Greyhound Grad Daniel Gallegos recently returned to Eastern New Mexico University to launch a collaboration between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Mora National Fish Hatchery and ENMU's Dr. Antonio "Tony" Gennaro Natural History Museum.
Daniel, who is a fish biologist for the USFWS Mora National Fish Hatchery, explained that the collaboration began when the hatchery purchased several aquariums.
"We wanted to send these aquariums to different locations and supply them with a few fish to help educate and make the public aware about Gila Trout recovery efforts. I figured that the Gennaro Natural History Museum would be a great place to hold one of these aquariums," he said.
"After getting approval from my project leader, I contacted Dr. Ivana Mali [Gennaro Natural History Museum Curator and assistant professor of wildlife biology at ENMU], and it all unfolded from there. This collaboration [which began in April] will last as long as the museum is hosting our aquarium."
The Greyhound Grad, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in wildlife and fisheries in the fall of 2017, is dedicated to the recovery and restoration of the threatened Gila Trout, a fish found only in the Gila, Salt and Verde water drainages in Southwestern New Mexico and Southeastern Arizona.
His six years of working with Gila Trout has involved everything from spawning fish and cleaning tanks to completing various plumbing projects on station to stocking fish back out to the wild.
"My goal is to fully recover this species and to de-list them from the Endangered Species Act (1973)," said Daniel, who has worked with many other threatened and endangered species and species raised for recreational purposes.
He has assisted with conservation and mitigation efforts at federal fish hatcheries in several states, including New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota and Texas. Some of the other species he has worked with include Paddlefish, Alligator Snapping Turtle, Largemouth Bass, Colorado Pikeminnow, Razorback Sucker, Wyoming Toad, Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, Lake Trout, Steelhead Trout, Coho Salmon, Channel Catfish and Pallid Sturgeon.
Daniel said that there are plenty of opportunities for people to help endangered species. "You can volunteer at a fish hatchery or wildlife refuge near you to assist in conservation efforts," he explained. "Or even just letting your family and friends know about the work that the USFWS and other federal agencies are doing together to conserve, protect and enhance fish, plants and wildlife and their habitats in your local area."
The highlight of Daniel's job is "seeing these fish go back out to the wild because that's what it's all about! Every time we return fish to the wild, it is always one step closer to de-listing this species."
The fish biologist, who hopes to become the project leader at the Mora National Fish Hatchery someday, said that his goal is "to work with others to always conserve, protect and enhance fish, plants, wildlife and their habitats for the continual benefit of the American people."
Daniel's efforts are already making a difference: In 2015, he was presented with the Early Career Conservationist of the Year Award for the USFWS's Southwest Region, which includes Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma.
The Greyhound Grad was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and raised in Mora, New Mexico.
He had several jobs growing up. "Hard work has always been part of my lifestyle. I grew up hauling firewood, bucking bales, cleaning ditches, etc. My first job was at a slaughterhouse in my hometown. After that, I worked at two restaurants and a ranch before starting at the fish hatchery. I also was a wildland firefighter for six years and was able to go out to fight fires during the summer months while working at the hatchery."
His initial plan after high school was to become a special education teacher. He was hired for a position at the Mora National Fish Hatchery through the Youth Conservation Corps program right after his high school graduation in 2012.
"The former project leader at the hatchery, Jeff Powell, was a great boss, a great mentor and he had a huge impact on helping me decide what career path I wanted to pursue," explained Daniel. "After my first week on the job working with him, I knew that was what I wanted to do the rest of my life, and I also knew that I wanted to be in his position someday."
Daniel went on a work detail in the summer of 2014 to assist at the fish hatchery in Dexter, New Mexico, where he met Matt Ramey. Matt told him about the Wildlife and Fisheries Program at ENMU, which made Daniel want to attend the University.
"I really enjoyed my time at ENMU! I had some of the best professors out there, and I definitely learned a lot in all of my courses," said Daniel. "As it goes for friends, I made some lifelong buddies that I don't even consider friends anymore… I consider them all family.
Daniel explained that ENMU helped prepare him for his career by "teaching me all about different skills, concepts and research that has been done in wildlife and fisheries. In all of my courses, I definitely took something away and have used it in my career."
He was involved with the Thomas More Newman Center and the ENMU Fish and Wildlife Club, was presented with the Outstanding Senior in Wildlife and Fisheries Award at ENMU in 2017 and made the Dean's List every semester. He was also the first person in his family to graduate from college.
His advice for students interested in wildlife and fisheries is to "find a place to volunteer. If there is a fish hatchery, refuge or fish and wildlife conservation office near you, go out and volunteer. That will help you to gain experience, network and eventually will help you to get a job and start a career related to wildlife and fisheries."
Daniel was recently the guest speaker at the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Recognition Reception at Luna Community College in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he graduated with an associate degree in general science in 2015.
He is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Project Management from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota as an online student.
His hobbies include fishing, hiking and hunting.
"I am really close with my parents, my older brother, my grandparents and my godson and his family," said Daniel. "Aside from work, I enjoy spending time with all of them, whether it be attending mass together, hauling wood or just enjoying each other's company.
"I also really enjoy practicing and deepening my Catholic Faith. I had the privilege of joining the Knights of Columbus while at ENMU. What a truly amazing organization it is," he explained. "Also, my involvement at the Thomas More Newman Center really helped me to grow in my faith while at ENMU. I play guitar and sing in the choir for mass in Mora, and I also participate with other fraternities and organizations through the Catholic Church."