May 24, 2016

ENVS Blog: Toward Idaho and Fish

Kyle Tibbett (’15) talks about his life after graduating Lewis & Clark College with a degree in Environmental Studies and taking a position in fisheries management in Idaho.

Kyle Tibbett (’15)

As I was growing up, my dad never hesitated to remind me that life has its little ways of making things happen. “Everything happens for a reason” he always used to tell me whenever I may have experienced hardships or failures. When I was younger, it was always easy to shrug it off as a thoughtless act of reassurance. However, as I sit here today, traveling on I-90 through the state of Montana, I think I finally understand what he was trying to tell me. It’s not that life is a predetermined list of unchangeable events; rather, it is a list of events that are always determined by the events prior.

My story begins as a freshman at Lewis & Clark. Like every other environmental studies major, my goal was to save the world. As such, much of my focus was directed towards climate change in developing regions (i.e. east Africa), hoping that my research would allow me to find the answer for diminishing agricultural yields in such areas. After researching well into my sophomore year, I was beginning to realize that my topic was kind of boring. Not that agricultural production in developing countries is not important; quite the contrary. However, I started to go in circles with my research, and I began to realize that there is no simple answer for environmental problems of this magnitude. Once I realized that changing the world was not going to be as easy as a click of the mouse, I decided that I wanted to shift my focus to something I was far more interested in. After all, I had absolutely no experience with developing countries before I declared that as my concentration. However, the trouble now became finding something I was so passionate about that I could write a senior capstone paper on it.

No more than a month after I began to experience these feelings of doubt, an SCA representative came into an ENVS-220 class to give us a brief five minute schpeel on what exactly the SCA was. Essentially, it is an organization that provides environmentally related internship opportunities for college students throughout the country. They have a database of about 1000 internships (literally) across the country, and it is very easy to apply to a large amount of them. As such, I took it upon myself to apply to as many as I could (I must have applied to at least 50) because I was looking for something to do that summer. It just so happened that one of those positions got back to me, and before I knew it I was accepting a position as an environmental educator for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. At that moment, my life changed forever, and in more ways than one.

I spent most of that summer fly fishing the rivers and lakes of Vermont (and got paid to do it most of the time), and that was when I decided what my new research focus would be. I loved being out on the water, with nothing between me and the next fish except for rod and reel. I should have realized it sooner, as fishing has been a hobby of mine for my entire life. I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in fisheries management. At that point it was too late to change my concentration, but I knew that I was going to write my senior capstone paper on fish. I held onto the concept of climate change, and I starting researching the impact that climate change has on trout populations in western Montana.

Meanwhile, I decided to go back to Vermont for another year. Sure, it wasn’t a job that focused just on fish, but I still got to be outside all of the time, and fish some of the time. Plus, another year of environmental education couldn’t look bad on the resume, so I figured what the heck. This summer was a bit different though, because it just so happened that I met my now fiancée. She happened to be from Ohio, however (she was attending Hiram college), and I still had my senior year to finish, so we had to do the long distance thing for a year. So, we said our goodbyes (for now) at the end of the summer, and I headed back to L&C to finish my senior capstone paper, and ultimately my undergraduate career.

Before I knew it, it was time to graduate, my capstone paper on trout was completed, and I was getting ready to move out to Ohio for a year to live with Hannah. We were sick of being apart, so I was ready and willing to do whatever I needed to do in order to be with her, even if it meant working at a fast food restaurant. I knew of a national park in Ohio (Cuyahoga Valley National Park), however, so I decided to look into any employment opportunities with them before accepting my fate as a fast food worker. A friend of mine informed me of an environmental education program in the national park, so I decided to investigate. Turns out I just missed the deadline for the application (by about a few days), but I frantically emailed the lady in charge to see if there was any way they would still accept an application. She kindly informed me that they would be willing to accept my application, and next thing I knew I was offered the position. I later found out that it was likely because they are always short on male educators, but hey, I’ll take it any way I can get it. After thinking about it further, however, I was hesitant to accept the position in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was only an internship, and who doesn’t want to make some money fresh out of college? After a few long conversations with my parents, however, I decided to give it a shot, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. Still not a job working with fish, but I knew that building my resume with a position such as this couldn’t hurt, as strong communication skills are desired in fisheries management jobs just as much as they are desired in any other position. Plus, even though I knew I wasn’t going to be making a whole lot, I knew I would enjoy that position far more than anything else. The experiences I gathered and people I met will stick with me for the rest of my life, and I darn sure would not be heading back out west to Idaho for my first fisheries related position if it weren’t for my internship in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

So, here I sit in the passenger seat of Hannah’s car, heading out to Idaho for my first fisheries related position. I will be conducting creel surveys (interviewing anglers on what they have caught) and collecting biological data, so I definitely would not have received this position if it weren’t for the strong communication skills I have built along the way as an environmental educator. And, it all started in ENVS 220, when an SCA representative came into the beginning of our class for no more than five minutes (big shout out to Jessica Kleiss for allowing that to happen). If it weren’t for those five minutes, I probably never would have been offered this fisheries position, and I certainly would not have met Hannah, who has been so supportive every step of the way. So, looking back to where I’ve been and where I am at now, I finally realize that my Dad could not have been more right; everything truly does happen for a reason.