Camping and a college field course led aquatic invasive species outreach coordinator Pat Charlebois to a career in aquatic ecology.
"I spent a month at the University of Notre Dame field station in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan taking a field studies class that focused on aquatic habitats, which were abundant on the property. I was hooked," said Pat.
Pat went on to earn a bachelor’s and master's degrees in aquatic biology from the University of Notre Dame. She joined the Illinois Natural History Survey as a temporary fisheries and aquatic invasive species outreach specialist at the Lake Michigan Biological Station in February 1996; she never left.
Now Pat leads the aquatic invasive species (AIS) outreach team, a joint effort between Illinois Natural History Survey and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. The team educates power boaters, teachers, anglers, pet retailers, canoeists, and water gardeners about the threats AIS pose to our valuable aquatic resources, and how the introduction and spread of AIS can be prevented.
Q. How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
A. As one of 6 kids, our vacations were always spent camping because hotels took too big of a bit out of our budget. So, I spent lots of time outdoors as far back as I can remember. As I got older, my interests were varied, but always came back to some sort of biology, which I think was sparked by those camping trips.
Q. Who has been a mentor to you in your science career?
A. I had a series of people who helped me over the years. The professor who suggested I take the field studies class, another whom I met doing the class and then worked for as an undergraduate, most definitely my Master’s advisor, and then the former Director of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. The latter helped guide me to think strategically in my current position, and the others trained me to be the scientist that I am today.
Q. What is the best part of your job, and what work are you most proud of?
A. The best part of my job is that I get to work and partner with great people who all want to use science to address freshwater issues. I’m probably most proud of the work I’ve done helping states address aquatic invasive species issues through changes in policy.
Q. What advice would you give to other female scientists?
A. Find opportunities to enrich and expand your repertoire.