Emily Szott’s interest in science goes back as far as she can remember.
“Some of my earliest memories are of my family taking hikes at nearby nature centers, and trying to identify all the birds, mammals, insects, flowers, etc. we came across,” she says.
Emily began working in fisheries as an undergraduate at Western Illinois University. While earning her bachelor’s degree in biology, she completed an honor’s thesis studying young-of-year Asian carp.
Afterward, Emily moved to Florida where she obtained a master’s in biology from the University of North Florida, concentrating in ecology and environmental biology. Her research focused on the behavioral ecology of common bottlenose dolphins inhabiting a brackish river in northeast Florida.
Emily joined the Illinois River Biological Station (IRBS) at the Illinois Natural History Survey as a large river fisheries ecologist in November 2019.
“I am really looking forward to becoming part of the network of professionals working in fisheries and the related fields, and to learning all that I can from others that have more and differing experiences than I do,” she said.
Emily’s work at IRBS will focus on aquatic nuisance species like Asian carp.
“Whenever I tell people about working with silver and bighead carp, they usually say something along the lines of, ‘Oh, well those are gross fish aren’t they? They can’t taste good’,” said Emily. “However, they are actually very tasty fish!”
Being a scientist isn’t without its challenges and Emily encourages future scientists to practice perseverance.
“It’s alright to have research fail or not go as expected, so don’t give up,” she says. “Sometimes these unexpected speed bumps in completing research can lead to brilliant new ideas or breakthroughs in a completely different direction than originally planned.”