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Cashton native Noel Schmitz wins Females in Fisheries conservation scholarship

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Fisheries award winner

Noel Schmitz, of Cashton, who is studying at The Ohio State University has been awarded a Noreen Clough Memorial Scholarship for Females in Fisheries.

The sixth annual Noreen Clough Memorial Scholarships for Females in Fisheries have been awarded to Noel Schmitz, of Cashton, Wisconsin, who is studying at The Ohio State University, and Iowa State University student Madeline Lewis of Poughkeepsie, New York.

Noreen Clough blazed many trails in the field of fisheries. As the first female regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and later as the B.A.S.S. Conservation Director, her distinguished career was dedicated to the conservation and management of fish and wildlife. Clough passed away in January 2015. As a tribute, friends and colleagues established an endowment to provide a scholarship for female students working toward a career in fisheries conservation.

Schmitz has a long-standing love of fishing that dates back to her childhood summers.

“Growing up, my uncle would take my siblings and me to stay with relatives at Green Lake in Minnesota during the summers,” said Schmitz. “We would often go fishing early in the mornings or in the evenings. I remember wanting to fish off the dock all night.”

Prior to starting her undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Schmitz was part of the American Fisheries Society’s prestigious Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program. As a Hutton Scholar, Schmitz completed an internship at La Crosse Fish Health Center, part of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

“I was able to experience the many roles of a fisheries biologist firsthand, including conducting fish health surveys at a hatchery, detecting diseases in wild-caught frogs and aiding in mussel health surveys,” she said. “This internship ultimately led me to pursue my master’s degree in fisheries and wildlife science to prepare myself for a career in fish and wildlife conservation and management.”

Schmitz’s thesis research is focused on climate-change-induced stressors, such as increased water temperature and hypoxia, impacting predator-prey interactions between smallmouth bass and invasive round gobies in the western basin of Lake Erie. She will be working on this project next summer as well to complete her master’s degree at The Ohio State University in December 2023. After finishing school, Schmitz plans to move home to Wisconsin to begin a career as a fisheries biologist with a natural resource agency.

Lewis earned her master’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Management at Montana State University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Fisheries Biology at Iowa State University.

Her current research involves evaluating population and movement dynamics of walleye and muskellunge in two Iowa reservoirs to better understand how escapement, natural mortality and harvest mortality regulate sportfish populations. Lewis plans on graduating in spring 2025 and hopes to pursue a career as a state or federal research biologist.

Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. conservation director, noted, “Both of these young women have a bright future in fisheries, but in addition to their academic strengths, they stood out from many of the other applicants because they were avid anglers.”

Gordon Robertson, retired vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association and a longtime colleague of Noreen’s added, “Noreen put a high value on lessons learned from recreational fishing from both a resource understanding and appreciation perspective, but also from a perspective of understanding anglers and how they think and react to resource and social issues.”

Lewis and Schmitz will each be awarded a $1,000 scholarship from the Southern Division American Fisheries Society Black Bass Conservation Committee to be used for college expenses.

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