College of Science

Department of Applied Environmental Science

Joel Casagrande '01: National Marine Fisheries Biologist

Image of Joel Casagrande

In 1997, I enrolled in the Earth Systems, Science, and Policy (ESSP, now ESTP) major at CSUMB and quickly realized what a unique opportunity the program and the location had to offer. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to study, a geology/hydrology course my first semester quickly got me hooked on streams and aquatic ecology. In April 2000, I took advantage of an internship opportunity with a new research team lead by Dr Fred Watson (now CCoWS) at the Watershed Institute at CSUMB. Later that week I was collecting sediment and nutrient samples in streams throughout the Salinas Valley… 2 am. Part of this work eventually became my Capstone project and was the beginning of my career as an aquatic ecologist.

Image of Joel by the river

After graduating in 2001, I became a full-time research technician at the Watershed Institutewhere I continued to evolve and sharpen my interests in watershed sciences. I ended up spending nine years at the Institute and participated in a diverse series of research projects – see the CCoWS homepage. Between the courses at CSUMB and the research experience gained while at the Institute, I knew I was well equipped to take on new challenges that lie ahead.

While working at the Institute, I enrolled as a graduate student at San Jose State University (SJSU) in 2003, where I studied steelhead populations in the Pajaro River watershed. In 2010, I completed my thesis and graduated with a Master’s of Science degree from SJSU. Since 2005, I have continued to monitor steelhead abundance and distribution in streams of the upper Pajaro River watershed. These data are now being used to guide the development of a stream flow release strategy for reservoirs in the watershed that will ultimately benefit steelhead population recovery.

In April 2009, I accepted a contract position as a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and in August 2010, I accepted a term position with NMFS as a fisheries biologist where I assess project related impacts to salmonids and green sturgeon.

The experiences and accomplishments gained while at CSUMB, both as a student and as a research technician, helped form the foundation of my goal of becoming a fisheries biologist.