Waterfowl managers and biologists rely heavily on data collected through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey flights. Today, the tragic loss of FWS pilot Thom Lewis during a training exercise in Florida reminds everyone of the dangers involved in not only collecting this data, but the training required to perform these duties.
"This is tragic news, and our hearts and prayers go out to Thom's family and also all our friends at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," said Dale Hall, DU CEO. "The waterfowl scientific community is a tight-knit group, and this tragic loss weighs heavy on everyone."
Lewis grew up in Maryland, where he became an avid outdoorsman. He attended the University of Maryland and most recently Texas A & M University, where he was an M.S. Candidate working with whooping cranes. Since 1992, Thom was the Refuge Biologist at St. Vincent NWR in the Florida panhandle.
In a recent blog posted on flyways.us, Lewis described his passion for his duties. "Some of you may have wondered, how does a person get a job flying aircraft to count waterfowl? The job requires a person to have a passion and become proficient in both wildlife biology and aviation. If you've followed this website for very long you probably know that I've been participating in the survey for nine years now."
"This is such a loss on so many levels. Thom was a wonderful man, a skilled pilot, and passionate biologist. Thom's family, the conservation community and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have suffered a great loss. All of Ducks Unlimited sends our thoughts and prayers to Thom's family, friends, and colleagues," added Paul Schmidt, DU's chief conservation officer. "The work the Service's team does is so vital to waterfowl conservation. We thank them all for their sacrifices in making this a better place for waterfowl and all wildlife."