Shirley Baker with a sea urchin specimen in the lab. Photo provided by Shirley Baker
Shirley Baker with a sea urchin specimen in the lab. Photo provided by Shirley Baker

Shirley Baker’s Twitter profile describes her as “Marine scientist, wife, UF faculty, weightlifter, serial crafter. Motto: Stronger than you think.” Shirley grew up in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by water and mountains. She completed her master’s degree at the University of Oregon and her PhD at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. She held postdoctoral positions at Macalester College in St Paul, MN and at SUNY Stony Brook. Shirley has been faculty at the University of Florida for over 20 years, where she does research on invertebrates (primarily molluscs) as they relate to aquaculture, invasions, and ecosystem services. She serves as the faculty coordinator for the undergraduate Marine Sciences major and teaches courses on marine adaptations and climate change. She has been married to her college sweetheart for 33 years and has 17-year-old identical triplet sons.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?


4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

In our master bath we have a poster that says “Octopuses have three hearts and they still can’t love you as much as I do”

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?


8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

Personal trainer

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Geological Oceanography

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Oregon Coast

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?


12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Any of the “True Facts” videos by zefrank1. “True Facts about the Mantis Shrimp” is especially good.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Go for a hike.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

My Standard Issue Notebook No 03 that contains all of my To-Do lists and notes.

15 What beverage gives you life?

Coffee and kombucha (not together).

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

A book of poetry that included Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay”

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

A marine biologist.

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

The satisfaction of helping others.

19 What got you excited in science?

The wonder of our amazing world.

20 What excites you about science now?

The opportunities to work across disciplines.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Fashion magazines

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I can deadlift 205 pounds – nearly twice my body weight.

23 What is your favorite game?

Apples to apples

24 What is the last book you read?

“At the Edge of the Orchard” by Tracy Chevalier

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

“Don’t get put on the parking committee.” In other words, be strategic about the service you do.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Drive a race car – really fast.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Don’t care so much about what others think of you.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Knitting, Netflix, and chocolate.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

The Night Manager.

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

Recently dead snails wrapped in a coffee-stained napkin.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Dumbo octopus – you can’t get any cuter than that!

32 What is your favorite book?

A 5 pound coffee table book titled “Intertidal Invertebrates of California”

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

My husband’s homemade beef stew.

34 What is your favorite day of the year?


35 What is your favorite plant?

A spider plant that is the descendant of spider plant babies I had in my bridal bouquet.

36 What is your favorite science fact?

There are sea slugs that steal chloroplasts!

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

A hot dry conifer forest in eastern Washington.

39 What is your favorite sound?

Waves and buoy bells

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

My tenacity

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

Smock (don’t ask)

42 What is your proudest moment?

Birthing and raising triplets who have turned into fine young men.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

Sitka Spruce

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Family friendly and so many things to do.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

Sea cucumbers breathe through their butts.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Ashley Smyth (UF Faculty)