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Meet Mabel Baldwin-Schaeffer, Tribal Research Coordinator

November 03, 2022

During National Native American Heritage Month, learn more about Mabel Baldwin-Schaeffer and her work as a Tribal Research Coordinator at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Mabel Baldwin-Schaeffer with Utqiagvik whale bone on beach.

What is your key responsibility?

My job is to promote awareness of valuable Alaskan resources and the importance of food sovereignty and food security to lead our thinking through managing our changing ecosystems in order to shape future steps.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the Native Village of Kiana, Alaska.

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Mabel Baldwin-Schaeffer on boat.
Mabel Baldwin-Schaeffer on boat. Photo courtesy of Mabel Baldwin-Schaeffer.

Is there anything about your childhood or where you grew up that influenced your career path?

My earliest childhood memories include practicing subsistence. After the school year was complete, my family (I am the youngest of nine) would leave our village to spend the whole summer at my maternal grandparents’ cabin, 60-ish miles downriver, to fish. We spent our days checking the net, standing at the fish table processing our catch, and then preserving it in various traditional methods. I remember traveling back to our village with an entire boat load of fish; there was so many fish that my father’s wooden boat flirted with water coming over the hull. That summer’s worth of work fed our family throughout the year. The marine environment is of high value to not only my family but also to all the rural and Indigenous communities in Alaska. This is because of its cultural and nutritional benefits, which harmonizes with the term I learned as a child, “subsistence.” It gives us life, reminds us of who we are, and helps us to pass that knowledge to others.

What is your educational background?

I have a Master of Science, Environmental Science from the Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, Alaska.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love to do everything in Alaska! That includes camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting to name a few.

Arctic Ocean coast.
Arctic Ocean coast. Photo courtesy of Mabel Baldwin-Schaeffer.

Is there a book, quote, or person that influenced you to be the person that you are today? Tell us why.

A big influence of mine is Willie Hensley, an Alaska Native Advocate and author of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow. He wrote, "We knew that cooperative effort was imperative—only by working together could we survive."

What does working at NOAA Fisheries mean to you?

Near and dear to my heart in my professional and academic career has always been to improve local participation and to engage Alaskan communities in research development, particularly when addressing resource-use conflicts. In my previous work, I led a collaborative study examining offshore gold mining and the effects on important structural habitat components important to juvenile red king crab in Norton Sound. I have also managed a collaborative initiative between Bering Sea Elders and a Bering Sea commercial fishing fleet to better understand Kuskokwim Bay water temperature, while simultaneously strengthening communication between Alaskan Native communities and the commercial fishing industry.

What advice would you have for someone interested in a career at NOAA Fisheries?

Working for NOAA Fisheries is an honor. I love that I can do what I love while also serving my People.