The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife selects OSU alum as new director

Taylor Cockrell
A sign depicting the fisheries and wildlife offices hangs on the wall of Nash Hall on June 5, 2024. Nash Hall developed a diagnostic laboratory for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Fish Health Services on the fifth floor.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original version to include the correct dates for the origin of the ODFW.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife unanimously selected an Oregon State University alum, Dr. Debbie Colbert, to be the agency’s new director on May 10. 

In the lengthy history of the agency, Colbert is the first woman to hold the title of ODFW director. 

Colbert earned a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Oceanography from OSU in 1998 after earning an M.S. in Oceanography and a B.S. in Biology from other institutions. She received the designation of National Conservation Leadership Fellow in 2022.

Colbert’s professional background encompasses assignments as a fish sampler for the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, where she spent multiple months spent at sea conducting research on Tillamook Bay’s nitrogen cycling. 

Colbert served as the Deputy Director for Administration and the Deputy Director for Fish and Wildlife Programs for five years at ODFW (from May 2021 to May 2024). She also held positions as administrator of Oregon State University’s board of trustees and with the Oregon Water Resources Department. 

“I will continue to bring a sense of urgency on delivering results in the face of growing complexity and challenges,” Dr. Colbert said in an ODFW press release. “I am also very committed to positioning the agency so it engages all Oregonians. Our tent extends to everyone who wants to protect and enhance fish, wildlife and their habitats.”

Colbert will now take charge of an organization that maintains possibilities for hunting and fishing sustainably, according to the agency’s website, while also taking the lead in tackling contemporary conservation issues that impact all fish and animals in Oregon, like water availability and climate adaptation. 

ODFW’s mission is to protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations. 

ODFW has a long history dating back to the 1800s when Robert Gray sailed across Columbia bar on a trading expedition. And now today marks a new chapter in the department’s book, led by the new director Dr. Debbie Colbert.

The agency employs 1,200 people full-time and has 33 offices around the state—including field offices, fish hatcheries, wildlife areas and research stations—allowing for management at the local watershed level through a regional organization.

“Debbie Colbert brings the breadth of experience needed to lead this agency forward,” said Governor Tina Kotek in the press release. “She is known for collaboration and taking challenges head on to improve critical fish and wildlife habitats in Oregon. I am grateful to the Commission for bringing a strong leader into the role.”

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