BABE #249: SAM LUCAS - Conservation Initiative Coordinator + Marine Science Educator, Coastal Keepers
As a Conservation Initiative Coordinator and Marine Science educator at Coastal Keepers, Sam is actively chasing her childhood dreams of helping positively impact our oceans day in and out. Her love for protecting the environment and passion for sharing her knowledge with younger generations is equally inspiring and important. We’re grateful for Sam — and the many STEM babes like her — for keeping the needs of our planet at the top of her priority list to ensure a fruitful future for us all.
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Current city: Fort Myers, Florida
Alma mater: Salisbury University
Degree: B.S., Biology
Very first job: Maintaining the reef and estuarine tanks in my college research professor’s lab
Hustle: Conservation Initiative Coordinator + Marine Science Educator, Coastal Keepers
Babe you admire and why?
No one in particular, as I am always impressed and full of admiration to see any woman killing it in her respective field! It inspires me to do more.
How do you spend your free time?
I really enjoy running. I’ve done seven half-marathons; it’s a time when I can really de-stress. I also love to bake, bird, explore new trails and I am trying to find the time (and patience) to read more. Honestly, sometimes I just need a day to not do anything and Netflix binge, too.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
I’m a plain-Jane when it comes to coffee; I just enjoy a little bit of almond milk mixed in. As for adult beverages, I’m into craft beers and visiting local breweries.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Tacos! I love how versatile they can be.
What’s something you want to learn?
I’d like to keep getting better at scuba diving and explore new spots. I’m a newbie right now, but I’m hoping to log quite a few dives this year and maybe get my advanced open water.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
I’d have to say Amy Poehler. She’s hilarious and badass—perfect makings for a very enjoyable coffee date.
Tell us about your hustle.
My position is a 75/25 split between the conservation initiative coordinator role and a marine science educator role. As the conservation initiative coordinator, I help run Coastal Keepers, the conservation branch of Sanibel Sea School. Our mission is to create and implement local conservation initiatives that promote and improve the future of marine resources and our coastal heritage. I assist in the creation and then work to execute our conservation initiatives with the help and oversight of an advisory board. I attend outreach events and initiative specific events such as Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) events at our local grocery store, where I distribute reusable canvas bags for free. In addition, I have the responsibility of planning a yearly fundraiser. On the education side of things, I teach a variety of classes centered on topics of marine science. The primary age group are children between 6 and 13, but I have engaged with adults and groups of all ages. We have half-day classes, camps, bird walks, shell walks and private sessions to just list a few. All of our classes are very hands-on and we spend the majority of our time outside exploring the ocean.
Have you always been passionate about ocean conservation?
Yes! Since I was a child my dream has always been to be a marine biologist. I grew up exploring the Gulf Coast of Florida on family vacations and fell in love with it right away. It has always been my endgame to have a job centered around the ocean. I was looking to go on a bit of an adventure as I had been in the MD/DE/VA area my whole life. On a whim, I saw a job posting for this amazing position on Sanibel Island. I applied and got the job! It was like a dream.
What does your typical workday look like?
It depends on the day and what we are offering. I am really lucky to have a schedule that is split up well between office and field work. For example, in the morning I may be scheduled for a day class where I get to teach about a topic such as seahorses; I get to teach while exploring the seagrass beds (and catching critters!) with the students. Then, in the afternoon I will do office-based work for Coastal Keepers, attend meetings or go out into the community to give out reusable bags and straws. Sometimes I’m in the office for the majority of the week, but it is a really nice brain-break to spend a portion of the day outside, whether that be for 30 minutes or a few hours.
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
College provided me with a strong science background and general knowledge for my field. I have learned the majority of my applicable skills from previous job experiences, though. While I was in college I interned and then was naturalist at a local discovery center. This helped me realize I did not want to continue on with purely research after graduation, and that my main interest was in environment education. With this knowledge, after graduating, I worked as an educator and then master educator at a field station along the coast of Virginia for two years. I learned a lot about teaching, Barrier Island ecology, field equipment, boating and myself. I even have my commercial driver’s license (class B) from it. I would not be the worker or person that I am today without this job.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
Stepping into the world of conservation! Prior to this, all of my experience has been in science education. It has really put me out of my comfort zone to create and execute community-based conservation initiatives. It can be challenging to work with the public (community members and business owners) at times, but I have learned a lot through the process. I am really proud I was able to assist in the creation of a straw ordinance on Sanibel through our initiative, Strawless on Sanibel. We were able to partner with local businesses to enact a change in the community. Also, our current stock of reusable canvas bags for our Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) initiative were sustainably handcrafted in Haiti by deux mains. I’m thrilled that through our partnership we were able to not only benefit the community on Sanibel, but do the same for those in Haiti.
How do challenge people to change their attitudes to protect our environment?
It all starts with small steps in the right direction. I provide education and challenge people to change their habits with easy-to-do alternatives. If it appears too difficult I’ve found that most people will find it unappealing. Through my job, we’ve made it easier for the community to turn away from plastic options as we provide reusable canvas bags and reusable stainless steel straws for free. My advice for those passionate about advocacy is to spread your enthusiasm and knowledge to those around you. It’s easy to get other excited about it a topic if you already are. There are many routes to take, whether that be to volunteer, write letters, organize a club or attend public events—the options really are endless.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
It has given me more drive and determination. As I am partly an educator, I want to show young girls that they can do anything and be anything. For women in science-based careers, I think a large barrier is representation. The tides are changing, but I feel that the more representation, the better.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
In the environmental education industry, it’s typically female-dominant. However, I believe this is empowering to young girls—they are able to see females in lead roles, teaching science, getting in the mud, fishing, driving a boat, paddling, all types of things. I don’t see the gender ratio changing too much in this specific field, but I am seeing it more and more in STEM careers as a whole. There’s a big push to encourage young girls to pursue science, and I think we are going to see the ratio change in the near future.
How do you stay organized in your workload and responsibilities?
I am all about planners and making lists. I currently have a Passion Planner and I love it. It really helps keep me focused on tasks I need to have done and my eye on future deadlines.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Do what makes you happy, do not settle. I really believe in this phrase; it can can be applied to so many aspects of life.
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