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Degree takes grad on adventurous path

Degree takes grad on adventurous path

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A degree in wildlife management, coupled with a sense of adventure and desire to be outdoors, has led 2017 Chadron State College graduate Collin Eisenman to a variety of natural resource jobs in the American West, including work on an Alaskan crabbing boat featured on the long-running Discovery Channel show, Deadliest Catch.

A native of Sheridan, Wyoming, Eisenman said he came to Chadron State because he was offered an opportunity to play college football and had a favorable impression from a campus visit. A standout high school player in Wyoming he had a successful career with the Eagles, earning All-Conference honors in 2015 and 2016.

An avid hunter and fisherman, Eisenman said he decided to major in wildlife management because it seemed the most practical way to ensure spending all of his time in the outdoors.

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in December 2017, Eisenman got a job building structures at the head of irrigation ditches in Oregon to keep salmon and other fish out of farmers’ fields. His crew was based in a small town in eastern Oregon, but worked statewide, and the job took him to a dam removal project on the Umatilla River and work building a fish ladder on a Rogue River tributary near Medford.

From Oregon, Eisenman went to the mountain ranges of Arizona and New Mexico where he worked for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies conducting population surveys of the Mexican Spotted Owl, a federally-listed threatened species considered an indicator of the health of old-growth forests where it lives.

“I lived out of the bed of my Ford Ranger,” Eisenman said. “The job entailed hiking to some very remote locations at night to conduct surveys and was probably the most fun job I will ever have.”

Responding to an internet listing by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for a job as a shellfish technician, Eisenman said he landed the position following an interview in a Walmart parking lot in Arizona. Since starting the job in September 2019, he’s worked on seven different crab and scallop fishing boats. Job duties for a shellfish technician are primarily recording data on the boat’s fishing effort and conducting samples from the crab pots to assess health and population numbers of crab and the boat’s by-catch, Eisenman said.

The sea voyages have taken Eisenman from near the panhandle Alaska town of Yakutat to St. Mathew Island and the northern Bering Sea near Russia.

“The best part of the job is being able to see the small Alaskan fishing towns, as well as the remote lands of the Alaskan Peninsula and Kodiak Island,” he said.

During time off the boats, Eisenman has enjoyed sport fishing for salmon and returned to Wyoming to hunt deer and elk.

Among Eisenman’s assignments last year was work on a fishing boat called the Lady Alaska during the red king crab fishing season. Lady Alaska was one of the boats featured in the 2020 season of Deadliest Catch, which documents the dangers of fishing on the Bering Sea in the midst of some of the coldest and stormiest waters on earth. But danger isn’t the worst part of the job, according to Eisenman.

“The worst part is being part of the government complicating something as simple as fishing, although all of the paperwork does contribute to a good cause,” he said.

Work rules didn’t allow Eisenman to be involved in filming for the TV show or appear on camera.

“But if you see someone in the background with a tie-dye (shirt) and a rather dirty mullet, then it’s probably me,” he said.

Now safely back on land, Eisenman said he will be in New Mexico this summer, working as crew leader on the Mexican Spotted Owl project.

Earning the Chadron State degree has been essential to landing the outdoor natural resource jobs that he relishes, said Eisenman. Classes in land and resource management planning and independent study hours were particularly helpful, and he enjoyed working with Rangeland professors Dr. Teresa Frink and Dr. Tony Perlinski.

The understanding of team dynamics gained from participation in CSC football has also been valuable, Eisenman said.

“Without being able to work together and contribute to a team, it is almost impossible to achieve anything in life,” he said.

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