by Barb Hameister
Faculty Focus: Anne Beaudreau
Anne with halibut. Photo by Kari Fenske..
Anne and son James. Photo by Cheryl Barnes.
It takes some people a long time to discover what they want to be when they grow up—but Anne Beaudreau knew from an early age that she wanted to be a marine biologist.
Originally from Rhode Island, Anne now lives in Juneau, where she is an associate professor of Fisheries at the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. She was the eldest of four in a family that was very focused on the arts and education, and grew up playing the violin and studying drawing and painting.
She also spent many happy days at the shore with her family, and the beach was an infinite source of wonder. “I would get a sore neck from walking along with my head down, searching intently for shells, rocks, sea glass, and other treasures,” she says. “My fascination with the sea and marine life just grew from there.”
Anne went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Biology at Harvard University. In her junior year, with the romance of the sea still beckoning, she spent a semester in the Sea Education Association program. Anne and her fellow students spent six weeks studying topics such as oceanography, maritime history and celestial navigation, followed by six weeks on a tall ship in the Atlantic. It was a pivotal experience that introduced her to the excitement of life at sea and the vibrant history of New England fisheries, thus setting the trajectory for her future career.
After graduating, Anne put her training to work as a fishery analyst for the New England Fishery Management Council, synthesizing information to support federal fishery management plans. It wasn’t always easy going, but she says despite the sometimes contentious atmosphere of New England fishery management, she found herself inspired by the scientists and fishermen who were working together on research that would help build sustainable fisheries. So inspired, in fact, that she decided she wanted to become one of those scientists, and moved across the country to Seattle to learn how.
At the University of Washington, Anne earned a Ph.D. studying the biology and ecology of lingcod, working closely with the recreational fishing community to collect her samples. In turn, these relationships inspired her postdoctoral research at UW and NOAA, where she sought to reconstruct historical abundance of Puget Sound species from fishermen’s local knowledge.
Alaska had first captured Anne’s imagination in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, when, as a 10-year-old, she was moved by the plight of oiled sea otters. While living in Washington, with Alaska practically in her back yard, she kept finding ways to visit—first as a volunteer scientist on a NOAA cruise in the Aleutians, then as an unofficial cook on board a purse seiner in Southeast Alaska and a conference attendee at a groundfish meeting in Juneau. When a UAF faculty position opened up, Anne was quick to apply, and she has been happily based in Juneau since January 2012.
At CFOS, Anne and her students study the ecology and human dimensions of coastal fisheries. Much of their work focuses on change, from the dynamics of food webs in estuaries to the impacts of social and environmental change on fishing communities.
One recent study, funded by EPSCoR and Alaska Sea Grant, focused on understanding how receding glaciers and changes in rainfall in the Juneau area will impact the nutrition and growth of estuarine and nearshore marine species. A related ongoing study is investigating the impact of predation by nearshore species on hatchery salmon smolts in estuaries. This work will help guide future management decisions and hatchery release strategies.
Another project has been looking at the effects of regulatory change on charter halibut fishermen in Alaska. Through interviews, the research team found that charter captains are targeting a wider number of species than in the past, and are using different fishing grounds. In some areas these changes are attributed to more restrictive regulations driven by a decrease in the average size of halibut, while in other areas shifts in target species are driven by customer preferences.
While the research being done in Anne’s lab covers a wide variety of topics, a common thread is the use of approaches and perspectives from multiple disciplines, including fisheries science, ecology, and anthropology.
“I truly believe that addressing complex, multidimensional problems in resource management requires approaches and ideas that are not drawn from one discipline alone,” Anne says. “Academia often creates silos in our training and thinking; depth is essential for becoming an expert, but breadth fosters creative problem-solving. Both are important.”
With her early grounding in music and art, Anne is also inspired to explore synergies between the arts and science. She recently directed and produced her first short film, about the value of fishermen’s local knowledge to science and management. While she had many collaborators on the project, perhaps the one most dear to her was her brother Lou, who composed the musical score and mixed the sound. Anne says she is eager to continue finding ways to bring together science, art and storytelling.
This interest in storytelling has also inspired Anne to delve into science communication, and help others learn how to tell their story. She developed and now teaches the course Communicating Science to the Public, in which students practice talking about their research with non-scientists. They learn how to tell science stories that connect with an audience, how to put more humanity into science, and explore ways to personally be ambassadors for science.
“The experience is rigorous, challenging, and, at times, transformative for both the students and me,” Anne says. “I am looking forward to many more years of teaching and learning!”
Find out more about Anne and her research by visiting her website.