Name: Ari Leach
Graduation Date: B.S.- May 2012, M.S.- October 2018
Degree Program: B.S. in Wildlife and M.S. in Sustainable Natural Resource Management
Location: West Boothbay Harbor, ME
Job Title: Biotoxin Specialist
Name of Employer: Maine Department of Marine Resources

Tell us a little about your job and the work you get to do:
As the Biotoxin Specialist for western Maine, I am responsible for monitoring harmful algal blooms that impact Maine’s vital shellfish resources and the health of the public. I travel up and down the Maine coast collecting shellfish and phytoplankton samples, then analyze those samples in our West Boothbay Harbor lab for the presence of marine toxins caused by harmful algae. I also work closely with shellfish industry members to monitor the health of the water around shellfish growing leases, which enables growers and wholesalers to move their product out to the public. In my travels, I have seen some of the most beautiful, hidden places in Maine, from small coves tucked away in pine forests to beaches covered with nothing but oysters. I also get the opportunity to work with organizations, including Unity College, to encourage and recruit the next generation of marine scientists, something that remains close to my heart.

How do you feel your Unity College degree prepared you for this job?
The coursework I completed, both during my undergrad and graduate studies, has prepared me beyond words for the work I do today. From wildlife identification labs to landscape ecology courses, my experiences at Unity helped to shape the scientist that I have become today and have continued to be relevant to the work I now do. There is always a time and place for the application of something I learned at Unity, and I never tire of sharing my experiences with a prospective student or fellow alum.

Why did you choose Unity College?
I chose Unity College because I was looking to move back to Maine after being away for a number of years, and the culture of the college spoke to me on many levels. From the small, intimate class sizes to the support you get from your professors and staff, Unity College creates an open and accepting learning environment that encourages growth, exploration, excellence, and community.

What advice would you give new Unity College students as they begin classes?
I have remained well-connected to Unity College since my undergraduate years and with every passing year, I see more and more the value of a Unity College education played out in real time. You are investing in your own future, and it is up to you to determine how far that future will take you. Jump in and enjoy the ride!