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Meet the team: Franz Mueter

When the scientists were not busy doing very important science work, I asked each of them to fill out a little questionnaire, so that we can all get to know them better. I will share some of their answers here, starting with Franz Mueter, a fisheries biologist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, onboard with the GoWest project.

Background Questions

1. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now? On a small farm in Heiden, Germany, close to the Dutch border. I moved to Alaska in 1988, and have lived in Fairbanks and currently in Juneau, with a few years in Vancouver, Canada and Hobart, Tasmania.


2. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A biologist or astronomer, but eventually was way more interested in biology.


3. Do you have any pets? If so, tell us about them – breed, name, age, personality quirks… None – I used to collect spiders, but never kept them as pets. When I grew up, I raised rabbits, for meat (!what can I say, I lived on a farm).


4. Who is someone you admire and why? E.O. Wilson. A great biological thinker - he studied ants before tackling broader questions and essentially founded the field of sociobiology. He thinks about the world from a thoroughly biological/evolutionary perspective, which mirrors my understanding of the world.


5. Write a haiku to describe your work (3 lines with 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively)

Larval fish drifting

Finding plankton to grow fat

And dying as food


A few Science questions

1. What is your title? What would you say you do here? Professor of Fisheries and Biometrics. I try to catch Arctic cod under the ice, that’s the major reason I came on this trip.


2. What motivated you to choose this particular field? A fascination with animals led me into biology, the marine focus came later and was somewhat by chance (I’m still a ‘land lubber’ at heart). When I started in marine biology, I realized that I did not have the patience and the knack for detail that is required to work with individual animals. I am more interested in larger-scale processes and big picture changes in populations and communities, which is why I got into fisheries oceanography and now consider myself an “ecosystem oceanographer”.


3. How many years have you been studying or working in this field? Too long to remember (30+ years)


4. What’s the best part of your work? Working with students on their projects and seeing the light bulbs go on!


5. What are the main challenges you face in your work? Finding periods of time to focus and do “deep work” becomes increasingly harder with an ever-accelerating pace in science and life in general.


6. What is one aspect of your work that you think the public should know more about? That the Arctic, and in particular the marginal ice zone, is actually a very productive and very important environment that supports huge populations of fish, seabirds and marine mammals, which in turn feed coastal communities and people throughout the world.

7. If you could know the definitive answer to one question in your field, what would that question be? Will Arctic/Polar cod be able to thrive in a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean with much less winter ice?


8. What are 3 things you’ve learned so far on this trip (could be related or unrelated to your work)?

  • There is a surprising amount of phytoplankton and other life under the sea ice even in the dark days of fall.

  • Not for the first time, I once again learned that clear communication is the key to success in any project!

  • Young Arctic cod apparently come up under newly forming ice to take advantage of any available food.

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