – all areas teeming with life big and small. And while I find all aspects of biology and environmental science fascinating, I have always felt drawn to the water and more specifically: to fishes.
Fun fact: there are more species of fishes in the world today (greater than 30,000) than there are mammals, birds, reptiles, AND amphibians combined! How crazy is that?!
And it’s because of my passion for ichthyology that I decided to pursue this field of study.
I am a current student at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, where I will be graduating with my Bachelor of Science degree later this year. While attending university, I’ve focused my studies as much as possible on anything related to – you guessed it – fishes! Presently, I work at for the University’s Ichthyology Collection (part of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, and one of the largest fish collections in the world), where I help organize and maintain the collection.
Throughout my time in academia, I have had many opportunities to gain hands-on-experience in the field. Last summer I had the amazing opportunity to travel abroad with others at UW to Costa Rica, to study the country’s many ecosystems and how people have impacted their environment. While backpacking, we had the chance to track tapirs through the jungle, volunteer at an endangered sea turtle hatchery, study the hundreds of species of birds native to the country, and so much more. The experience truly developed in me a greater appreciation for our natural world, and what we can do as individuals to protect and preserve the environments in which we live in.
So, while this is not the first time I’ve participated in fieldwork, it will be my first time working in California and my first time working with the National Park Service (NPS). This summer I will be stationed at Point Reyes National Seashore (PORE) as a Fisheries Technician with the NPS Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship. There, I will be working alongside biologists as part of the San Francisco Area Network Coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and Steelhead (O. mykiss) Monitoring Program. Within the state of California, coho are considered endangered and steelhead threatened, so this project provides an important opportunity for monitoring these species in hopes of continuing recovery efforts to this region. With California’s coho salmon at an approximate 1% of their historic population size, the data that we will be collecting is crucial to not only better understanding the natural history of this species, but also grants us the possibility to learn how we may become better stewards to our environment and the natural resources that we harness every day.
As a conservationist and all-around-fish-nerd, I am overjoyed with the opportunity to be a part of such an important project. By participating in this program, I hope to gain invaluable knowledge and work experience, and ultimately I wish to inspire others to conserve our natural environment and perhaps pursue degrees or careers in STEM, like me!
I have less than a month before I’ll begin my trek south from Washington state to the Bay Area of Northern California. I’m estimating that the drive will take me about 15 hours, but beautiful scenery, some good tunes, and my weight in coffee are sure to make it an enjoyable journey in and of itself.
Once I begin my internship I’ll make sure to update regularly, providing you all with an insider’s look at the ins-and-outs of working for the National Park Service, current events at PORE, and any other fun things that happen along the way! (Plus, I’ll make sure to post lots of pictures because let’s be real: who doesn’t want to see tons of adorable fishes.) So make sure to check back frequently!
Thank you for joining me on this journey – and if at any time you would like to reach out, please feel free to comment below! Let’s talk, let’s learn, let’s grow!