The wind is crisp and unsympathetic at 8 a.m. on Cave Run Lake. Tom Timmermann braces himself against the morning air with rain gear and scraped hands, cutting through waves in his outboard boat.
He gillnets fish to sample for his annual report as part of his work as a District Fisheries biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife at the Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery. The samples will help determine the size and creel limits for fishing in the 23 counties he supervises. Tom feels it is his responsibility to enhance and preserve the environment.
"Anybody that gets into natural resources, you're getting into it for the love of something," he says. "Fishery was my first love."
Tom was inspired to pursue his career thanks to an uncle who studied wildlife biology. Tom's father was distant from Tom as a child, and his uncle stepped in as a role model. "It was absolutely every bit his influence and his help and his advice that got me here,” says Tom.
Scott Barrett started working at the hatchery the same time as Tom. “We’re somewhat of a family,” says Scott. “It’s good having someone you can talk and relate to. He’s professional, knowledgeable . . . He’s just a good fella.”
Tom met his wife, Jen, through his first boss at the fish hatchery. The two have been married for five years. “He’s 100 percent my very best friend,” says Jen. The two have a daughter, Caelin, 3. “Caelin is absolutely his No. 1 concern," Jen continues. "He does everything he can for us.”
Caelin is described by Tom and Jen as their “little nature baby.” She’ll come home from preschool with dirt, acorns and leaves shoved in her pockets. That's fine with Tom. "As adults that have an appreciation for the outdoors, it’s our responsibility to make sure that gets passed on to as many people as it can,” Tom explains. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure it gets passed on to Caelin.”
"Our goal at this point is to lay that foundation of an interest in nature," Tom says. "That day that she becomes bored with mom and dad, at least she’ll say, ‘Hey you know what? My dad's a big nerd, he embarrasses me, but at least he's got a really cool job – and a really important job.’”