Celebrating Women in Science: Kate Leavitt, SSC Chief Program Officer

Kate Leavitt, SSC’s Chief Program Officer, on a field study trip during her conservation biology masters degree program. She has explored the ocean in Baja, Belize and Australia!

For thirty years, Seacoast Science Center has been inspiring and employing women in science careers. From field trips and summer camps to volunteering and internships, young women have had meaningful experiences here and followed their dreams to work in ocean science. The Center’s staff also includes women at all stages of career development and provides a motivating environment for personal and professional growth.

The Center’s Chief Program Officer Kate Leavitt’s interest in marine biology was sparked in 5th grade, leading her to eventually pursue her dream of a degree in marine and freshwater biology at the University of New Hampshire. Her career in conservation biology began in Texas as a Student Conservation Association intern. That transformational experience led to a rare opportunity and position as a Park Ranger for the U.S. National Park Service. “I spent my days patrolling the national seashore by boat and ATV for endangered sea turtles, conducting research, performing necropsies and even attaching some of the very first satellite tags for sea turtles. These field experiences were physically and emotionally demanding, particularly due to the fraught relations between fishers and regulators in the 1990’s, but they were overwhelmingly positive. They shaped me and led me down a path of research, conservation and community outreach.”  She later returned to the Northeast and conducted research for National Marine Fisheries. 

After joining the staff at Seacoast Science Center, Kate pursued a unique conservation biology master’s  program at Miami University that fit her research and education interests perfectly. Her program included field science projects in Mexico, Belize and Australia. She now leads a team of educators and naturalists at SSC and enjoys her role as mentor. “As an institution, we always encourage our staff members to take advantage of professional development opportunities such as attending workshops, joining regional boards, taking classes and networking with partner organizations. We also empower our educators to take the lead on new initiatives that will enhance the Center’s breadth of programming.”

Kate works every day to provide inspiring, motivational experiences that are so impactful they actually shift a student or visitor’s thinking, behaviors, and maybe even trajectory. Kate works to engage her staff, funders, partners and networks in developing high quality, science-based learning experiences that nurture personal connections with Odiorne Point State Park and the coastal marine environment through first person interaction.

“Throughout my career, I’ve learned that there are many ways to advance conservation biology,” she explains. “Whether your strength is in teaching, writing, hands-on research, or program management, you can play a role in the efforts to keep our ocean healthy. There is no one ‘right’ path in science!”

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