Anna Senecal is an onion: lots of layers.
She does your typical Jacksonite outdoor activities, most definitely. She’s reluctant to label herself as someone special. Only, between her quick-witted answers and self-deprecating humor, the layers start to peel away.
Senecal has called Jackson home for seven years, working for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Jackson office. Total, she’s done about 11 years with the department. Previously she was the fisheries biologist in Green River. An aquatic habitat biologist by profession, she works mostly with the Snake River system and the Salt River.
“I do work to better understand and improve habitats that are critical for the long-term survival of native aquatic wildlife,” Senecal said.
Right now that mostly means focusing on the Snake River cutthroat trout. Periodically she works in partnership with landowners and ranchers to determine a best-fit fix for an area. It may be a “total face-lift on a stream” or transplanting beavers.
As a female scientist Senecal finds that occasionally people make gender-based assumptions about her. She’s quick to add that while she can’t “swing a 100-pound hydraulic fence post pounder all day long” she can complete other tasks — and do them well.
“It’s my job as a human to try not to have preconceptions about the preconceptions that others may or may not have of me,” Senecal said. She chooses to be gracious about it. “It’s useful as a conversation about what it means to be a biologist, just a biologist, at the end of the day. A human.”
Wyoming Game and Fish offers a program called Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Senecal headed up the backpacking portion of the event this past weekend, noticeably excited about teaching other women outdoor skills and having the chance to empower some who may have previously had some sort of barrier to “getting out there.”
Even as a professional in her field, Senecal stands out from her peers.
“I actually have my bachelor’s in art, so I’m this weird black sheep in the hook-and-bullet Game and Fish scientist posse,” Senecal said.
She’s still got the state agency no-nonsense attitude, though. To her credit she has found a way to use the art degree in her thoroughly science-based career.
“Being able to talk to somebody not like a scientist,” she paused for a necessary laugh, “being able to use real words and approach things in different and creative ways — I think that the intersection of the arts and the sciences is actually really important.”
The arts degree manifests in music. She’s in the Jackson Hole Community Band and the Jazz Foundation of Jackson Hole group, playing both alto saxophone and the flute. If anyone considered joining the bands but was too scared, Senecal assures that the organizations “take anyone with a pulse.”
When pressed she admits that the song “Zoot Suit Riot” is her favorite to play on the saxophone, partially because everyone shouts “Riot!” throughout the song. Although, that group yell will probably have to wait until next year. With COVID-19, the band hasn’t been rehearsing together, and likely won’t be for the foreseeable future.
Senecal is not the person you would want to compete against in a fun fact contest, personal edition. She spent Christmas in Cuba — loves the culture there, by the way. Is a self-described “oil brat” who attended high school in the Middle East. Took a Grand Canyon rafting trip, spending 21 days on the water. She’s even a licensed yoga instructor.
“You can’t swing a dead cat in Jackson and not hit a yoga teacher,” Senecal joked. “I don’t think it makes me very special.”
She sometimes teaches yoga classes at the Training To Be Balanced gym.
Senecal and her husband, Sam Campbell, who works at the hospital, are avid boaters. Campbell does whitewater paddling, and Senecal prefers “the big raft.” They mountain bike, backpack and occasionally fish. Senecal said she’s not great at fishing but likes rowing the boat instead. In the winter, just like the rest of Jackson, they’ll be out on the powder enjoying cross-country or backcountry skiing.
Senecal likes traveling, but she defines travel to include short adventures around her, too. It’s another reason her job is a great fit for her: It allows her to explore new sections of her home every day. Alternate career options were anthropologist or psychologist, but then she wouldn’t have been able to work with new critters every day.
“Figure out what you’re really passionate about, what really makes you happy,” she said.
Fitting words of advice from a woman who does just that. To aspiring biologists, she said to do the seasonal jobs, work with different animals and different environments.
“Try all the things,” Senecal said.
She was speaking to future biologists, but perhaps everyone could use that advice.