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Senior Marine Scientist
The Nature Conservancy in Florida
"My favorite moments in the Gulf of Mexico have been the chances I’ve had to snorkel with and photograph manatees in the wild," Laura says. "Doing so made me realize they are gentle giants that need our protection."
A certified scuba instructor, Laura leads the efforts to develop marine and coastal conservation strategies in Florida. She is part of a Conservancy team working to implement plans for the nation’s marine areas to ensure they’re used wisely. These plans might dictate the location of new marine protected areas or help influence shipping lanes so that they have minimal impacts on wildlife.
Before joining the Conservancy in 1995, Laura taught courses in environmental policy at Nova Southeastern University and served as a marine biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Fish and Game. She has also worked as an environmental planner at the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology, where she reformed the state’s ability to recover damages for injuries to the environment resulting from major marine oil spills. Laura earned her bachelor’s degree in aquatic biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and she holds a master’s degree in marine affairs from the University of Washington-Seattle.
To Laura, restoration in the Gulf means rebuilding or restoring habitats that have been substantially damaged over the last several decades and beyond. "Some of the most critical habitats to restore in the Gulf include oyster reefs, salt marshes and coral reefs," she says. "They all serve critically important roles for keeping the Gulf as a whole healthy as well as for many of the fish and shellfish species we harvest commercially and recreationally."