Ecology for Anglers

Shivam Gupta casting at Lake Berryessa

Fall 2019 First-Year Seminar Ecology for Anglers elevates a common hobby into a learning opportunity through field trips and real-life application to the greater Davis area.

Taught by Dr. Louie Yang, Ecology for Anglers looked at the strong intersections between ecologists and anglers with focuses on local and broad ecology, environmental changes, and of course—fishing. This First-Year Seminar was a bit different than others because it included four 5-hour field trips rather than weekly classroom meetings. These field trips included several sections of Putah Creek in Davis, but also Lake Berryessa in Napa. 

Dr. Yang sharing information about Lake Berryessa.

Dr. Yang sharing information about Lake Berryessa.

Before their Lake Berryessa trip, students gathered in Bainer Hall and Dr. Yang went over the statistics behind fishing, specifically in regards to probability. He went over the the effects of having an aggressive or flashy bait on the probability of catching a fish, and other factors. Another important thing to consider was the type of fish one was trying to catch, as that would also change how aggressively one would fish.

As the class drove through the Lake Berryessa area, they made stops to bird watch. When they arrived at the spot they planned on fishing at, Dr. Yang made sure to take to the time to talk about the water quality, the ways the environment changed throughout the seasons, and other ecological factors. Then, students were free to fish.

It was a very peaceful setting and one could tell there was a strong sense of community among them. Students helped other students with their rods, and those who weren't fishing shared binoculars to look at the birds. When asked why students chose to take the class, Jack, fourth-year, mentioned that he used to fish a lot and this class gave him the opportunity to revisit that hobby. Shivam Gupta, a second-year, said that he never fished before, and wanted to learn more about it. While no fish were caught that day, it was still very nice to travel outside the Davis community as well as engage in a peaceful yet exhilarating sport.

"The more I come out here [to Lake Berryessa], the more I care less about catching something. But I definitely would still love to catch something." - Dr. Louie Yang

Beyond educational material, Dr. Yang wanted his students to gain interpersonal skills such as confidence in themselves and a new perspective. The shared interest of fishing was the thread that tied them all together and led to a stronger community. Students easily bonded with one another, and one student even said, "I'm very surprised that these two students just met. I feel like they have been friends for a long time."

Dr. Yang managed to take a small hobby and turn it into an educational course that welcomed fishers, non-fishers, students who wouldn't consider themselves scientists, and more. A graduate student pointed out how amazing she thought it was that Dr. Yang, though normally an entomology professor, still chose to teach this FYS as a means to explore and share his own passion for angling. 

Check out the photo gallery for Ecology of Anglers.