Aquatic ecologist, Anthony Porreca joined INHS in June 2017 as a postdoctoral researcher at the Kaskaskia Biological Station (KBS). Anthony accepted the assistant director of KBS position on July 17, 2019. Before coming to INHS he received his M.S. in biology from Eastern Illinois University where he studied the ecology and management of sportfish populations in power cooling reservoirs. He received his Ph.D. in zoology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he worked on several projects related to the conservation and management of large river fishes and investigated niche overlap between the federally endangered pallid sturgeon and threatened shovelnose sturgeon.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
I have been fascinated by nature for as long as I can remember, and childhood experiences of collecting bugs, fishing, and just being outside probably laid the foundation for my later interest in science. I always enjoyed science classes in grade school, probably because the subject matter of those classes (i.e., how the physical and natural world works) was always more interesting and important to me than, for example, learning the difference between a gerund and participle.
What drew you to your particular area of study?
I really enjoyed an advanced biology course during my senior year of high school, and it inspired me to choose biology as a college major. I was helping with research on endangered prairie plants as an undergraduate, but I jumped at the opportunity to get involved in fisheries research in graduate school. Good mentors and good projects have led me to continue working in aquatic ecology.
What do you wish more people understood about science or being a scientist?
I wish more people understood the scientific method. It may be the largest disconnect between scientists and people who are not scientists. Too often, interesting natural phenomena are labeled “science”, but science is about asking questions about what’s interesting (or not), and learning from those questions.
What are some common misconceptions about your work?
A common misconception about my work as a researcher in fisheries/aquatic ecology is that it just involves driving around in boats and catching fish, when in reality, most of my time is spent in the office or laboratory, working on proposals, reports, and papers. Also, friends and family members outside of the field think I know EVERYTHING about every animal, plant, microbe, and subatomic particle that exists in the universe…I do not.
What are you looking forward to the most in your new role at INHS?
I am most excited to work on new research projects at the Kaskaskia Biological Station that only just got started during my time as a post-doc. I am also eager to work more with graduate students and take on a larger role as a leader and a mentor in our lab.
What advice would you give to future scientists?
Be humble, but be hungry. Read more. Failure is okay.