MIGUEL A. “Toño” GARCÍA
I was named MIGUEL A. “Toño” GARCÍA after born prematurely, eager to start a new and more productive life. I hold a Bachelor and Master degree from the Biology Department of the University of Puerto Rico and a Ph.D. from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). In August 2016, I passed to occupy a Fish and Wildlife Administrator position for FWS Science Application Program after a productive professional career (1991-2016) for the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, where I started as a wildlife biologist position and finished as Undersecretary for Protected Areas and Biodiversity. Apart from this job, I have received several appointments and recognitions being the most relevant to the fisheries field—Puerto Rico Delegate for the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council (NOAA NMFS) and Past and Current President of the Puerto Rico Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. My major accomplishments within the American Fisheries Society have been—Leading the creation of the Puerto Rico AFS Chapter (2010), the inclusion of Puerto Rico in the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) in 2016 and steering the hosting of the first ever AFS Southern Division meeting outside the continental USA (San Juan 2018) despite the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017. I have to confess that I morphed into a “fisheries professional” by training (never studied that in school) mainly through my AFS experience. Today, I seek to put my knowledge and skills to strengthen and expand the AFS Mission of developing professional in fisheries within and beyond our current geographies, with all your help and would be honored with your support to my candidacy for Vice President.
The fisheries profession has taken me around the globe, including work in Australia, the Laurentian Great Lakes, and Grand Canyon. Yet, my heart and passion for fisheries was founded and remains in the Southern Division. I grew up in North Carolina on the Yadkin River (High Rock Lake) and was VERY lucky to have Dr. Richard Noble as my undergraduate advisor at North Carolina State University. One of the first things Rich told me was “if you are serious about this profession then you have to join AFS”. That was in 1996. I am the U.S. Geological Survey Tennessee Cooperative Fishery Research Unit Leader. I was hired at the Unit to take over for Dr. Phillip Bettoli and we share the need for management driven science for partner agencies. I earned my PhD at the University of Florida. During my time working with Dr. Mike Allen, I got introduced to the Reservoir Committee and multiple Southern Division AFS initiatives. I am thrilled to be back in the southeast. I primarily focus on reservoir research and Asian Carp, but worked at Virginia Tech on endangered fish (Roanoke logperch) and other nongame species. Thus, I have great appreciation for diversity and fisheries in the southeast.
I joined AFS in 1996, had a 2 year hiatus while teaching high school, but saw the light for returning to the fisheries profession. I am a member of the Education Section, Fisheries Management Section, Fisheries Information and Technology Section (FITS), and SDAFS Reservoir Committee. I served as webmaster for FITS for several years as a way to try to give back. An SDAFS Officer position would allow me to continue giving back. Giving back to our professional society is a privilege and follows in the footsteps and expectations set by my mentors. I was a founder of the North Carolina State and Florida student subunits that developed bylaws and established them. I am Past President of the Florida student subunit and currently President of the Tennessee Chapter and Southern Division representative to the 2020 AFS Columbus, Ohio meeting for the science planning committee.
2020 started with a great Catfish Symposium and SDAFS meeting in Little Rock and then went downhill. We had to cancel our Tennessee Chapter meeting as many other AFS Chapters and Divisions did. As I reflect on the past months I think about legacy issues and emerging issues for the next year(s). One legacy issue that Doug Austen brought up during the SDAFS ExCom meeting was that we need to create better communication between state chapters, the Division and the Parent Society on membership across the levels. This seems like a minor point, but is important for multiple reasons (including political and financial) and seems like an easy thing we can clean up. Furthermore, bolstering student membership and making sure they are Parent Society members needs to be enhanced. Students get to access journals, reduced meeting registration, and become part of their professional society for $25; which is less than a night’s bar tab. Having students and other state Chapter members on the Parent Society membership creates more horsepower for the things that Bethesda is working towards for our profession and resources. Increasing professional and student diversity are ongoing legacy and increasingly emerging needs that we all support and I would continue to support. I would discuss with the SDAFS ExCom about creating a Diversity Technical Committee that could communicate with the Parent Society and other Divisions to ensure SDAFS is doing our part to support diversity in the fisheries profession. We have all learned in the last few months that an emerging need is technology for remote communication and conferencing. We have young, savvy techno-capable members that contribute to our website and facilitated participation in remote conference attendance and other technologies. I see this as an increasing need and would seek volunteers to help work with FITS and other Sections to keep us in touch in an unknown future. What a great way to potentially engage students and young professionals into the Division! I am excited about the opportunity to serve the Southern Division and you all.