Ashley Padgett holding a flannelmouth sucker fish.

Ashley Padgett holding a flannelmouth sucker fish.

Ashley Padgett, senior wildlife and fisheries biology major at Clemson University, interned as a fisheries technician for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife service this past summer.

Since childhood, Padgett has loved the outdoors, especially fishing, which influenced her dream to study wildlife and fisheries biology in hopes of making an impact in conservation efforts.

“I remember taking fishing trips with my grandad and spending late nights out in the yard catching toads and fireflies,” Padgett said. “These experiences from a young age influenced me developed a passion for protecting, preserving and efficiently managing our natural resources.”

Throughout her time at Clemson, Padgett had the opportunity to develop skills within her desired field work through research, data analyses and presentations thanks to Clemson’s specialized creative inquiry programs.

“I have also been able to take classes such as Fisheries Techniques, which taught me new sampling and data collection methods and challenged me to learn to draw conclusions from collected data with the use of peer-reviewed scientific journals,” Padgett said. “Clemson has given me not just the opportunity to learn the material and gain the knowledge, but the opportunity to apply what I have learned in the field and become very well-rounded in the fisheries department.”

Padgett’s passion for fisheries combined with the skills she gained at Clemson helped her acquire the position of fisheries technician for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife service last summer. She spent most of her time as a fisheries technician learning the ropes of restoration and conservation efforts for Colorado-native fish species populations.

“My work involved a lot of invasive species removal via boat electrofishing on the Yampa River with the Upper Colorado Endangered Species Recovery Program,” Padgett said. “We also studied the population sizes of native species to determine population abundances; removing non-native Brook Trout from small streams in the Routt and White River National Forests in efforts to restore native Cutthroat Trout populations. I also spent some time stocking high mountain lakes with Tiger Trout fingerlings in order to maintain the fisheries and deploying temperature loggers to monitor potential temperature stress during the warmest parts of the summer.”

Padgett’s experience in Colorado cemented her dream to become a fisheries biologist one day in order to protect and preserve the nation’s biodiversity. The teamwork she witnessed in Colorado inspired her to achieve a network like it one day too.

“I saw so many agencies (USFWS, CPW, BLM, UDSA Forest Service, Colorado State University) come together to work in the field side by side all for the same purpose,” Padgett said. “The idea of putting differences aside between state and federal agencies and coming together to pursue the same ending goal is truly an incredible feeling and wherever I end up in my future career that is something that I am really going to try to encourage and promote.”

David Jachowski, assistant professor of wildlife ecology at Clemson and advisor to Padgett, said, “It is clear that like many of us in the fish and wildlife profession, the wide-open landscapes of the western U.S. have caught Ashley’s attention and inspired her. Just as here in South Carolina, there are urgent issues facing fish and wildlife management agencies in the western U.S. Knowing that one of our finest students will be making an impact to address those issues for years to come makes us proud she has chosen to be a Tiger.”