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CEE Alum Graduates from USFWS Pathways Internship into USGS Job

Kevin Mulligan

Kevin Mulligan

According to Professor Brett Towler of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department, CEE graduate alumnus Kevin Mulligan recently completed his Pathways Internship Program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and has accepted a professional position with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Towler is Mulligan’s adviser, an adjunct professor in CEE, a USFWS hydraulic engineer, and, along with Dr. Alex Haro (USGS) and CEE Professor David Ahlfeld, one of the creators of the Fish Passage community at UMass Amherst.

As Towler explains, “The USFWS Northeast Region's social media site features a very nice blog entry authored by Kevin. It recounts his experiences working with us over the past few years and touts the FWS/USGS/UMass partnership.”
See Mulligan’s Pathways blog

The Pathways Program promotes employment opportunities for students and recent graduates in the Federal workforce. These internships are designed to provide students enrolled from high school through graduate level with opportunities to work in the USFWS while still in school and while getting paid for the work performed. Students who successfully complete the program may be eligible for conversion to a permanent job in the USFWS or other federal agencies. In that regard, Mulligan has accepted a position as a research hydraulic engineer at the USGS Conte Lab in nearby Turners Falls.

Read Mulligan Blog entry:

Kevin Mulligan is a Pathways Program student working with the Northeast Region’s Fish Passage Engineering team. Implemented in 2010, the fish passage engineering program is the result of a successful partnership between the USFWS Northeast Region, the USGS Conte Lab, and the University of Massachusetts. Today, Kevin shares with us his experiences on the team.

The term “fish passage engineer” may not be the most trending subject in media these days, but for fish species that need access to habitat in order to live, a fish passage engineer can be the difference between finding successful spawning sites or, literally, hitting a brick wall.

I was first introduced to the Fish Passage Engineer Team through a partnership between UMass, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. At the time I was working on my graduate studies within the UMass Department of Environmental and Water Resources Engineering. The partnership is designed to give students practical on-the-job experience, and at the same time provide the agencies with academic resources for doing research and having students assist with critical work. As part of the partnership, Service employees teach classes and work with students on real, working projects.  In September 2013, I began a research project at UMass funded by the Hydro Research Foundation.  My adviser, Brett Towler, is a member of the Service’s Fish Passage Engineer Team and an adjunct professor at the university.  In May 2015, once my graduate studies were nearly completed, I joined the team as a Pathways Program intern.

My primary focus as part of the engineer team is to develop the region’s first ever fish passage engineering design criteria manual. Creating the manual requires integration of numerous scientific and engineering disciplines that include fish behavior, hydraulics, hydrology and hydropower. But for the fish and aquatic species I am working for, the criteria manual means survival.

As a Pathways Program intern some of the perks of working with the fish passage engineering team are visiting fishways throughout scenic New England, participating in technical meetings and learning from professionals actively working in the field. Thanks to my education and the partnership with the Service and USGS I feel equipped to handle these experiences and projects that I am asked to assist with. Specific courses in the fish passage specialization program that have been particularly useful in my work for the partnership are The Design of Fish Passage Facilities, Open Channel Flow, Hydrology, and the Ecology of Fish.

One of the projects I have been fortunate to work on was developing computational fluid dynamics and physical models to enhance the design of downstream guidance structures for fish passage. In addition, the partnership started an Annual International Fish Passage Conference, to which I have been on the organizing team for the past five years. After being held in Massachusetts at UMass in 2010, the conference took place in Oregon, Wisconsin and The Netherlands. My participation in the conference has allowed me to connect with people in the field of fish passage from all over the world.

I am honored to be part of such an amazing team of fish passage engineers and biologists northeast whose mission is to improve the life of aquatic organisms in our rivers and oceans. My time with the Service and the work through the partnership has truly been educational and personally rewarding. Undoubtedly, the additional knowledge and skills I’ve gained will be useful throughout my career.

Learn more about the Fish Passage Engineering partnership with UMass: The Fish Passage Engineering Specialization is a civil and environmental engineering graduate degree option at the University of Massachusetts Amherst developed in partnership with the USFWS and U.S. Geological Survey designed to prepare students for a career in the fields of fishway design, dam removal, stream restoration, watershed ecology through interdisciplinary course work in civil engineering, resource conservation, and ichthyology. (December 2015)