Andrea Kroetz



Andrea Kroetz, Ph.D.

Office Title:. National Research Council Research Associate, NOAA Affiliate

Location: NOAA Fisheries Service-Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Panama City, FL.

Where were you born or grew up:  Mt. Vernon, Illinois

Education: Bachelor degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Ph.D. from the University of South Alabama

 

1. Your earliest memory...how did you become interested in studying sharks? (elasmobranchs)

I became interested in studying sharks about 14 years ago when I took a field marine course while I was an undergraduate. The marine lab was in Jamaica and there I came into contact with my first shark. Some local fisherman caught a gravid nurse shark in their fishing gear and unfortunately was killed. Despite the unfortunate killing of the shark, the fishermen brought her pups to the marine lab because they were still alive. I had never seen a shark in person before and these tiny, speckled nurse sharks had me mesmerized! I learned that most of the local fishermen were afraid of sharks and killed them if they came into contact with them. Handling and caring for the sharks sparked an ongoing interest to learn as much as I can about these fish and to educate the public about sharks and what truly amazing animals they are.

 

2. What research are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on research involving smalltooth sawfish. Like all species of sawfish, the smalltooth sawfish is critically endangered and there is a need to identify and protect habitat, particularly for juveniles. I am working on a predictive model that will identify habitats and environmental conditions that are important for juveniles of this species. The model will provide predictions of specific areas/habitats in south Florida that are important for juvenile sawfish, which is an important component of the sawfish recovery plan initiated by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

 

3. Describe the most interesting encounter you have had with a shark.

The most interesting encounter that I’ve had with a shark was on an offshore longline research trip a couple of years ago. I was conducting an experimental deep-water longline set and I caught a bluntnose sixgill shark! For the type of research that I was conducting (mostly 100m or less of water), this was such an unexpected but exciting catch! This was the largest shark that I had seen to date (about 3.5 m) and I was in awe at how large and how amazing this shark was. Due to its size and my gear limitations, I was unable to tag the shark, but we released it in great condition. I will never forget how big the head, eyes, and teeth were-truly a special memory for me!

 

4. What would you say is your biggest accomplishment to date?

I would say that my biggest accomplishment to date as a scientist occurred earlier this year. I was in Andros, The Bahamas conducting research on smalltooth sawfish. The goal was to capture and both acoustically and satellite tag sub-adult and adult sawfish to track their movement. We were able to capture a beautiful 13 ft female and to my knowledge, I am the first person to internally implant an acoustic tag in an endangered smalltooth sawfish! It was truly a humbling and exhilarating experience and I am so fortunate to have been able to be a part of the science. I recently internally tagged my second smalltooth sawfish in the Everglades National Park-I can’t wait to see where these fish will go!

 

5. What do you like most/least about your work?

 I enjoy going into the field and working with my study species first-hand. Sawfish are amazing animals and it is a fantastic opportunity to be able to tag and release them and to be an integral part of research that will hopefully lead to their recovery.

 

6. Any advice to those wanting to study sharks (elasmobranchs)?

Yes, get out there and get as much experience as you can! Internships and volunteering are great ways to obtain first-hand experience and really get a grasp of what it is to be an elasmobranch ecologist. Working with these animals first hand can be hard work, but very rewarding. If you are interested in working with sharks and rays, I would highly recommend volunteering or applying for an internship that will put you up close and personal with these animals.

 

7. What mystery about sharks would you like to solve?

Everything! There are so many aspects about shark ecology that we do not have a good grasp on. I’m particularly interested in movement patterns, trophic ecology, and predator-prey interactions of elasmobranchs. There is so much to discover about these animals!

 

Myth: Sawfish are sharks 

Fact: Sawfish are actually rays! They can be confused with sawsharks as they look very similar but sawfish have gills on the ventral side of their bodies and are dorso-ventrally compressed.  

 

When you are not studying sharks what do you like to do?

I enjoy any outdoor activity, particularly biking, kayaking, and camping. I also enjoy listening to live music, reading, and spending time with friends and family!