Working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Dane Davis found his passion for life early in his childhood back in Johnstown, Penn. Outdoor activities have been deeply embedded in his life ever since, especially fishing.
“I knew how to use a rod by the time I knew how to walk,” he says. “I always had an interest in the outdoors when I was younger. I wanted a career oriented toward outdoor activities, and I always had a fascination with the natural sciences. I decided to pursue that in college and was fortunate enough to get a degree that was tailored toward my career.”
As a senior in high school, Davis was also an Eagle Scout. For a senior and Eagle Scout project, he helped to renovate an environmental center for elementary school students.
Heading toward college, Davis began the pursuit for his dream career in the outdoors. He first attended the Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Johnstown, earning his associate’s degree in environmental health and safety technology.
His next step took him to Western State University in Gunnison from 2005 to 2008. There, he received a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies with dual minors in biology and geography.
He also took up an internship helping out with a research project on the impact of mine pollution on macroinvertebrates.
As for living in Gunnison, he remembers the frigid winters, though the cold never really bothered him. “It didn’t keep me indoors. I went running outside even though it was negative 15.”
In 2009, he moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa and furthered his education at University of Northern Iowa, earning a Master’s of Science degree in biology. As a graduate student, he researched the population genetic structure of the rainbow darter. He would even help set up lab equipment and grade papers at the university.
In 2011, Davis returned to Colorado and settled into Buena Vista. The town wasn’t new to him; he had visited it many times in his youth with his parents during summer vacations.
Looking for work to complement his degrees, Davis came to Colorado Parks and Wildlife and happily took up work in fish inventory.
Part of his work involves shocking the fish with a backpack shocker, an array shocker hooked up to a truck or electrical equipment set up on a raft. These provide different methods to collecting data on fish.
Mortality issues are low, he says, but when they do happen they result from handling and not electricity.
The information they gather from shocking tells the CPW about the health of the fisheries. “These methods allow us to estimate fish population and know what type of fish inhabits a body of water,” says Davis. “The array electroshocking and boat shocking techniques are used to see if the Gold Medal Standard is being met in the Arkansas River.”
His job also includes boat inspections and lake sampling. He and his coworkers will check crafts entering or leaving a reservoir to help keep flora and fauna safe.
When sampling a lake, Davis will use a gill net to capture a selection of fish, record their length and weight and then release them back into the water. “This is one monitoring method CPW employs to ensure anglers can continue to enjoy high quality lake fishing,” he says.
Davis is delighted to be in such an amazing work environment where he gets along with his coworkers and where they have a good, friendly relationship with the public. He also appreciates the positive impact he can have on the fish by collecting data on them.
“Sometimes you have to think on your feet,” he says. Last year, a forest fire rose up at Hayden Pass, and CPW aquatic biologist Greg Policky had to make the call on rescuing the fish living there. Doing things on the fly like relocating fish could be very challenging and stressful but at the same time rewarding in just keeping them alive.
Despite having a full work load most of the week, Davis finds his job more enjoyable than anything.
He plans to continue working with CPW. “Maybe sometime down the road I’ll switch gears and go help out with a fish culturist position and jump to a new style of career,” he says. This wouldn’t let him travel across the state as he normally does, but it remains an appealing job.
In the meantime, Davis will keep on fishing, hoping to someday hook a large tiger muskie on a fly rod. He’ll also be working toward his personal goal of running 10 half marathons.
With a passion for running, he joins in events like the Autumn Color Run and – his favorite – the Freedom 5K run during the Fourth of July. “Sometimes I’ll run the 5K, then afterwards I’ll still be in my runner’s outfit and make a beeline to work,” he says.
“One of the advantages of being out here is that it’s more rural,” Davis adds. “When I lived in Cedar Falls and urban areas, you might run a couple hundred yards, stop at a traffic light intersection, run a couple more yards. Here, you can just run nonstop, and very low traffic and not as many (traffic light) intersections.”
He’s run seven half marathons so far, just three away from his goal.