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REPOST: STEM Career Interviews: Up Close And Personal….For You! – DNR Fisheries

by | Apr 7, 2017 | RE@L StudentCorner

Back by popular demand: Know Your STEM Careers!

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RE@L brings you a series of blogs and interviews on STEM Careers. Why? Well, there are milions of K12 school kids out there who need to know if a STEM career is right for them. Girls and boys. If a STEM job piques your interest, now’s the time to get more information and start taking the right classes in school.


Al Schmidt

Todays’ STEM Careers blog features Al Schmidt. Al is a Fisheries Specialist who works for the Minnesota Departent of Natural Resources (MNDNR). His job is to monitor state fisheries and make them more productive for those who fish and those who catch and release. Read on for more RE@L reporting on this exciting STEM career and YOU!

RE@L: Meet Al Schmidt. Al has a degree in aquatic biology with a specialty in fisheries. Al, what does your job require?

Al:  I work with a small team of field biologists responsible for monitoring, protecting and maintaining Minnesota’s fisheries resources.  This is accomplished through population surveys, environmental permit application review, and stocking of select gamefish species. 

RE@L: Can you tell us what kind of work you actually do?

sorting2Al:  A crew of us would begin a lake survey on a Monday by setting 2 gillnets and 3 trapnets in lake “x”. The nets would be deployed for a period of 4, 24-hour sampling periods, with workers returning each day to count, measure and weigh captured fish.  Data are later analyzed, interpreted and written into a report for public viewing. 

RE@L: Give us an example of how your work sometimes involves the integration of the 4 STEM areas.

Al: Science and mathematics is used in the analyzing and interpretation of fisheries population data.  Technology may be used to measure dissolved oxygen in the lake, using a special meter, and more mathematics may be used in the planning or summarizing of data using statistically valid protocols. In other words, we want to be sure that the samples we take and conclusions we draw represent the entire lake. 

RE@L: When did you start to focus on your career area?  Give an example of an experience from your youth that demonstrated your early interest.

WalleyFrysAl:  I started to focus on my career when I was a junior in high school.  When I was 11 years old, my family built a cabin on a lake that had a nearby marsh which served as a northern pike spawning and nursery area.  As I boy, I would stand for hours and watch very large pike slowly swim by in 10-inches of water to flooded grassy areas where they would spawn.  I was fascinated by this and developed a deep appreciation for the outdoors.

WalleyFrysRE@L:  What advice do you have for a K-12 school age person thinking about following a STEM career path?

Al:   I would encourage kids to pursue a STEM pathway because it can lead to a career that helps people understand and  appreciate the world around us.  

RE@L:  Anything else that might be helpful to girls and boys out there about what your job is like?

Al: A colleague of mine, Carl Mills, put together some nice short videos that do a good job explaining some of our field work operations. Just click on the graphic below. It will take you to our DNR website where you can see some interesting videos about what we do.

DNR Site VideosDNR Site Videos

RE@L: Thanks very much for this very helpful information about STEM and DNR fisheries, Al. 

NOTE: RE@L did some additional research on careers in the DNR. Here’s what we found: 

The DNR is really a great place for young women to consider a career. It has been a male-dominated profession for many years, so there are efforts to hire more qualified women in all positions. 

For both women and men, there are technician level jobs in natural resources that do not require a college degree, although a 2-year degree is usually a very good idea for competitive reasons.


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Randy Nelson & Dale LaFrenz


/// Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L, Inc and one of the founders of MECC, Inc - the Minnesota company that brought “Oregon Trail” and more than a hundred products to millions of K12 students across the world. HIs RE@L Inc continues to serve K12 as a LearningProduct "launching pad" for schools, online learning and the rapidly growing STEM market. /// Randy Nelson recently joined RE@L as a BlogMeister and Director of Education for RE@L's new STEM-based LearningProducts. Randy has long been an advocate for more positive, effective changes in K-12 teaching and learning, from his teaching days to his former career as a Superintendent who positively reformed the school district of LaCrosse Wisconsin.w