Senior shares knowledge of wetlands

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) - The disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico will have after effects for many years to come and will likely to inspire career choices of young people who will want to help restore the environment.

And Alton Puckett is a senior citizen whose personal efforts are also in line with that aim.  In his new position with Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, he  joined a group of these teens from Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes on what they call "Marsh Maneuvers."  They came to Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries as part of the three day camp for 4-H teens.  The camp will teach them a lot about Southwest Louisiana's unique environment and its many natural resources from vegetation to seafood.

Puckett is well known in the community for having been a portrait photographer for three decades. But he's handed the reigns to his assistant. Who knew he has a degree in biology and, at the age of 60, would re-dedicate his time and talent to teaching young people."It's given me time to do some things that my original degree in biology has allowed me to get back into. We're training the leaders for tomorrow. It's not just a matter of thinking, 'Well, am I going to be a doctor or a lawyer or a physical therapist or a dentist,' which are all fine careers, but there are also careers in wetlands".

Puckett's father in law was the late Rodney Guilbeaux, a tireless advocate who spent much of his life trying to restore and protect the Louisiana coast.  In part, Puckett sees his efforts as helping to continue Rodney's legacy.

With the oil spill in the Gulf now is a good time to inspire young people who might consider an environmental career and Puckett hopes his efforts will pay off for the future of Louisiana wetlands. "For the next twenty years there will be, I've been told that there are positions now that we don't even have names for that will be created because of this."

This very camp more than ten years ago inspired Mandy Shahan, "Anyone ever been down to the pogey plant?," she asks her young visitors as she holds up a menhaden fish.  Attending camp inspired her to become the marine biologist she is today. "That's when I decided that I loved that and that's what I wanted to work in, wanted to be a wildlife, wanted to work with animals, get dirty and work with fish, just a little bit of everything." She works for Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department.

From the Wildlife and Fisheries office the teens will tour Sempra LNG, visit Sabine Wildlife Refuge and eventually wind up at Constance beach where they'll learn more about the wetlands and even plant some grass to help stop erosion.

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