August 7, 2018

Choosing the right path

Erin Johnson (’06 double major in biology and broadfield science), pictured with the resident lake sturgeon "Herman" at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. This spring she began a new job as an Imperiled Aquatic Species Biologist at the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Jamestown, Kentucky.

Erin Johnson (’06 double major in biology and broadfield science), pictured with the resident lake sturgeon "Herman" at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. This spring she began a new job as an Imperiled Aquatic Species Biologist at the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Jamestown, Kentucky.

Alumna Erin Johnson is following her passion of working with endangered species

Choosing to attend a college nearly four hours away from home may seem overwhelming to many students. Yet for Erin Johnson (’06 double major in biology and broadfield science), the decision opened the doors to studying halfway around the world and gaining the knowledge for an exceptional career.

The college selection process began simply enough for Johnson, who grew up in La Crosse, Wis.

“I looked at about five colleges,” she said. “They all had a biology program, which I knew I wanted, but opted for UW-Superior because it was smaller. I didn't want large class sizes and when I came for a visit it just felt like the right place to be.”

Academically, Johnson found success and benefited from the teaching of former instructors Dr. Mary Blacer and Dr. Karl Waxman, and current biology professor Dr. Edward Burkett.

“I had a great time at UW-Superior,” she said. “I had a lot of experiences and learned a lot.”

Outside the classroom, Johnson became involved in activities that included being a four-year member of UW-Superior’s women’s soccer team. It also allowed her the ability to travel, taking part in the Alternative Spring Break Habitat for Humanity trip, a Coral Reef Ecology program, and study abroad trips to Scotland and to Australia through a partnership with UW-La Crosse.

“I'd always wanted to go to Australia,” said Johnson. “Financially it probably wasn't the cheapest, but going through school I thought was the easiest. I knew I wanted to spend as much time as I could there so having it semi-set up for me was the best option.”  

The experience in Australia was so enjoyable for Johnson that she returned two years after graduating from UW-Superior to continue her education with a Masters of Environmental Conservation degree from Melbourne University.

Johnson went on to work for nearly three years at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Genoa, Wis., developing a new program developing a protocol for captive rearing of the endangered Hines Emerald Dragonflies and taking part in fish and freshwater mussel cultures.

This spring she was again on the move, landing a new opportunity as an Imperiled Aquatic Species Biologist at the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Jamestown, Kentucky.

"I am helping to push the endangered species program at Wolf Creek forward adding to what the hatchery currently has,” she said. “I have a couple projects I am getting started. One is working with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources Center for Mollusk Conservation and the Cumberland River Aquatic Center Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in freshwater mussel propagation.  The last one is working with the Conservation Fisheries Incorporated in the Barren Top Minnow culture and with West Liberty University in starting a captive rearing program for the big sandy crayfish. Currently these are the main projects I am working on with many more to come.”

This current job enables Johnson to follow her passion by working with endangered species. While it doesn’t mean her traveling is complete, she hopes to continue working on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's mission of protect, conserve and enrich wildlife.

Erin Johnson (’06 double major in biology and broadfield science), pictured with the resident lake sturgeon "Herman" at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. This spring she began a new job as an Imperiled Aquatic Species Biologist at the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Jamestown, Kentucky.

Erin Johnson (’06 double major in biology and broadfield science), pictured with the resident lake sturgeon "Herman" at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. This spring she began a new job as an Imperiled Aquatic Species Biologist at the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Jamestown, Kentucky.

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