Fellow spotlight: Ben Americus

Ben Americus is an Alaska Sea Grant State Fellow with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF), working as a science policy coordinator. As one part of this role, he is the AFDF primary point of contact for matters involving Alaska hatchery salmon.

man in skis wearing helmet and backpack standing in snowy slope with mountains and sunset in background
photo courtesy of Ben Americus

Americus was raised in Cordova, Alaska, and is no stranger to hatcheries. The son of a commercial gillnet fisherman, his teenage summers were spent fishing for hatchery chum salmon. After high school, he was hired as a field technician for the first season of the Alaska Hatchery Research Program, which has been investigating the interactions of hatchery and wild pink and chum salmon for more than a decade.

Americus applied for the Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship while working on his PhD in microbiology at Oregon State University. He discovered that AFDF was looking for a candidate to summarize results of Alaska Hatchery Research Program studies for seafood sustainability assessment. These assessments, which look at the management of Alaska’s salmon fisheries, occur every five years, and the hatchery program is a main focus of the current review.

Bearded man standing in front of red helicopter. Patches of snow on hill in background.
photo courtesy of Ben Americus

“Given my familiarity with hatchery salmon and my education in genetics, this seemed like a job that I might be well-suited for,” Americus said. As part of his work, he collaborated with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to produce a synthesis of results for the sustainability assessment.

“The best part of my fellowship has been getting to work with interesting people,” Americus said. “The biologists, hatchery managers, and processors I’ve interacted with have decades of experience. I have been doing a lot of listening.”

In the spring, Americus will return to Cordova to assist in development of the mariculture industry as part of his fellowship. In the future, he plans to work in fisheries science in Alaska. “This fellowship has given me a good sense of the challenges and opportunities,” he shared. “Alaska has a rich history of sustainable fisheries, and I want to contribute to this sustainability into the future.”