Dr. Jeanette Schnars

Executive Director
Home state: Pennsylvania
Research Institution: Regional Science Consortium
What got you interested in science and how did you end up as a Great Lakes scientist?
I was interested in aquatic biology from a very young age.  By the time I was 5 years old I was dissecting the fish I caught and identifying all the internal organs.   Through grade school and high school I had two phenomenal science teachers that encouraged my interests in science.  There was never any doubt that I would go to school to pursue a career in Aquatic Biology.

Although my career started with a focus on the marine environment, I returned to the Great Lakes region to continue my research as a graduate student.  This allowed me to focus on the role of legacy contaminants and their impact on various organisms.

Describe your research related to the Great Lakes.

My most recent research has focused on barotrauma in Yellow Perch.  The Lake Erie fishery is a regional asset that attracts many anglers annually.  These fish reside in deeper waters during late summer, and when caught they exhibit symptoms of barotrauma, including stomach eversion, bulging eyes, and hemorrhaging near the fins.  Our research investigates the survivorship of these fish if an angler “throws it back”, and what environmental conditions impact survivorship.

Some of my previous and ongoing projects focus on contaminant loads in snapping turtles and maternal transfer to their hatchlings; bacterial contamination of swimming waters; harmful algal blooms; and the operation of several buoys in Lake Erie.

Describe an experience you have had working with educators or the community. What was something that surprised you or that you especially enjoyed about the experience?

During our Yellow Perch project we needed to catch many fish in a short period of time.  Fortunately we were able to work with the sportsman’s group, the SONS (Save Our Native Species) of Lake Erie.  This group is made up of expert anglers that were able to catch fish faster than we were able to process them.  It was a great experience for all involved, where scientists and community members were able to use their expertise to benefit a research project.

Why do you think it is important for scientists to share their research with educators?

I think it is important for scientists to share their research with educators because students should know what is going on in their own backyards.  It is important to highlight the phenomenal research that is going on right here… in Lake Erie, and in the Great Lakes.  By sharing information, educators can use tangible examples in class that students can identify with directly.  Students should know about, value, and recognize the importance of the Great Lakes.  Sometimes that is easily overlooked when you live here.

What do you think are the most critical skills for students interested in a career in science?

Getting your hands dirty… sometimes literally!  Experience is invaluable and often most memorable.  Experience, internships, and volunteering are going to be what differentiates one student from another and enhances their appreciation of Science.

Contact Dr. Jeanette Schnars: [email protected]