The Champaign-Urbana Bass Club of Illinois has awarded Jeffrey Stein the sixth annual Ron Ward Memorial Scholarship. Stein is a doctoral candidate in natural resources and environmental science at the University of Illinois.
The scholarship, this year in the amount of $8,000, is awarded annually to a graduate student performing fisheries research with the Illinois Natural History Survey, the research arm of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).
Stein has taken an unusual path to this point. After receiving his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Illinois in 1993, he worked the next four years as a graduate research and teaching assistant at the university. In 1998, Stein began work for the U.S. House of Representatives, where he coordinated legislative efforts and developed Upper Mississippi River policy initiatives. He further coordinated the formation of the Upper Mississippi River Congressional Task Force.
In 1999, Stein became the Mississippi River Regional Representative for American Rivers, where he was responsible for managing the campaign to protect and restore the Upper Mississippi River. In doing so, he was able to build political relationships with federal and state agencies, even writing and delivering testimony before Congress. Stein returned to the University of Illinois in 2002 to begin working on his master's degree in conservation biology, which he earned in 2004. During this time, he was an investigator for database management and analysis of fisheries in Illinois and was responsible for the IDNR's Fisheries Analysis System.
Stein's dissertation project is designed to determine measurable changes in production of young-of-the-year largemouth bass under varying angling pressures, through a series of experimental angling studies conducted at Fox Ridge State Park in Charleston, Ill.
"As a lifetime angler and outdoor enthusiast, I strive to bring together my scientific understanding of the ecology and behavior of fish with sound management principles that promote sustainable recreational fisheries," said Stein. "Building a bridge between good science and sound management is the key to sustainable fisheries. Managers are interested in the utility of using catch-and-release angling to ensure the stability and longevity of sportfish populations, while researchers have focused their efforts on the effect of a catch-and-release angling event on adult survival and overall fitness.
"To date, no studies have examined how recreational catch-and-release angling affects entire populations in a natural, non-controlled system. The results of my research should provide an important perspective of the effects of catch-and-release angling on bass populations and lead to important advances in management strategies that support sustainable fisheries."
Members of the Champaign-Urbana Bass Club will be taking part in the research Stein is performing at Fox Ridge State Park. It is this cooperative effort between the anglers and the researchers/managers that the club is especially proud. It encourages other B.A.S.S. Federation Nation clubs to develop a similar relationship with their states' fisheries agencies. The club also thanks the Illinois B.A.S.S. Federation Nation for its support through its Matching Funds program, in which it shares a member club's costs associated with performing conservation or youth projects.
The Champaign-Urbana Bass Club has now awarded more than $34,000 in scholarships, which assist the graduate students with the costs associated with their research. Ron Ward, the scholarship's namesake, was a longtime club president who was very active in Ducks Unlimited and other conservation efforts. He died in 2001.