Unique Scientist: Audrey Baetz

Running fast comes our new UniqueScientist Audrey Baetz (She/her), a fisheries technician studying larval fish populations in Michigan, USA!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a contracted Fisheries Technician out of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan and our team studies larval fish populations in the St. Clair Detroit River system. I also assist with our project regarding juvenile Lake Sturgeon, subjecting them to different flow rates in order to see how much oxygen they consume. This information can help us create a bio-energetic model down the line to help identity potential habitat.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I have always loved nature and being outside, and wanted to follow a career that showed me how the natural world worked. Through college I struggled finding a major that I connected with (a common issue many students face), but then one summer I took a class under Michigan State University’s Fisheries and Wildlife program where we tromped around in the woods for a few weeks learning valuable field skills such as deploying sampling gear, navigation, and even some forestry skills. Although I was nervous at first, that class opened my eyes to the world of fisheries and wildlife, and I haven’t looked back since! Never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone!

“I look forward to the day where I can be a role model to students looking to pursue the field of natural resources, especially young women!”

Audrey Baetz

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
One thing is that I actually attended community college for two years before transferring to Michigan State Univesity. There seems to be a negative stigma around community college, but I found it a wonderful place to save money and start exploring what I wanted in my future. Additionally, being a female in a historically male dominated field comes with its own struggles as I often feel as if I have to work extra hard compared to my male counterparts in order to “prove” that I deserve to be there as well. I look forward to the day where I can be a role model to students looking to pursue the field of natural resources, especially young women!

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I have been running for 11 years now, and ran my first marathon just a few weeks ago! I started way back in grade school, then ran cross country for my community college, and continued my running career after that for the Michigan State University Running Club. Running has become a core part of my identity and has taught me how to push myself, overcome failure, and the value of teamwork…I can’t imagine my life without it!

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
There is a lot of toxicity in the world of academia, particularly around professors who think that because they suffered through graduate school that everyone else needs to as well. As someone who will be applying to graduate schools soon, I am concerned that so many future students are forced to to email former students from a prospective PI’s lab and be like, “Hey so did this professor make your life miserable or did they support and mentor you“. This field can already be draining, and having that positive support group should be a priority for any lab.

“This field can already be draining, and having that positive support group should be a priority for any lab.”

Audrey Baetz

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
There are a few specific people I need to thank. First are two professors from Michigan State University — Dan Hayes and Dana Infante — and the other is Hilary Meyer from South Dakota’s Game, Fish, and Parks department. Dan taught the field course I took that inspired me to enter this wonderful field, while I met Dana taking one of her classes and then working in her lab for a few months after I graduated. They have both offered me endless support and encouragement, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I met Hilary when I interned in South Dakota last summer for a fisheries internship. She was the only female biologist in the office and took me under her wing and showed me the ropes of being a strong, badass fisheries woman! Finally, I must thank my family for always loving in me and believing in me. Special shoutout to my dad for always going the extra mile, even if that means helping me move 1000 miles away to South Dakota for my “Fishology” studies, as he like to call it.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
Since my marathon two weeks ago, my legs have seemed pretty useless and more tired than I expected. However, I was still able to do my share of field work and finally ran more than two miles this morning! Only a matter of time before I sign up for another race soon.


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