An interview with Anna Carter

Name: Anna CarterAnnaCarter

Current Job: Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution & Organismal Biology at Iowa State University

Scientific Discipline/Field: Quantitative thermal ecology, Macroecology, GIS

Country: U.S.

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q,+, etc.): GTQ


Twitter or other social media handle (if applicable)? @NthChapter

What does your job involve?
I study how organisms – mostly reptiles – experience their environment through the lens of thermally-mediated physiology, using remote sensing, GIS and modelling. So…10% field work and 90% computational. I deal with ridiculously huge datasets, and I’m very close friends with R.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?
I didn’t have a particularly straight (ha!) path to my current position. When I was a kid, my tendency to do things like “collect hundreds of fossilized shark teeth and sort them by morphology” led me to think I’d be a marine biologist. I did an undergrad research project on salt marsh biogeochemistry at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. After finishing my undergrad, I did really random things for about five years, including sailing tall ships for the Sea Education Association, also based in Woods Hole, and conducting seabird surveys in southern Oregon. When I decided I wanted to do a PhD, I just started emailing PIs who were doing interesting-looking research. I received a reply from one professor who was no longer taking students himself (thanks, very out-of-date university website), but whose former student was herself looking for new students and who would be at an upcoming conference in my city. So I contacted her, we met for coffee and she didn’t tell me to f*ck off (thanks Nicky!), so I applied to the programme, got a scholarship, and moved to New Zealand in late 2010. For four years, I had the privilege of doing field work in locations and with species that very few people will ever get to see in the wild, let alone handle and study. But the best thing about my PhD was that I made connections and developed ongoing collaborations with researchers around the world. I got my current postdoc because a colleague I met at the beginning of my PhD, who was also on my dissertation committee, told me about it and wrote me a reference letter. So I moved back to the states in 2016. …It was not great timing.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?
I think it has passively affected the timeline of my career, more so than it has actively impacted my decisions (so far). I wasn’t raised in an LGBTQ-friendly place, which led to some pretty awful, isolating years. So, ironically, I really wanted to get out but was also kind of stuck.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?
I have experienced or witnessed plenty of microaggressions, especially misgendering of non-binary and other trans people. I’ve seen intentional misgendering used as a bullying tool by senior scientists.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?
As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to know that being gay was a thing or watch TV shows with gay characters. But I loved Reading Rainbow, and I still think Levar Burton is probably one of the best people ever. The only STEM role model I remember having is Eugenie Clark, but I’m sure there were others.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m finishing up my current postdoc project and starting a new one this spring, with my own funding (getting a big project fully funded as a first-year postdoc has definitely been one of my finer moments). Eventually, I’d like to be based at a Research Institute.

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