Surrounded by plaques of achievement from a twenty-six-year career, Dr. Shirley Baker leans back as she reminisces of her upbringing that lead her to her career as a marine scientist. Now an Associate Professor and Marine Sciences Faculty Advisor at the University of Florida (UF), Baker works behind the scenes of the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences program securing grants and serving on numerous academic and industry committees.
In seventh grade, a young Baker found herself on a boat in the Pudget Sound of Seattle. With the clanking sound of chains and pulleys around her, she was excited to discover what species were going to be pulled up from the underwater world beneath. Having already been on a field trip that year to see sockeye salmon journey through the Ballard Locks, Shirley was hooked and well on her way to a career as a marine scientist.
In present-day, Baker describes the environment of Western Washington as strongly infused with Native American culture. Fisheries, aquaculture, and marine resources are fundamentally present in the Pacific Northwest. Baker attributes growing up in that environment as instrumental to her future path. Baker has established an impressive career as a marine scientist, and she currently advises the next generation of young scientists in her field. Her class, "Natural Resources in a Changing Climate" explores thinking creatively when applying conservation management tools in a changing world.
Baker’s return to research is an exciting one. Collaborating with colleagues Dr. Raelene Crandall and Dr. Lindsey Reisinger from the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation, their upcoming project will study fire regime’s impact on freshwater organisms. With a team of subject matter experts in prescribed fire, aquatic insects, and aquatic bivalves, this exciting new research has a great chance of making new discoveries for both aquatic and terrestrial systems. Baker says, “Fire can have a huge impact on the water resources surrounding it. You might see an influx of nutrients, leaf litter, and changes to sedimentation. This could have implications all the way down to the estuaries.” Baker is currently working on acquiring funding, but her dream team is ready.
“I’ve always had this interest in how fire regimes might impact freshwater organisms. I got those two together [Crandall, Reisinger] and said, nobody is doing this. Let’s talk about doing some work on this.”