An Interview with Andrew Carlson
Major: Natural Resource Management, Fisheries Science
What inspired you to attend SDSU?
During my senior year at the University of Minnesota I searched for a nationally-recognized graduate program, a fascinating M.S. research project, a cordial advisor, and a collegial network of faculty, staff, and students. SDSU offered all of these and more. My mother and father, Dan and Laura Carlson, were students and All-American distance runners at SDSU in the mid-1980s. Some of my fondest childhood memories come from family vacations to Brookings. I fell in love with SDSU, and I always hoped I would find my way back. I am thankful my dream came true!
What motivates you about your chosen field?
Natural resources have fascinated me since childhood, fostering dreams of professional research and conservation that inspire me today. Aquatic ecosystems worldwide are threatened by pollution, habitat loss and degradation, climate change, invasive species, and other stressors. These ecosystems are enormously valuable, providing important goods and services for humans and supporting diverse animals and plants. Thanks to incredible mentors, I will always be inspired to protect aquatic resources through conservation-driven research and public engagement. I could not imagine a more rewarding professional calling.
What are your research interests and current projects?
I am captivated by all aspects of conservation biology and natural resource science. My interests in aquatic ecology are broad, ranging from zooplankton to large carnivores and headwater streams to inland lakes. I am particularly fascinated by management-oriented research on ecological stressors (e.g., climate change, land use alterations, invasive species), disturbance ecology, quantitative fisheries science, and stream ecology. My M.S. research is a multi-scale response to catastrophic flooding in the Missouri River in 2011. I am studying walleye environmental history throughout North Dakota and South Dakota using natural chemical tags deposited in ear stones (otolith microchemistry) and assessing flood effects on fish and aquatic habitats in the Lewis & Clark Delta. Currently, I am also exploring predictive management of invasive Asian carps in the United States, researching effects of climate change in southeastern Minnesota streams, and investigating otolith microchemistry as a tool to evaluate recruitment of gizzard shad, stocking contributions of yellow perch, and natal origins and movement of imperiled blue sucker.
What is your favorite thing about your Master’s program?
Without question, the people. The Department of Natural Resource Management is home to an incredible group of faculty, staff, and students that have enriched my M.S. experience. A case in point is the SDSU Student Subunit of the American Fisheries Society. Committed to promoting fisheries conservation, professional development of members, and public education, the Subunit has enabled me to build professional competencies and serve society alongside an outstanding group of student members and faculty advisors.
What jobs have you held in your chosen field?
I began volunteering for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) when I was nine years old. My father and I enlisted as species stewards in the Prairie Care program at Wild River State Park, and my passion for conservation was ignited. The flame continued to burn throughout middle school, high school, and my undergraduate years. As a three-year intern with the Minnesota DNR, my major responsibilities were to assess fish populations in lakes and rivers in the east-central Minnesota, monitor the St. Croix River for invasive silver carp, raise walleye and muskellunge for the DNR stocking program, and conduct watercraft inspections to educate the public about invasive species and ecologically-minded watercraft use. I was also employed as an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the University of Minnesota for three years. In this position I authored an honors thesis assessing growth dynamics and age structure of brown trout in southeastern Minnesota streams, identified small-bodied fishes to complete indices of biotic integrity for the Minnesota DNR and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and investigated olfactory discrimination of amino acid mixtures in goldfish. Collectively, these experiences motivated me to pursue graduate education in natural resources.
What are your career goals?
I will begin a Ph.D. in aquatic ecology/fisheries science in 2015. My long-term goal is to conserve and advocate for aquatic ecosystems as a research scientist with a natural resource agency or university.