Alumni Spotlight: Jessie Koehle
Degree (s)/ Major (s): M.S. Conservation Biology, Fisheries & Aquatic Science
Grad Year: 2006
Advisor(s) : Dr. Ira Adelman, now Professor Emeritus
Current organization/ employer: City of Eagan
Favorite memory of campus:
How the Linden trees bloomed all over as you walk from Hodson Hall over to Lori's or the weekly cheese sale; Playing tennis or goofing off with my lab mates; staying late to do experiments and playing tricks on other people in the lab.
Why did you choose CFANS as a college?
I had just moved to Minnesota for personal reasons and was offered a research assistantship position, which would pay for my tuition through a Master's program. The program seemed well thought out, with interesting classes and potential for good career connections.
Why do you think the University of Minnesota is great?
It's a large and well-connected university with many resources, especially for my own area in the natural sciences. UMN collaborates with many other organizations and has several campuses to choose from; however the individual colleges and classes and graduate programs were small enough to still feel personal.
Career information/ professional achievements:
I am currently the Water Resources Technician for the City of Eagan. I have worked for City of Eagan since 2007 after completing my MS in 2006 and working as a laboratory technician for about a year at the University of Minnesota. I love the variety and independence of my job here at Eagan, where our team of 3 Water Resources professionals is large enough to get into a whole lot of different projects but small enough to have a lot of input into the various goals and projects that we are involved in. My role here involves Eagan's Neighborhood Fishing Program, which has expanded into running our own fish population surveys, winter aeration for fish survival, youth and family fishing events, fish stocking, and so far one public survey about use of fishing resources. My connections and education from the UMN's fisheries programs have been invaluable in this regard. I also am responsible for getting a variety of permits from the state for lake management activities, doing water quality sampling throughout the year, doing pond chemical treatments, and helping to fulfill the City's requirements in regards to its ongoing stormwater permits from the State. I am involved with educating folks throughout our community and within the local schools, providing mentoring opportunities such as the CFANS Mentor Program, and have attended annual meetings of the MN chapter of the American Fisheries Society as well as the annual Water Resources Conference in St Paul.
What's your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?
I love the variety of my job and the hands-on field application aspects of water resources management. I love the variety of people that I routinely communicate with, from students to other City departments to State officials to consultants to researchers. Sharing ideas and seeing waterbodies improve in quality or fish populations, or hearing a positive experience about a family's fishing trip are all really rewarding parts of my day. We are constantly refining our management programs and I work with a really excellent group of people, so I find each day unpredictable yet very rewarding.
How did your education at the U of M help prepare you for what you are doing today?
My fisheries-focused education helped me prepare for the fish management portion of this job, but it also gave me long-standing contacts with whom I regularly consult to this day. I had many opportunities to present my research from UMN, and that public speaking practice, along with trying to translate science into easily understandable public messages are things I use all the time.
What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)?
Look for opportunities you may enjoy, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Talk to other students who have recently gone through similar experiences to what you are pursuing, see what their advice for you may be. Keep applying and taking opportunities in a variety of places, and don't be discouraged if something isn't a perfect fit right away- it's ok to move around a bit before you find the career you really love. Many times your professional connections will help you get a job just as much or more than your school grades, classes, or resume. Put extra effort into calling agencies you might like to work for, and ask if you can do a job shadow day, or have an informational interview, just to get to know the people who work there. You'll learn something, and then they will remember your name if you ever apply! Also, try your best to be organized now and develop good habits and a system for organizing digital media. In today's world where so many options are available for digital storage, it's easy to be digitally disorganized, but you will thank yourself later if you come up with a good system now!