From Bugs to Bridges: A Biologist’s Dedication Shines in Baltimore Harbor Crisis

By Jeremy ToddApril 30, 2024

Ariel Poirier, a biologist with USACE Baltimore, applies her passion for nature and expertise as an operations liaison in response to the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – During an emergency, an operations liaison, like U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District biologist Ariel Poirier pictured here during the Key Bridge Response in April 2024, plays a critical role in ensuring effective communication, coordination, and decision-making among the various agencies, departments, and teams involved in the response efforts. Their primary goal is to support the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in managing the crisis and minimizing its impact on the community. (Photo Credit: David Adams) VIEW ORIGINAL
From Bugs to Bridges: A Biologist’s Dedication Shines in Baltimore Harbor Crisis
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – On April 8, 2024, during the total solar eclipse, a group of professionals from various scientific backgrounds took a moment to observe the celestial event. The group, pictured from left to right, included Kimberly Matthews, design manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District; Kareem Orio, Coast Guard Master Chief marine science technician; and Baltimore District personnel Amani Khalil, environmental ecologist and Ariel Poirier, biologist. United by their scientific curiosity, they briefly paused their duties to witness the rare astronomical phenomenon together. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Todd) VIEW ORIGINAL
From Bugs to Bridges: A Biologist’s Dedication Shines in Baltimore Harbor Crisis
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ariel Poirier – July 2021 Butterfly Surveys (Courtesy Photo) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

With a love of crawly things and creatures the average person would avoid, she has loved bugs since childhood. Everyone has dreams of being something as a child, but Ariel Poirier followed that dream, and it led her to becoming a biologist. She made a career out of it and now works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Baltimore District.

Since becoming a professional, she has had the ability to harness her caring side and apply it to her work. So, when tragedy struck Baltimore, she was one of the first to raise her hand and volunteer to be a member of the district's Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Within days, hundreds would join her in what would become the Key Bridge Response team, which is operating from the Incident Command Post (ICP) at the Maryland Cruise Terminal just outside of the city of Baltimore.

With a full staff and plenty of coordinating to do, Poirier is positioned as an operations liaison with the EOC. She served onsite from the outset of the collapse on March 26, only recently demobilizing after a month of work on the response. In this high-stress environment, she celebrates the nuances by embracing the vast number of different personalities she has encountered. “It has been amazing to meet different USACE employees, learn about their areas of expertise, and experience the interconnectedness that makes the Incident Command Post function.”

In this temporary position, she kept track of several moving pieces and relayed that information to the various department heads. During an emergency such as this one, an operations liaison serves as a vital link between the EOC, response teams, and other stakeholders, ensuring all parties are working together effectively to manage the crisis and protect the community. The operations liaison helps maintain accurate records of the response efforts, including decisions made, actions taken, and resources deployed. They also contribute to the preparation of situation reports and after-action reviews. During Poirier’s service at the ICP, the experiences of the versatile operation added to the learning made possible by her career with USACE.

With nearly two years at the agency, Poirier has become a vital part of the organization. “Ariel, like a few others, has shown she is not just tied to her job title, she has a wealth of information and is as versatile as they come. Her dedication to mission success and commitment to the USACE family has made me proud to have her as a colleague,” said Rebecca Fosnight, EOC operations management specialist.

From childhood adventures like flipping rocks to find crickets, worms, and spiders to her love of plants, animals, and being outdoors, Poirier has learned to apply her affinity of all creatures to her dedication of the mission. “During this deployment, I faced challenges with work-life balance. The consecutive working days were long, and this made it difficult to take care of home-life responsibilities. I struggled finding time to spend with family and friends. But this is all temporary though, and I have a wonderful support system that made it easy to keep my focus on the mission,” she said.

As the response efforts continued, Ariel Poirier remained steadfast in her commitment to the mission, demonstrating the vital role that passionate professionals play in times of crisis. She believes her story serves as an inspiration to those who strive to combine their personal interests with a dedication to serving their community.

“I gave this mission my complete focus and attention,” she said. “My strength to fulfill the role was inspired by knowing the many impacts the collapse has had on people and the economy. Lives were lost, navigation halted, and people’s lives were directly impacted. Loss and change are difficult, and knowing this, it’s easy to care. It’s human to step up and do your part during times of trouble, and that’s what motivates me.”