California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Featured Scientist

Chad Dibble
Environmental Program Manager Chad Dibble

Chad Dibble

Environmental Program Manager Chad Dibble joined CDFW in 2008 as a Senior Environmental Scientist. Now he supervises four scientists in that classification, one of whom supervises additional staff in the Water Branch. He earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Biological Conservation. In addition to his scientific background, he brought seven years of experience with personnel management (staffing, scheduling, training and mentoring) to CDFW.

Chad oversees two mission-critical programs: the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and the Water Project Operations Program (WPOP). The BDCP is intended to restore the Bay-Delta ecosystem and its species while improving water supply reliability for the State of California. It is a top priority of Governor Brown and of President Obama’s Administration, and its progress toward completion is due, in part, to Chad’s tremendous leadership, organizational and managerial skills.

In the WPOP he manages branch-region coordination teams to evaluate how to improve the organizational structure and information flow within the program, and he is a key contributor to the interagency coordination of the 2014 drought crisis. These critical functions require the careful management of threatened and endangered fish species including salmon, smelt and sturgeon.

In 2014 Chad won the CDFW Employee Excellence Leadership Award, given to employees who demonstrate leadership and inspiration that motivates others to take positive actions, or inspires others to seek solutions to organizational challenges. Chad is a strategic thinker and is constantly inventing ways to improve CDFW’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?

My parents gave me exposure to outdoor activities, including hunting (pheasant, dove, deer), fishing (trout and bass), camping on the Upper Stanislaus river, and even just playing in the back yard. I now have an addiction to bass fishing and go at least once a month! My parents are both pretty detail-oriented people and when you couple that with the exposure to outdoor activities they provided when I was growing up, [this career] was a natural fit for me.

What got you interested in working with wildlife?

Water, fishing and hunting led to a desire to better understand animal behavior and learn more about wildlife. As my career advanced, that interest turned more toward finding ways to protect these species to help ensure that other people will have the same outdoor and career opportunities I had. Getting out into the wild is so important – we need to know where the fish and animals are located to be successful in this work.

Who or what brought you to CDFW? What inspires you to stay?

It is the opportunity to work for an organization in a field that supports the passion that I have for wildlife. That is what brought me here and is what keeps me here.

What is the most rewarding project that you've worked on for CDFW?

At this point I would say the Delta Flow Report. The report was developed in response to a legislative mandate in the 2009 Delta Reform Act and is now being used to inform planning efforts such as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the Delta Plan and the update to the State Water Resources Control Board’s Bay-Delta Plan. That report is the culmination of years of scientific research pulled together for one purpose – to protect California’s natural resources. It was inspiring to see the passion that CDFW staff have and how coordinated and focused we can be when we come together for a shared purpose. This same passion is echoed today with our continued response to the drought.

What is the best thing about being a wildlife scientist?

The best thing is the satisfaction of working in a position that I love, knowing my work benefits wildlife and is creating opportunities for generations to come. It’s a civil servant job that benefits others (protecting the environment) and we get to enjoy those benefits, too.

Any advice for young people considering careers in science?

Yes, get involved no matter what age you are. Find something you like and go do it! Local communities are full of opportunities where you can volunteer. Do research on the Internet and find information about what interests you. It doesn’t have to be specific to science – do what you enjoy and it will lead to opportunities.

Over the course of your career, was there a discovery or an incident that surprised you?

Yes, early in my career I realized I wanted to know how the scientific information we were collecting was informing our laws and management decisions. What surprised me the most is how complicated the decision-making process is and how many different factors the executive members have to consider for each and every situation.

When the average person thinks of scientist, they often only picture someone working in a laboratory, with a periodic chart and a microscope. Is there a preconception about scientists you would like to dispel?

I’d rather keep it as our little secret! You’ll have to join the club to find out. Joking aside, this is actually pretty funny. I had the same preconceptions about scientists, growing up, and thought there was no way I wanted to sit in a lab and do that kind of job. The good news is that science is all around us. No matter who you are or what you like, there is a scientific job that can suit your interests...and it doesn’t always involve a microscope.

The world of science and managing natural resources is often confusing or mysterious to the average person. What is it about the work you do that you’d most like us to know, that will take away the mystery?

Having confidence in understanding science is like any other trade – the more you involve yourself with others who can contribute to your understanding of how scientific things work, the easier it gets. Science isn’t that scary – you just have to be willing to understand it.

Water seems to be a recurring theme in your career. Why is water so important to you?

When I was young, my dad said something that really resonated with me. He told me “Everything relies on water. If fish can live in it, you can live on it. The future is water.” We all need water for everything we do. I was always interested in fish and I guess I just fell into the water world!

What is a day in the life of Chad Dibble?

I attend a lot of meetings about water operations and the Delta. Most of the meetings involve other agencies and organizations with similar goals to CDFW. These organizations include the Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and the State Water Resources Control Board. I also supervise staff which involves the normal day-to-day activities like supporting their projects and connecting them with my program management, staff and people at other agencies.

What are some personal interests you care to share?

I am happily awaiting my wife giving birth to twins in the summer! When I attended college at CSUS, I joined the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. It was a nice way to meet people and network. In 2000, I graduated from CSUS and since then I have been on the Fraternity Alumni Board helping undergraduate students with their career interests to enable them to find gainful employment. I enjoy mentoring these students. I like to engage people and stay busy. I also enjoy working on my house, hunting and of course, bass fishing competitions.