Since she was a small child, Elizabeth Lindley, who is now a 19-year-old college student, has wanted to work in the fisheries industry in Alaska. Growing up in Bethel along the Kuskokwim River, she was raised in a traditional subsistence lifestyle. Every summer, she learned from her dad how to provide food for her family throughout the winter season through harvesting, processing and storing fish. Elizabeth says fishing has been a part of her since she was little, and she plans for it to be her future, too.
“I want to help improve the fish stock in Alaska. The king salmon crisis has been hard on the people in my region – fish are their way of surviving,” Elizabeth explained. “For as long as I can remember, this has always been my passion. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and ANSEP helped me get here.”
When she wasn’t on the water growing up, Elizabeth worked hard in the classroom and became involved with ANSEP after a computer build peaked her interest during her sophomore year of high school. After participating in Acceleration Academy, she realized that ANSEP’s scholarship program was her ticket to the career she always imagined for herself.
In 2014, she was valedictorian of her graduating class at Bethel Regional High School, and she soon began her paid internship in Nome working for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game through ANSEP Summer Bridge. The internship only enhanced her appreciation for the work associated with managing Alaska’s fish stock and ultimately drove her to enroll in the fisheries program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“I had a blast working for Fish and Game during my internship – we did weir work, fish pounding and took samples of crab while commercial fishing in Kotzebue.”
With hands-on experience like that, it’s no wonder Elizabeth was rehired by the Alaska Fish and Game this past summer working as a technician on the Kuskokwim River. Throughout the summer she grew her knowledge of the fish in the area, fishing every incoming tide and tagging all the king salmon they caught.
For years, a combination of factors has contributed to failed king salmon runs in the Kuskokwim River. While king salmon runs on the Kuskokwim have a pattern of cycling up and down, changes in ocean temperatures and an increased number of accidental kills by other ocean species have led to record lows in recent years. In addition, the number of Alaskans who depend on the king salmon harvest has increased, which only adds more pressure to the stock.
Elizabeth’s goal is to graduate from college prepared for a career that helps those who need it most – Alaskans living in rural villages along the river. With ANSEP, she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime to live out her dream and earn a degree in fisheries.
Elizabeth says the toughest thing about transitioning to college was breaking out of her shell and meeting new people. She explained, “I was super shy in high school. ANSEP forced me to meet new people and work together as a team. The support of everyone around you definitely makes learning easier.”
With the support of her peers, Elizabeth has quickly adapted to her new surroundings and the rigors of college life in Fairbanks. According to Elizabeth, it’s important to stay dedicated, and Alaska presents plenty of opportunities to be successful in STEM industries.
“Outside of fisheries, I would like to work as a biologist doing research somewhere in Alaska studying the environment. I haven’t seen all of Alaska; I’d like to visit other communities and learn more about the state,” said Elizabeth. “There are a lot of natural resources that require STEM jobs to be managed and explored in order to maintain the sustainability of Alaska’s future.”
While Elizabeth will likely continue to work with the Department of Fish and Game during her summers off, we’re confident that no matter where she ends up, she’ll inspire all those around her turn their passions into careers, too.