ERIC BILLMAN | Courtesy Photo

BYU-I biology professor offers fish research project to students

The Biology Department has its ongoing fish population research projects this semester at Beaver Dick Park as well as Badger Creek.

Eric Billman, an instructor in the Biology Department, began teaching at BYU-Idaho one year ago. He is the only fish ecologist on campus.

Billman said he first got the idea to start the research projects when several of his students were denied jobs at the Idaho Fish and Game Department because of their lack of experience.

“I try to give the students the opportunity to actually go out and collect some data and samples and comeback and work on analyzing that data,” Billman said.

Nellie Soptich, a senior studying wildlife biology, is now in her second semester of working on the Cartier project out at Beaver Dick Park.

Soptich said she is in a group of four that travels out to Beaver Dick Park to study and analyze the fish population and the environment there.

“We are taking inventory of what fish we catch,” Soptich said. “With the length you can tell approximately how old they are, if they are a new fresh batch of babies, or if they are about ready to spawn.”

Billman said that he has students doing lots of different research projects, such as studying the parasites in white fish or researching the green sucker and its possibility to be on the endangered species list.

Soptich said that her favorite part is being able to go out and get hands-on experience outside of the classroom.

“I’m like a little kid,” Billman said. “I like to go out there and just discover what’s going on.”

Billman said the most enjoyable part for him is being able to see the fascination and excitement in his students’ faces when they discover something new.

“That warms my heart right there,” Billman said. “That is what motivates me to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Soptich said that the hardest part of the project is all the time that it requires to put into it.

“There is this incredible diversity of life out there and just learning more about the creation is spectacular,” Billman said.



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