#28 Meet The Pilot: Mike Vigus

This is the first in a series of blog entries about our talented and dedicated pilots. Without them, our Central EWS surveys would not be possible. If you're interested in the aerial aspect of biology-based field work, this is your chance to ask the more technical questions about flying or just learn a little something new. As always, please feel free to address your queries in the comments section. Thanks to Karen's insightful questions (and bribes of cookies!), we are happy to introduce you all to Pilot Mike Vigus:

How long have you been flying?

I took my first lesson in 1980 but couldn't afford to continue flying. I began training again and soloed in 1985. Then, I received my first paid flying job in 1990 flying skydivers.

How long have you been flying with NEA? How did you start working for NEA? What do you think of the job? Favorite aspect of the job?
I flew for the Florida team in 2000, and then in 2004 long-time NEA pilot Ron Salmon recruited me to fly with him on the NEA contract. I love flying marine mammal surveys; I wish it was a year round job. There are many facets of the job that I enjoy. One aspect of the job is working with the observers; they are intelligent, humorous and have interesting experiences and knowledge to share. Also, their enthusiasm and commitment to their work is admirable. Another is seeing the whales do what they do. It's amazing to see mom/calf interactions, or a group of whales sagging (i.e., in a surface active group), or seeing a whale breach. Another is feeling like I'm a small part of something that makes a big difference, like the part the aerial team plays during a disentanglement effort or preventing a ship strike. It's very rewarding.

How did you become interested in becoming a pilot?
It was pretty natural for me; I built model planes as a kid, and have always been interested in mechanical things. I took my first flying lesson a week after graduating high school, then it just took me a while to figure out a way to fund the remainder of the training.

What is the most interesting job you ever had?
What, do you mean like the time I was Demi Moore's "cabana boy"???

Any other interesting flying jobs?
Year round I fly for the City of Jacksonville Mosquito Control Division. There I fly planes and helicopters in an effort to minimize the spread of infectious diseases by reducing mosquito populations and breeding.

Any other biology related jobs?
The mosquito control work has a lot of biology in it. Many of the products we use are not poisons, some are bacteria that specifically attack mosquito larva, and some are growth regulators that disrupt the mosquitoes life cycle. Not all mosquitoes are active at the same time, so we time the application of pesticide to the specific species of mosquito for maximum effectiveness, to minimize the amount of pesticide released in the environment. Sometimes we take no action on a mosquito breeding site based on the number of predators living in the site like pollywogs, fish, and dragon fly larva knowing that they will keep the number of mosquito larva at the site from getting out of hand.

Anything else worth mentioning?
It's not flying related, but years ago I was a lumberjack in the Sahara forest.



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