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Iowa fisheries research biologist Jonathan Meerbeek was recognized as the Fisheries Biologist of the Year by the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (MAFWA) at their annual meeting last week in Saint Louis.
MAFWA, an organization of 13 state and three provincial Midwest fish and wildlife agencies, exists to share ideas and information, pool resources, and initiate action to benefit the management and conservation of fish and wildlife resources in the Midwest. This award is presented annually to a fisheries biologist that demonstrates unparalleled initiative towards the better understanding of fishes and their conservation.
Meerbeek, DNR natural lakes fisheries research biologist working out of the Spirit Lake Fish Hatchery, was recognized for his quality walleye and muskellunge research and other efforts to improve fishing in Iowa’s natural lakes.
Meerbeek works closely with DNR management biologists and northwest Iowa fishing clubs to identify and prioritize natural lakes research needs. “Jonathan does an excellent job designing research projects to answer questions posed by district fisheries biologists managing fisheries in Iowa’s natural lakes,” said George Scholten, DNR fisheries research supervisor. “His research doesn’t just end up on a shelf – rather it yields useful information that is integrated into natural lakes management and ultimately helps to shorten the time between bites for Iowa anglers.”
Meerbeek worked with the Upper Great Plains and Heartland chapters of Muskies, Inc. on a project that should yield useful information for muskellunge management in Iowa. This project will follow yearling muskellunge immediately after stocking to assess survival and movement during their first months in the wild. Members of these chapters donated funds and obtained a grant from the Hugh C. Becker Foundation to purchase the radio telemetry equipment used to follow these fish. “This is an excellent example of how Jonathan works closely with our partners and customers to conduct quality research that will aid fisheries management and, in turn, fishing for Iowa anglers,” Scholten said.
Meerbeek also has been working with the Iowa Board of Regents’ Lakeside Lab and the Friends of Lakeside Lab to collect data to assess the effects of zebra mussels on aquatic vegetation in the Iowa Great Lakes. Information gathered from his research will help lake managers plan and prepare for future zebra mussel infestations in other lakes.
Meerbeek shares his research findings at various professional meetings and has published four manuscripts in the American Fisheries Society’s North American Journal of Fisheries Management.
Meerbeek’s contributions to the DNR’s Fisheries Bureau are not limited to his role in the Research Section. He frequently assists the management and culture teams in Spirit Lake, as well as other teams around the state. “Jonathan is always willing to do what needs to be done for the good of the resource,” said Scholten.