November 2009

My job rocks

TVA employees are on the job 24/7, keeping the lights on, running the river system, managing TVA lands and supporting TVA’s operations. In this column, you’ll hear from TVA employees who can say, “My job rocks!”

Donny Lowery

Fish biologist, Office of Environment & Research, Muscle Shoals


On Tellico Reservoir, Donny Lowery collects a fish to be checked for health.

“In the spring and fall, my office is a boat,” says Donny Lowery. “In my opinion, that’s pretty cool.”

Lowery grew up near El Dorado, Ark. He went to college at Louisiana Tech, and when it was time to pick a major, he says, “I knew I liked to camp and hunt and fish, so I put down Wildlife & Fisheries Management.” He got his master’s, also from Louisiana Tech, in Fisheries Ecology.

“I’ve always been an outdoors person, so I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to work outdoors during my two favorite seasons of the year,” says Lowery, who’s been at TVA 32 years. A member of TVA’s Aquatic Monitoring & Management staff, Lowery conducts fish surveys as part of TVA’s Vital Signs Monitoring program.


From left, Donny Lowery, Pete Mangum, Andrew Hopper and Don Holland are among the employees and contractors who conduct fish surveys on TVA reservoirs each spring and fall.

These projects support environmental permit requirements for TVA’s fossil and nuclear plants. The spring sportfish survey allows public participation and interface. “We get a lot of comments like, ‘You guys sure have a great job – getting to fish for a living.’”

Recently Lowery was on Tellico Reservoir conducting a boat-based electrofishing survey. “We collect all the species of fish, check their health and anomalies, then return them to the water,” he says. “Our studies are based on sound scientific principles that will provide the data needed to address unique individual situations.”


Donny Lowery photographs a fish collected by Andrew Hopper. The live fish are checked and returned to the reservoir.

He says they see a lot of different things and different kinds of fish. “You never really know what you’re going to see. My job is different every day, with no ruts to fall into.”

He and his wife, Karen, manager of an Alabama Outdoors store, have three grown sons, Jonathan, Nathan and Ian. “Fly fishing is our hobby,” says Lowery, whose favorite fly is his own bead-chain eye foxtail streamer. “It’s great for smallmouth.”



Donny Lowery unplugged

At Louisiana Tech, Lowery played guitar in a rock ‘n’ roll band called Canoe. Over time, his musical talent led to a productive second career writing country songs. Recently the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band included “Brand New Heartache,” which Lowery co-wrote with the band’s lead singer, Jeff Hanna, on its Speed of Life album. All together, Lowery has had more than 100 songs recorded by various artists. Four of them reached No. 1 on the charts, including Alabama’s “Old Flame,” co-written with Mac McAnally.