Mike Atwood developed a passion for the outdoors early in his life and said he was destined to find a career in the field.
The new aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife was born in Salida and raised in Buena Vista and spent many hours around the Arkansas River.
“I always had the feeling that this was where I wanted to be, and this is the place I love,” Atwood said. “I made it a goal to live here and make a living here. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be here.”
Atwood attended Colorado State University-Fort Collins, where he obtained a degree in fish wildlife and conservation biology with an emphasis in aquatic science.
That degree helped him return home, where he worked seasonally at CPW for eight seasons and got to observe the nature of the job in more ways than one.
“I’m really familiar with the Arkansas River and reservoirs and streams and high lakes because I’ve spent my whole life here,” Atwood said.
During those eight years, Atwood worked with former CPW aquatic biologist Greg Policky, who held the position for 24 years before retiring in February 2017.
Atwood said one of the most important messages Policky gave him didn’t necessarily have to do with office or fieldwork but how to consistently do the job efficiently.
“He said if you want to do this job effectively, it’s about the relationships you make. Big changes don’t happen from one person, it takes multiple people across different agencies,” Atwood said. “Come together and pursue a common goal. That was his most important message.”
Atwood shares information with the fish hatchery and others throughout the year, and he said the job varies depending on the season.
“From May through November that’s the field season. That’s when I’m out collecting data,” Atwood said. “In winter (December through March/April), that’s when there’s more time in the office and taking what you’ve collected and summarizing it and ultimately making management decisions based off the data.”
The data Atwood collects represents fish population estimates. The information Atwood finds by examining the data is used for analyses such as species composition, what species make up a lake, overall health of individuals and reproduction.
“There are different ways in which we collect that data,” Atwood said. “We used different methods such as electrofishing, passive strategies such as gill nets, and they all have specific applications. The question isn’t always the same. We may have different goals for what we discover.”
Atwood said his years with Policky helped him prepare for his first office season and to generate reports that can be used in “making well informed management decisions.
“Greg gave me some experience as far as data entry and writing reports,” Atwood said. “As far as being the biologist who makes decisions, it’ll be a first time, but I feel as though Greg prepared me as well as he could.”