The purpose of the Rich Cailteux Award is to recognize individuals who have maintained a long-term commitment to research, management, and/or conservation of Florida fisheries and aquatic resources. This award aims to honor individuals for their career contributions to the fisheries profession and enhancing the visibility of the Florida Chapter. The Rich Cailteux Award is the highest honor Florida AFS may bestow upon an individual member or collaborating group.
2021 Rich Cailteux Award
There are so many words we could use to describe Eric’s long list of accomplishments, and outstanding is definitely near the top of the list. Of all his accomplishments, there are two that stand out the most in the context of this award. The first, his role as project leader of FWC’s statewide freshwater fisheries long-term monitoring (LTM) program, exemplifies “a distinct contribution to the fisheries profession”. As project leader, he managed a team of up to eight fisheries biologists, who performed year-round field sampling for the LTM program. He organized and coordinated their field support among more than a dozen offices that sample over 60 lakes and rivers annually. In his decade as project leader, Eric directly supervised 28 biologists and mentored countless others in Eustis and around the state. His mentorship, training, and guidance helped 7 former crew members promote to permanent positions in 3 different Divisions of FWC and 15 others move to other Agencies around the Country, transferring the wealth of knowledge gained under Eric’s tutelage. You can’t find a person that could say a single negative word about Eric, and he would never speak poorly of a colleague. Eric was always positive and could see the good in any situation. He respected and empowered his crew and colleagues, and everyone loved and appreciated him. During his career with FWC, his colleagues nominated him for many awards, and he received recognition for excellence in supervision, excellence in teamwork, and the coveted excellence in leadership multiple years.
Not only was Eric an excellent leader and mentor, he also played a critical role in the development, implementation, and maintenance of FWC’s LTM database. Eric’s vision to leverage technology within LTM, along with the LTM sampling manual, truly kicked the development of the LTM program into high gear. The technological foundation not only ensured the initial success of the project but allowed the scope to grow from the original 30 core waterbodies to 190 distinct waterbodies represented in the database today. Eric managed people and technology processes that allowed fisheries personnel throughout Florida to enter their data into a central database; he designed, tested, and implemented data entry forms and a series of data reports that allowed for the collection, safe storage, and retrieval of the data. The LTM database currently stores 1.6 million rows of fish data collected from over 52,000 sites, all easily searchable and retrievable. Eric’s efforts benefited freshwater fisheries in Florida but also Universities and Agencies throughout the country. There have been over 100 official data requests from external organizations and at least 8 different state Agencies that have requested input for designing their fisheries monitoring programs. Eric’s work allowed sampling data to be used in identifying trends and patterns in freshwater fisheries that were not possible in scope prior to the LTM project. His vision and specialized skillsets in programming, database management, data analysis, and fisheries biology paired with his natural leadership ability, innovative thinking, and work ethic cultivated the program and catapulted it into a national example of excellence.
The second accomplishment, serving as FL AFS webmaster for 7 years, embodies “enhancing the visibility of the Chapter”. As webmaster, Eric designed and maintained the Chapter’s current website, which helps keep current, former, and prospective members informed of Chapter events. Regardless of how busy he was with his FWC duties, he always made requested updates and additions promptly. Eric provided a convenient alternative for collecting dues and donations outside of the annual meeting by adding PayPal buttons to collect Chapter dues and donations to the website. He uploaded all prior issues of the Shellcracker to give members a glimpse into the history of the chapter. He also added a Continuing Education page to the website, which increased access to workshop recordings for members. There is no doubt that we are forgetting some details of Eric’s accomplishments, but that just serves to show how truly outstanding Eric was as a person, professional, and friend.