The 2023 recipient of the Otto Tiemeier-Frank Cross Student Scholarship was awarded to Blake Hansen, a graduate student for Dr. James Whitney at Pittsburg State University, at the 2023 Kansas AFS Chapter Business meeting at the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference in Overland Park. Please see below for a portion from the nomination letter provided by Dr. Whitney that highlights the distinction, work ethic, and high academic standing for Blake that made him an excellent recipient of the award with a promising, bright future ahead of him in the fisheries field. Congrats, Blake!
The major objective of Blake’s thesis research project is to compare secondary channel and island backwater habitats in their ability to function as nurseries for young-of-year Colorado Pikeminnow and Razorback Sucker in the San Juan River of NM, CO, and UT. This research is critically important for the conservation of these two federally-endangered species that experience near zero natural recruitment in the San Juan River, such that hatchery stocking is the only thing keeping them from being extirpated. Data collection associated with this project requires 6-day floating and camping trips through a 56 river-mile reach that flows from Shiprock, NM to Montezuma Creek, UT. The remoteness of this area makes conducting research difficult, but to complicate things further, data collection occurs during the critical post-spawning time period of July-September that coincides with the southwestern monsoon season that produces frequent flash floods and haboobs. Despite these challenges, Blake successfully coordinated and led seven data collection trips in 2021 plus an additional six trips in 2022, with each trip requiring management of two 16-foot rafts, two research technicians which he supervised, and all of the gear and food necessary to successfully make it down the river. This has been some of the most logistically-challenging research I have ever been involved with, thus I was thankful to have a graduate student as capable as Blake who could handle all the unexpected challenges of collecting data in the San Juan wilderness. Blake has been highly-capable off the river as well, as he has done an excellent job of managing and analyzing all the data he collected. He gave an oral presentation of his research at the Desert Fishes Council annual meeting in St. George, UT during November 2022, and plans to give another oral presentation at the 2023 Kansas Natural Resources Conference. Blake will be defending his thesis in April 2023.
Beyond his research achievements, Blake has also distinguished himself as an exemplary student of fisheries and aquatic sciences. I have taught Blake in Fisheries Management, Ichthyology, Biometry, and Stream Ecology, and in every class, Blake has always been a top performer, achieving a 4.0 GPA going into the final semester of his master’s degree. These classes have helped give Blake the skills he needs to be an effective fisheries researcher and biologist. In closing, Blake has repeatedly distinguished himself as an exceptional student capable of conducting research that informs the conservation and management of imperiled fishes. I believe the knowledge and experiences he has gained coupled with his hard-working and self-motivated attitude would make him a worthy recipient of the Otto Tiemeier Frank Cross Student Scholarship.