q&A with Letha boudreaux, marine science program director
Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?
“I run a dynamic Marine Science Program on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for Saint Stanislaus High School. I also teach Marine Science, Marine Science II, Field Studies and Honors Biology. Our location on the Gulf Coast and the resources within our program allow our students to gain valuable hands-on experience in the field and in the lab. Our students not only learn within the “normal” structured environment of the classroom but they also learn how to use seine nets, cast nets, yabby pumps and sieves to collect, observe and identify marine organisms and sediment samples. They also learn how to use modern technologies to collect and monitor water quality in our area, as well as contribute to on-going research projects like oyster gardening and nurdle patrol.”
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
“I have always been fascinated with the ocean, and I knew since the third grade that I wanted to pursue Marine Biology. Growing up in the 80’s, there were a lot of new discoveries being made in the ocean. I remember looking at pictures of the Titanic and hydrothermal vents in old National Geographic magazines at my grandmother’s house. That particular edition of the magazine was my favorite, I can’t tell you how many times I looked at that specific magazine. The Abyss was one of my favorite movies growing up too. I have always been fascinated with the ocean and what is left to be explored and discovered. I guess that curiosity was also spurred by the fact that I grew up in the middle of cotton country – North Louisiana – no where near the ocean….It was always a mystery to me and I wanted to delve into it.”
“After completing my Master’s degree in Marine and Environmental Biology and working in the business world for a few years, I knew that the greatest way I could impact this field was by becoming a teacher and sharing my curiosity and passion with young minds.”
What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?
“The most fascinating thing is when I realize how much students learn about themselves and the world around them after taking our Marine Science course. They are truly appreciative and surprise themselves with all the knowledge they walk away with. They become stewards for their environment and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
What other jobs led you to your current career?
“I finished graduate school in Marine and Environmental Biology at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, right after Hurricane Katrina hit. I had planned on doing coastal restoration work for the state, but after the storm, our state was in a hiring freeze. So, my plan B was to help the Gulf Coast recover. And that’s exactly what I did. Immediately after graduating I began working for FEMA as an Environmental Specialist. I worked in Baton Rouge, LA, New Orleans, LA and eventually Biloxi, MS doing environmental assessments to assist in the recovery. Long story short, my experiences helping the Mississippi Gulf Coast recover led me to where I am today. I am teaching at one of the schools that took the brunt of Hurricane Katrina.”
What are your degrees and certifications?
“I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology from Nicholls State University in 2003 and then my Master of Science degree in Marine and Environmental Biology, also from Nicholls State University in 2005.”
What are your hobbies?
“I love spending time with my husband and our son. We love the New Orleans Saints, SCUBA diving, traveling and exploring nature.”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?
“Marine science is a fascinating world. If you are remotely interested in it, try it out. There is something in this field for everyone. And if teaching is something you are considering, make sure you are teaching what you love and that you love where you are doing it at!”