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A Tribute to Susan B. Martin

Susan Martin, the first female President and a long-time member of the Idaho Chapter AFS, passed away on September 15, 2008, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, after a two-year battle with cancer. She was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 27, 1951. She spent most of her younger years in Blackfoot, Idaho where she graduated from Blackfoot High School and had many memories, including double-dating with Congressman Mike Simpson and his future wife. Susan initially attended the University of Oregon, and later graduated from the University of Idaho with a B.S. in Biology in 1973 and a M.S. in Microbiology in 1976. Her Master's thesis work was titled "Algal Assays of Dworshak Reservoir Water: Nutrient Limitations and Potential Productivity". The reservoir was newly filled at that time. While working on the M.S. she not so fondly remembered having to clean the fish culture tanks in the Fisheries Lab for a work study position.

Her career as a scientist involved time with the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Research Station - Boise laboratory in the mid-1970's assessing the impact of resource management on aquatic and riparian ecosystems in the South Fork Salmon River drainage and the Stanley Basin. She worked for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality for seven years in the Boise Central Office and reached the position of Surface Water Program Manager. In 1988, she joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office in Boise, as one of two Deputy Project Leaders. Her most recent assignment was as the Field Supervisor of the Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office in Spokane, WA. Her office serves 20 counties in eastern Washington and the six northernmost Idaho panhandle counties, covering approximately 51,000 square miles. In addition to managing the office in Spokane, she supervised the Central Washington Field Office in Wenatchee. Susan was dedicated to the conservation and protection of fish, wildlife and plants, and consistently emphasized the need for more discussion by all interested parties in order to reach resolution on highlighted issues. Susan was proud of her twenty years as a member of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service family.

Never one to shirk a challenge, Susan was a tireless and respected, but respectful negotiator on behalf of the conservation and recovery of bull trout, Kootenai River white sturgeon, Canada lynx, grizzly bears, woodland caribou and pygmy rabbits. She was determined to resolve these issues in a manner that ultimately benefited species at risk and the natural ecosystems they depended upon and provided solutions on which all stakeholders were able to agree.

In the early 1980's, she served for several years as the Idaho Chapter's newsletter editor and in that role has been credited with leading the Chapter's efforts to request funding from the Idaho Congressional January 2009 Special Edition Delegation in support of the Idaho Cooperative Fishery Research Unit. These efforts were clearly successful. In 1982, in recognition of her efforts, the Chapter awarded Susan the first Award of Special Recognition. In 1986, Susan was elected President of the Idaho Chapter and was the first female to serve in that capacity. As President, she challenged the Executive Committee (EXCOM) and the membership to recruit at least one new active member, which she referred to as "Warm Body Units" (WBU's). She was committed to the idea that AFS should be a vehicle for providing members with professional development opportunities. Under her leadership, the Chapter sponsored a special session on "how to become a more effective biologist in this highly political field."

Susan influenced a number of professionals during their career development. During her two-year battle with cancer, she and her family were pleasantly surprised at the number of cards and letters of support expressing gratitude for her role in developing the careers of others. Susan influenced careers as a mentor, a role model, and a leader. She respected and believed in hard-working, dedicated scientists who deliver science in a manner that other stakeholders understand and, therefore, ultimately agree with. Her leadership method involved letting people know she believed in and supported them.

The following words are some thoughts from Susan's peers, most of whom knew her in graduate school and worked with her over the past thirty-plus years:

Ned Horner experienced Susan as a friend and co-worker since their early days as graduate students at the University of Idaho in the mid-1970's, and then serving together in the Idaho Chapter AFS EXCOM during the mid-1980's. He saw her working tirelessly for natural resource protection in Idaho the past 25+ years. Susan's tremendous professional and personal accomplishments were achieved with an amazing sense of calm, which was incredibly effective at achieving results. Susan was a very special person and those of us who worked and played with her are better off for that experience. Susan was a true Idaho gem.

Bruce Rieman noted that Susan provided a positive influence on development of the professional careers for a number of young biologists. This was a repeated message in the cards and letters to Susan and her family over the past year from a number of active biologists at all levels in their careers. Without expectation, she served as a mentor, role model, and supporter of many young and mid-career professionals. When necessary she challenged them and pushed them outside their comfort level, but all benefited from the experience. She believed in, and ardently supported, hard-working, dedicated scientists who had the ability to communicate complex science and engage stakeholders to a positive end. It was a delight to work with and around Susan Martin. Simply having her in the audience of a presentation provided the incentive to do it well. Her presence, wisdom, and dry wit will be sorely missed.

Rich Torquemada indicated that Susan was the consummate biologist and leader. She had an incredible talent for active listening and a reasoned, rational approach to contentious issues. Her calm and professional presence among peers assured that contrasting viewpoints could be shared and considered. As the leader of a Fish and Wildlife Office during the contentious years of the current administration, Susan charted a course which allowed priority issues to be addressed within tight fiscal reality - always striving to maintain staffing and resources to get the job done well.

Dave Burns greatly appreciated Susan's guidance, as he followed her in the Idaho Chapter as an AFS officer. She encouraged him to try new directions, meanwhile guiding him through the traditional tasks that needed accomplished. Dave also credits Susan with mentoring him to become a successful AFS officer, and "setting him up" to lead the Idaho Chapter to its first Western Division Chapter of the Year award. He said, "It was natural for Kay and I to become friends with Susan because of our association at the University of Idaho in the early 1970's, and then raising our children during following decades. Susan seemed to be at her best in the relaxed atmosphere of camping in the South Fork Salmon River country or hiking into a backcountry lake. It was there that her true love of nature shown through; as did her caring for others, that we observed in little acts like Susan combing Jamie's hair in the morning. Kay and I will always have a special place in our hearts for Susan."

Kemper McMaster mentioned, "I met Susan (and Don) while we attended the University of Idaho, and later worked directly and closely with her for 20 years. Throughout this time, Susan distinguished herself as a consummate professional ... as a Fishery Scientist and as a leader and manager within the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Susan was dedicated to the pursuit of conservation, to management integrity, to building pathways for communication within the Service and to all those with whom she worked and most of all, dedicated to her family, friends and colleagues. She is missed!"

Karen Pratt indicated that Susan was always the poised professional, and by demonstration, encouraged others to have a professional demeanor.

Chip Corsi noted that Susan worked extensively and collaboratively with people at multiple levels of government for the betterment of fish and wildlife. Even while wading into challenging and emotionally charged environments, Susan earned the admiration and respect of allies and adversaries alike for her calm, reasoned and intelligent approach to find solutions that all parties could respect. Susan made sure that people had an opportunity to be heard and included in decisions, and focused on finding common ground as part of the process. In doing so, she raised the bar for her peers. Susan leaves behind a legacy of tolerance, acceptance and advocacy for the conservation of fish and wildlife a legacy that makes it easier for those of us who follow along to make the world a better place for wild creatures.

She married Donald Martin in 1975, and they lived in Star, Idaho, for twenty-five years before moving to Coeur d'Alene in 2000. She loved to be with family and friends in the outdoors camping, fly fishing, whitewater rafting, backcountry skiing, creating delicious dinners, and was an avid reader. Susan had a lifelong infatuation with the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho, making her first trips there as a child when the road over Galena Summit was dirt. Susan's family and friends fondly remember her grace, composure, patience, kindness, loyalty, organizational skills, endurance, honesty, steadfastness and tenacity, as well as her sparkling eyes and skinny long legs.

The Martin family has worked with the Idaho Chapter of the American Fisheries Society to establish an annual Susan B. Martin Memorial Scholarship for Idaho graduate students in aquatic sciences and fisheries. This scholarship is intended to continue doing in Susan's name what she did best in her career, helping other scientists to be successful.