Meet Michelle, our outstanding WSP member

Central Coast nonprofit Watersheds Stewards Program

My name is Michelle. I am a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a B.S in Biology and minor in Chemistry. I am one of those fortunate people who found their calling in college and mine happens to be studying fish. Even better, I found a job related to my passion (and major) right after graduation through the Watersheds Stewards Program (WSP), where I was accepted and placed with the San Luis Obispo Steelhead Initiative. The group consists of Central Coast Salmon Enhancement (CCSE), California Conservation Corps Los Padres Fisheries Department, and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. I work all over San Luis Obispo County studying and educating others about fish.

Central Coast Salmon Enhancement has cool programs and I am lucky enough to be involved in a little bit of everything from the field to the classroom. The Arroyo Grande Creek Stream Gauge Modification Project calls me into the beautiful creek behind our office. The gauge acts as a barrier for Steelhead migrating upstream, so CCSE designed a project that reduces the jump height for our finned friends. Preconstruction monitoring gives me a chance to throw on waders and walk the creek looking for evidence of spawning (reproducing) Steelhead trout.

Though I love being outdoors, some of our greatest work is done in the classroom. Last month I taught 5th graders as part of our ā€œTrout in the Classroomā€ program. All the lessons occurred alongside watching our trout eggs grow in an aquarium. Then, we released our trout during a field trip to Lopez Lake where students learned how to fly fish and even made beautiful fish-print art to take home. I cannot describe how amazing it felt to know that a few hours with these students built an educational foundation and personal connection to the thing I love most, fish. Not only does CCSE educate kids, but also adults. I have been a part of the technical trainings put on by Tri-County Fish Team (TCFT). This is an amazing experience for me because I am involved in the planning, learning important career skills, and meeting other natural resource professionals while Iā€™m also participating.

Whether I am organizing education for professionals and K-12 students or collecting data in the field, I get to be involved in fulfilling fish-friendly work. I am building skills and experience that will help reach my goal of attaining a PhD in Fisheries Science. Monday mornings are never a drag when I know that I am going to do important work with amazing people at Central Coast Salmon Enhancement.