Fisheries biologist Julie Claussen is happiest when she's out on (or in) the water. She began her long career at the Illinois Natural History Survey in 1984 as an intern, and then as a technician.
"Other than leaving Champaign for graduate school, I am happy (and fortunate) to say I have spent most of my career as a fisheries biologist with the Survey," said Julie.
Q. How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
A: I was a kid that was always outdoors climbing and exploring. I was lucky enough to live on a farm and have the freedom to roam, so I always knew I wanted a career tied to nature. I was fortunate to have high school science teachers that showed their love of science. It was due to their enthusiasm and guidance that I began to think about a career as a biologist.
Q: What is your field of study, and made you decide to pursue that field?
A: My undergraduate degree was in general biology, and early on there wasn’t a specific area that grabbed my attention. During a summer field course, I saw someone with a T-shirt that said “Illinois Natural History Survey” and I thought that sounded like my kind of place. I asked around, applied for an internship that was available in Aquatic Ecology, and the rest is history. My first few projects at the Survey are what sparked my passion for fish biology. Funny to think a T-shirt is what led me to my career at the Survey!
Q. Who has been a mentor to you in your science career?
A: My first day at the Survey I worked in the field alongside R. Weldon (Larry) Larimore and it was the start of a treasured friendship. Larry had this great ability to get you thinking about nature as a whole and not get too focused on the details without seeing the bigger picture. Later in Larry’s time at the Survey, we had offices across from each other, and my favorite moments were when he would stop by with an article, a poem, or a book to discuss. He constantly challenged me to be more involved, share fisheries knowledge with those that needed it, and be engaged in professional societies.
Q. What is the best part of your job, and what work are you most proud of?
A: Anytime that I am out on or in the water is my happiest. I love the times when I am snorkeling looking for bass nests and feeling like I am a part of underwater life. That said, each part of the scientific process (experimental design, analyzing data, presenting results, etc.) provides many interesting and often fun challenges. I am most proud of the educational and outreach work I’ve done on our various projects, showing stakeholders the importance of a healthy fishery and how that translates to healthy ecosystems.
Q. What advice would you give to other female scientists?
A: I entered biology in a time when disparaging remarks about a female as a field biologist were not uncommon. Fortunately for me, I just ignored the naysayers and I encourage anyone to adopt that attitude. The other two things that helped me persevere were: 1) say yes to all the opportunities that present themselves and gain as much experience as you can. This will help define what you want and don’t want out of a science career, and 2) become involved in a professional society. This is a great way to become involved, join committees, find opportunities, and network with other scientists.