Featured Scientist

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  • January 28, 2022
Kevin Kwak, with equipment in hand and on his back, prepares to electrofish a stream.

Kevin Kwak prepares to electrofish a stream.

Kevin Kwak shows off an impressive spiny lobster he caught diving.
Kevin Kwak with an impressive spiny lobster he caught while diving.

Kevin Kwak is a fisheries veterinarian for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) – one of only two fisheries veterinarians in the entire department. Kevin holds a doctorate degree in fish virology and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from UC Davis, where he also earned his undergraduate degree in evolution and ecology. Kevin joined CDFW in 2012 after working as a practicing veterinarian for a small animal and exotic animal clinic for a few years following his studies at UC Davis.

Based out of CDFW’s Fish Health Lab in Rancho Cordova, Kevin’s work takes him throughout the state. His primary responsibility is diagnosing disease outbreaks and coordinating treatment plans at CDFW’s fish hatcheries. He also investigates wild fish population die-offs and conducts health assessments any time hatchery or wild fish are moved, relocated or rescued to ensure disease is not being introduced into new environments or spread to other fish populations.

Most recently, Kevin developed an innovative treatment for hatchery Chinook salmon suffering from a Thiamine – or Vitamin B1 – deficiency, which is believed to be linked to salmon foraging to a large degree on anchovies in the ocean compared to a more diverse diet. A lack of Thiamine in returning female salmon causes developmental problems and even death in fry salmon. Kevin developed a method to treat the Thiamine deficiency at egg fertilization to avoid any developmental issues.

Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Kevin’s interest in science and the natural world was ignited as a child by the classic television series “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” which he watched Sunday nights with his family.

An avid hunter and angler, Kevin particularly enjoys free diving and SCUBA diving – especially for spiny lobster. He also keeps busy away from work introducing his two young children to these pursuits and the outdoors.

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