Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
During the spring, Salvador Mondragon, a 2007 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, often spends weekdays sampling rivers for different fish species and conducting lake fishery surveys in the public waters of Missouri. By the early summer he will conduct a variety of fishing and educational programs for the 16-county region he covers, as well as oversee lake habitat enhancement activities such as planting beneficial aquatic vegetation and controlling invasive plant species. The variety of responsibilities Mondragon undertakes throughout the year is one of the favorite parts of his career as a fisheries management biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
“As plans can change fairly regularly, you can never expect a typical work day in fisheries management,” he said.
Mondragon said part of the MDC’s mission is to professionally manage the fish and associated aquatic plants and animals of Missouri for the use and enjoyment of the public. To help ensure healthy and productive waterways, his duties include collecting water chemistry measurements from impoundments and streams to check water quality and compiling and interpreting fish population and habitat data for public lakes managed by the MDC. Other job duties include conducting fish kill investigations in public lakes and streams, as well as investigations in cases of pollution or violations of the Clean Water Act.
“My favorite days are spent working in the field,” he said. “There’s just a special feeling you get when you are out on the water on a calm spring or fall morning when the environment around you is changing with the seasons.”
Mondragon says a large portion of the job involves interacting with the public. He regularly provides technical assistance to private landowners regarding fish and aquatic plant management, including advice on the application of herbicides and other chemicals. Community outreach activities including coordinating fishing clinics, pond and stream management workshops, field days, career days, fishing events and youth organization camps.
“I really enjoy getting the chance to meet members of the public who use some of the lakes or streams I manage, as well as those who participate in the fishing events we conduct around the region,” he said.
Mondragon’s career at the MDC began when he started working as a resource technician. He was later hired as a fisheries specialist, working at fish hatcheries in Sweet Springs and Warsaw, Missouri before being promoted to his current position at the office in Cape Girardeau.
The variety of experience Mondragon gained while pursuing a degree in fisheries biology at UAPB proved beneficial when applying for positions as a biologist, he said.
“During my education at UAPB, the professors at the Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence made sure I obtained as much hands-on experience as possible,” he said. “I appreciated the hands-on training included in many fisheries courses that were offered at the undergraduate level. I worked for a different professor or graduate student every year on the various research projects being conducted at the time. I spent a lot of time at the aquaculture research station, working with baitfish and on channel catfish production studies.”
Mondragon said influential professors at UAPB included Dr. Steve Lochmann and Dr. Mike Eggleton, professors of aquaculture and fisheries. During a lab course with Dr. Lochmann, he read bass otholiths, the calcium structures in bony fish that biologists use to determine age and growth-rate of fish. He worked with Dr. Eggleton on a study of largemouth bass in the Arkansas River that involved the use of electrofishing.
“During my final year, I had the chance to work with Dr. Wes Neal, former professor of aquaculture of fisheries at UAPB, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on a creel survey being conducted in Little Rock urban lakes,” he said.
Mondragon said current UAPB aquaculture and fisheries majors should consider pursuing career opportunities at the MDC after graduation.
“I recommend Missouri Department of Conservation as a great place for graduates to start their career,” he said. “You will get the opportunity to gain valuable experience and work with some very good people who are experts in their fields,” he said.
Mondragon said he has always enjoyed working with fish. Originally from Lake Village, Arkansas, he grew up working on several farms in Chicot County, including a fish farming operation. He credits his friend Dean Evans as the first person to suggest going to college to obtain a degree in aquaculture/fisheries.
“I had worked for Mr. Evans at a deer camp for a couple of seasons,” he said. “He noticed my potential and encouraged me to contact Dr. Carole Engle, the director of the Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence at the time. He was a friend of Dr. Engle’s and both of them helped me obtain a full scholarship to attend UAPB.”
During his spare time, Mondragon likes to spend time outdoors and enjoy the Missouri waters that he works to conserve.
“I like to hunt but enjoy fishing the most,” he said. “Wade fishing for smallmouth bass in Missouri’s clear water is my favorite type of fishing, and I also enjoy bowfishing during the summer months.”
Mondragon is married to Imelda Mondragon. The couple has two sons, Salvador Andrew and Liam Marco Mondragon.