LeBlanc Recounts Summer 2017 Teaching, Research
Madeline LeBlanc is a senior pursuing a double major in chemistry and coastal environmental science. Here she recounts her summer teaching and research experiences abroad and at home.
Teaching: This summer I went on the LSU Teaching in Chile Program as a science advocate on scholarship from CC&E. Our group travelled to Concepción to help teach in Colegio Concepción de San Pedro and stayed with host families while there. I was able to help teach organic chemistry, middle school and elementary math, help with Coastal Roots in a forest-fire-worn area, and get involved with the fun after school programs. I also helped with teacher discussions and led a workshop on science communication. We went on many adventures and field trips in the area, including the world touring "Bodies" exhibit, thermal pools in the Andes, and Pacific beaches.
My experience in Chile was incredible and definitely something that I would have never been able to do without the help of the College. I learned a lot about the way that their society and school system functions, especially in terms of science communication within the school system and environmental education. It sparked in me a love of Latin American traveling and I ended up going to Puerto Rico and Mexico this summer also, and I can't wait to add more to that list. I hope to see collaborative research with samples from Latin America in my future.
Research: For my time spent in good old Baton Rouge this summer, I worked in Dr. Twilley's Coastal Systems Ecology lab on research leading into my current honors thesis. I've been working with Dr. Twilley since Fall 2016 on a project focused on the chemical dynamics of sediments in a healthy coastal wetland system. I am primarily focusing on the sequestration of "blue carbon" in the Fourleague Bay system and the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus stoichiometric ratios involved in the sediments. By studying these dynamics I am hoping to describe the ecological services that healthy wetlands can provide to society and the factors that we should design as part of Louisiana coastal wetland restoration programs.
I was able to spend my summer continuing my analysis of the wetland sediments and preparing for the official start of my honors thesis this semester. I plan to pursue a Masters and Ph.D. graduate program working in coastal chemical oceanography, and this thesis work is directly preparing me for that goal. I am learning ecological experimental design techniques that will benefit me in future research, as well as experience in analytical techniques that will serve me for my entire career. By working under Dr. Robert Twilley and alongside many graduate students in the lab, I am able to experience the full process of publication level research and see the details involved in graduate studies. My experience thus far in the lab has been invaluable for the development of my research skills and this thesis project will help to fine-tune them further. The work I am doing is also serving as a launching pad to prepare me for the research proposal in my National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship Application, and thus will potentially assist in funding my graduate research.
I have been able to directly apply everything I learn in the classroom to real life research that is preparing me for my future. I have discovered in the labs of the Energy, Coast and Environment Building, and deep in the mud and water of the Louisiana coast, that I am exactly where I should be and love to be.