Editor’s note: Building off the success of last year’s Native Odyssey campaign, Trout Unlimited is sending four of our brightest college club leaders in the TU Costa 5 Rivers Program to explore the home of the world’s largest runs of wild salmon: Alaska. Starting July 5, these students will explore the Kenai Peninsula, Bristol Bay and the Tongass National Forest in pursuit of the five species of Pacific salmon and other native Salmonids that call Alaska home. In partnership with Costa Sunglasses, Simms Fishing Products, the U.S. Forest Service, Fishpond USA, and Orvis, these students will seek to unearth, document, and share the challenges facing the largest salmon fisheries in the world.
Growing up in mountains of Pennsylvania, I spent as much time outdoors as possible. Most of my days were spent white-water kayaking, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, camping or finding other ways to have fun with nature, like searching for salamanders under rocks or splashing around in a nearby creek for crayfish. Shoes didn’t last a second on my feet and I was always covered in dirt and grass. I had the best childhood a girl could ask for.
As I got older, my interests in nature became more focused. I was consumed with curiosity about how plants and animals were connected and what it meant to be a living thing here on our beautiful planet. I had so many questions about the different ecosystems and biodiversity around me. This sense of wonder turned into a strong passion for science and the outdoors, leading me to where I am today.
Currently I am a senior at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. I have dedicated the last few years of my life completing several different fields of study. I am pursuing degrees in Biology and Secondary Education, as well as minors in Chemistry and Communications.
I have also spent some of my extra time working on two different research projects. One involved studying the autism spectrum disorder and family relations, and the other was centered on the metabolic rate of plethodontid salamanders, which is to be published in the Journal of Herpetology. Together, the knowledge and skills I have learned from my classes, labs, and research will help me become the best educator and advocate I can be.
In addition to my classes and research, I have become quite involved with campus clubs. I served as the president of the Outdoor Club for a year which allowed me to share my love for the outdoors with my peers doing hiking, camping, caving, slacklining and many other fun activities. While I held this positon, I also created two new clubs — the Archery Club and the Fly Fishing Club, which is recognized as a Trout Unlimited Costa 5 Rivers College Club. This fly fishing club is something very dear to me as I only began fly fishing a year ago after signing up for a fly tying class held by my local TU chapter, Mountain Laurel.
I am so proud of how far this club has grown in only one semester, having approximately 30 members and the support of many local conservation organizations around us. During my summers off I became involved in two amazing programs that have taught me leadership skills I will value for the rest of my life. The first program was working as a white-water rafting guide on the lower Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, Pa. Here I endured intense training sessions regarding safety (with and without ropes), lifesaving (including CPR certification), wilderness survival strategies, and becoming Swift Water Entry Level 4 certified.
The second program is working as a certified ecology director at a Boy Scouts of America camp, Camp Seph Mack. I love being able to teach young people about nature and conservation and explain why becoming stewards of our public lands and natural resources is so important. Here I earned my certification as a National BSA Angling Instructor and I promote fly fishing, fish and wildlife management and conservation as much as possible.
Finally, my hard work and dedication has paid off and I am honored to be a team member for the 2018 TU Native Odyssey team that’s headed to Alaska this summer. This trip of a lifetime will be a profound experience, and I am so excited for all that I will learn while on this expedition. The unique biodiversity of Bristol Bay and the Tongass National Forest is something so precious, awe-inspiring, and well worth preserving in its entirety. Continuous urbanization or mining will inevitably devastate the remaining wild Pacific salmon populations and threaten the surrounding ecosystems into collapse. It is up to all of us to advocate and protect these public lands and native fish so their natural splendor will reign forever.
— Kylie Hogan