Julie Conlon

Equinox Staff


Dave Daly entered Keene State College seeking a degree in architecture. Today, Daly is halfway through his first semester as a senior and can’t imagine the dull life he would have lived if he stayed in architecture.

“Sitting inside at a desk all day would have been so boring,” Daly said. “It wasn’t for me.”

Luckily, Daly found his niche shortly after stepping outside the walls of the office. Today, Daly is the KSC Geography Club president and a semester away from receiving a degree in geography.

Born and raised in Willimantic, Conn., Daly grew up with five brothers and two sisters, three of whom were adopted from Korea.

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Every time someone graduated from high school, the family took a trip. This travel is something that sparked an interest in geography for Daly early on.

“I love travelling, that’s where my interest in all of this really comes from,” he said.

In the spring semester of 2011, KSC professor Dr. Jo Beth Mullens encouraged Daly to apply for a summer internship with the Student Conservation Association. Daly jumped at the opportunity and applied for four positions—three for  park ranger positions in Idaho, Colorado, and northern California, and one application for the Cook Inlet Aquiculture Association in Kenai, Alaska.

The SCA approved only his application for Alaska. This particular internship was geared not toward a park ranger position, but toward the data collection of adult salmon in two remote Alaskan rivers.

On July 8, Daly arrived in Kenai, Alaska, where he met the 13 interns for a week of orientation. The interns spent the week taking first aid classes, bear awareness safety courses, and learned to use shot guns.

On July 17, Daly left Kenai for his first location with his partner, Ohio State University student Melissa Eckes. The two arrived at Fish Lake’s Creek with a weather-port, a “bear box” for their food, and a two-burner stove with a propane tank. Eckes said it took them 15 hours to set up camp as the two had to create their own clearing, dig the hole for a bathroom, set up an electric fence, and organize their equipment.

Daly and Eckes spent the next two weeks collecting data on adult sockeye salmon from the hatcheries they set up on the lake. A hatchery is a box for fish to swim into and where they remain temporarily trapped. Two to three times a day, Daly and Eckes opened the hatchery to count the fish, take scale samples, measurements, and environmental readings. At this first lake, Daly and Eckes collected just under 40 fish samples.

At Fish Creek’s Lake, Daly explained the temperature sometimes posed difficulty.

“I washed my hair one time in the lake and got a brain freeze,” he said.

A thrilling event was when a black bear entered their camp and took two pounds of ground beef. Daly had to spray the bear with his “bear mace” when it climbed a tree over their camp.

“It was scary, but he didn’t come back after that,” Daly said.

On Aug. 11, Daly and Eckes left for their second location, Judd Lake, where they used the same format for their data collection on sockeye. At this location, the two were kept busy as they tracked over 16,000 sockeyes.

For downtime, Daly and Eckes spent a lot of time on the water.

“Sometimes we would go out on the lake and read our books if it was a nice day. It was really cool because we were surrounded by mountains and glaciers– pretty much a perfect background,” Daly said.

By the time Sept. 5 rolled around, it was time for Daly and Eckes to return to the CIAA headquarters, and then home a week later.

Back at KSC, most of Daly’s time is spent on his seminar project.  Daly and his team are working to create a greenway along the Ashuelot River. Taking a moment away from his current project, Daly reminisced about his trip to Alaska.

“I absolutely loved Alaska,” he said. “It changes the way you look at stuff because you take for granted so many things. It’s very different.”

Daly’s partner Melissa said she enjoyed her time in Alaska with Daly.

“Dave was a very dedicated intern,” she said. “He always completed tasks he started and did more than the bare minimum.  He was very passionate about the nature that surrounded us.”

Daly’s advisor, Professor Albert Rydant, said the kind of internship Daly completed took a lot of courage as he complimented his work ethic and character.

“Dave is a good student,” Rydant said. “He is just a pleasure to be with—he’s always willing to learn.”

After graduation, Daly hopes to move west for a park ranger job. He said he would also be willing to repeat the Alaskan internship again.

“I want to do this again,” he said. “Just something outdoorsy, maybe with the AmeriCorps even.”

Whatever his plans may be, Daly’s Alaskan adventure left a lasting impact on his life.

“I couldn’t have lived like that forever,” he closed. “But for a period of time I could. It was just extraordinary.”


Julie Conlon can be contacted at jconlon1@ksc.mailcruiser.com

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