Claire Snyder joined the Illinois Natural History Survey in late May 2019 as an assistant scientist, large river fisheries ecology. She received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies-Biology at Whitman College, where she worked on herpetology projects and moonlighted as a whitewater river guide. After graduating, she spent five years working at an environmental NGO in Chicago, advocating for the Chicago River by doing habitat restoration, education, and outdoor recreation programming. She has almost completed her master’s in zoology (fisheries) from Southern Illinois University, researching native fish passage through Brandon Road Lock and Dam.
What are you looking forward to the most in your new role at INHS?
I’m looking forward to seeing a new facet of some of the same issues (i.e. Asian carp!) that I worked on at my master’s program and non-profit job before that.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
I don’t really remember NOT being interested in science! My parents both studied science in college and took my family on lots of outdoor adventures.
Who or what drew you to study fish?
Unlike many people in this field, I didn’t grow up fishing. I became really interested in rivers and river conservation in college, while I worked as a river guide. Studying fish as a way to understand river health and recovery was a natural next step, though it took a while for me to figure that out!
What question do you get asked most frequently about your career or the subject you study?
When I tell people I’m working with Asian carp, I often get asked if they’re in Lake Michigan yet, or in the Chicago River. They’re not! A lot of people aren’t familiar with all of the ongoing efforts to control the spread of Asian carp, which are quite the undertaking.
What advice would you give to future scientists?
Try to get involved with a lab to gain experience! And if you can’t find one, get involved with citizen science projects to figure out what you’re really interested in.