Conserve Wildlife Blog

Meet the 2015 Honorees: Pat Hamilton, Women & Wildlife Leadership Award Winner

September 29th, 2015

Fisheries Biologist Honored for her Contribution to Wildlife Conservation

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Pat Hamilton Leadership Award Winner

Pat Hamilton Leadership Award Winner

Pat Hamilton has worked for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries since 1980, most recently as the Principal Fisheries Biologist. Ms. Hamilton has become a leader in managing and conserving coldwater fisheries throughout the state. She is considered to be the champion for Eastern brook trout, the state’s only native salmonid, and a species once extirpated from over 50% of its historical habitat due to human impacts.


For her Master’s Thesis “Wild Brook Trout Genetics,” she examined the genetic diversity of Eastern brook trout populations in streams throughout the Raritan and Passaic watersheds. In the first study of its kind for the state, Ms. Hamilton determined that the trout present today are part of a lineage dating back to when the last glacier receded from New Jersey – some 16K-18K years ago! Since this landmark study, she has worked to restore and protect not only this ancient fish, but also the pristine habitat on which it depends.


Currently, Ms. Hamilton is one of three fisheries biologists in New Jersey endeavoring to strengthen the state regulations to further conserve native brook trout streams. Thanks to her efforts, more than 200 northern New Jersey streams have been designated as Trout Production Streams, which afford the streams higher levels of state protection.


Join us to honor Pat and the two other 2015 Women & Wildlife Award Winners on Wednesday, October 28 beginning at 6pm. Purchase events tickets and find more information.

We asked Pat a few questions about what working in wildlife conservation means to her:


Do you have a New Jersey wildlife species that you like best? Why?

When I was 12 years old I caught the most beautiful fish I had ever seen. Carefully thumbing through a fish ID booklet, I realized I just caught my first Brook Trout. Even its scientific name, Salvelinus fontinalis, meaning living in springs, captivated me and, as I committed this name to memory, I vowed to become a fisheries biologist when I grew up. Now as a professional, I value this species for reasons well beyond my childhood memories. The Brook Trout is a Jersey native. Their wild, naturally reproducing populations inhabit small streams scattered primarily across North Jersey. The species is synonymous with cold, clean water. A host of other wildlife species benefit from their presence because these streams and their watersheds receive greater protections through NJDEP regulatory programs that govern land use. My first Brook Trout encounter was definitely a life altering experience for me!

What is your favorite thing about your job?

The variety – no day is the same – and in particular, any fieldwork that puts me in the middle of a trout stream!

What do you find most challenging about your profession?

Fisheries management has become very complex. Our science is better plus there is greater public involvement in our decision-making process. I find balancing ecological, economic, and social/cultural values to be the most challenging because often there are competing interests that must be addressed as part of that process.

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?

Spending time outdoors fishing, especially when combined with kayaking. If the fish aren’t biting, it’s still a win-win.

Name one thing you can’t live without.

Water. Pure and simple.

Please join us on Wednesday, October 28, 2015, from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey to honor the contributions that Pat Hamilton, MacKenzie Hall and Tanya Oznowich have made to wildlife in New Jersey.


This year’s very special event will feature keynote speaker Governor Christine Todd Whitman. The event will also celebrate CWF’s past decade of honoring women for their success in protecting, managing, restoring, and raising awareness for the Garden State’s endangered and threatened wildlife species.


Learn more:


Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

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