Nathan Eckert is back in familiar territory. He was born in Kansas and as a child, he liked to fish and play outside. He knew he wanted to do something in science so he got his bachelor's degree in Kansas then studied at Missouri State in Springfield. With his newly minted masters degree in biology, he took a job at a state fish hatchery in Virginia. He spent several years there and then signed up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, taking his first federal job at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin.

Nathan Eckert is back in familiar territory. He was born in Kansas and as a child, he liked to fish and play outside. He knew he wanted to do something in science so he got his bachelor's degree in Kansas then studied at Missouri State in Springfield. With his newly minted masters degree in biology, he took a job at a state fish hatchery in Virginia. He spent several years there and then signed up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, taking his first federal job at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin.
Now he has transferred to the Neosho National Fish Hatchery as the assistant manager, which means a new place to work and also a new title. After working as a fish biologist for years, Eckert has now moved into management.
"I'm really looking forward to my new job," Eckert said. "I have been working with mussels and hope to grow the mussel program here."
In fact, Eckert won the prestigious Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence in 2014 for his work with mussels. This award recognizes "individuals whose pursuit of applied conservation science has led to extraordinary results in fish and wildlife conservation."
This award has helped Eckert earn a reputation as a mussel expert whose work is utilized by such organizations of the Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center. He is also the author several papers on his experiments.
On a personal level, Eckert is married and the father of three children, all of whom are waiting for the moving company to deliver their furniture to their new home in Joplin.
In his work, Eckert is very interested in non-game species that live in rivers and streams and are often endangered. Mussels and Topeka Shiners, which are already at the Neosho hatchery, fall into that category.
Eckert says he is a hard worker and demands a lot from his program. He hopes he can build up the non-game species to a point that other groups will call on Neosho for advice. He wants Neosho to be the "go-to-hatchery" for help.
Now that he is on board, Eckert is happy to be in Neosho and says he can envision spending the rest of his career here. He and the other local staff members are looking forward to the arrival of two more biologists who are expected to be on board this fall.
When the new biologists arrive and the spring box is fully functioning, the hatchery will be going full speed ahead. And Neosho will once again be able to enjoy what many believe is one of the most beautiful hatchery in the nation, as well as one of the most productive.