Illinois Water Magazine_A word

From 2012 to 2014, I had the unique opportunity to take part in the National Institutes for Water Resources-U.S. Geological Survey (NIWR-USGS) student internship program. The position allowed me to work on a highly critical and relevant project studying the dynamics of the fate and transport of Asian carp eggs using numerical simulations and laboratory experiments with synthetic surrogate eggs. As part of this project, I developed the FluEgg model, an assessment tool for the evaluation of Asian carp reproduction in spawning rivers.

Working as part of a team of project scientists was a key part of the internship. We evaluated the complex dependencies between flow, temperature and egg development. This information provided resource managers with a range of conditions under which rivers are vulnerable to Asian carp reproduction. Results from this multi-year internship project are useful for scientists, managers and stakeholders both to improve their understanding of the drifting behavior of Asian carp in early life stages and to aid their decision making processes.

The USGS internship was an absolutely wonderful experience. One of the most valuable and rewarding aspects of the internship was the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with USGS scientists Elizabeth Murphy and Ryan Jackson. Murphy and Jackson, along with my PhD advisor Professor Marcelo H. Garcia, provided guidance, feedback and mentorship. Interaction with USGS scientists taught me the value of concrete and applicable research. Regular meetings helped me be motivated and provided continuous feedback on my own research. One other valuable aspect is the fact that my internship work was the same as my PhD project. In this way, I was able to dedicate 100 percent of my time to a single research project rather than a PhD dissertation plus the funded project.

Today, I am a research hydrologist with the USGS Illinois Water Science Center. I work on projects studying the fate and transport of the early life stages of Asian carp in the Illinois and Sandusky rivers in Illinois and Ohio, respectively. In addition, I am working on evaluating the swimming speed of Asian carp larvae at different developmental stages using image processing techniques. Currently, the FluEgg model is used by other researchers to assess Asian carp reproduction in different streams.

I highly recommend students apply to the NIWR-USGS student internship program. My internship was valuable because not only did I work on solving a critical problem like the invasion of Asian carp, but I also had the opportunity to work with experienced scientists who eventually became my mentors. However, arguably the most valuable outcome of my internship was full-time employment with USGS.

Illinois Water 2016

Photo: Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

A Word from Tatiana Garcia