Alumnus Prepares for LSU TED Talk

Clay Tucker is a 2009 St. Michael graduate, holds a master’s degree in geography, is a Louisiana State University PhD student, and come March, can add TED talk speaker to his resume.

After his high school years, Clay went on to earn both of his degrees in geography from LSU. He is currently in the process of attaining his PhD in the same field. He focuses on researching the effects of hurricanes and the effect of sea level rise on coastal trees.

As a coastal scientist, Clay’s work is particularly important to south Louisiana, so TEDxLSU approached him regarding its annual conference. He believes that something so drastic can be fairly simple to demonstrate to people using science. “I want to show that science is accessible and trustworthy,” he notes. “When I started my graduate career, I was looking for something Louisiana focused. Ultimately, trees are story tellers and are letting us know that hurricanes are becoming more forceful resulting in an extremely active rise in sea level.”

Clay goes on to explain that each year of its life, a tree adds one ring to the inside of its trunk. These rings tell a story and change based on environmental conditions. “When there is a hurricane, the ring on the tree from that year is extremely small. Coastal trees in places like New Orleans are dying quickly,” he shares.

Not all hope is lost, though. The benefit of knowing this is that we can use the past to confidently predict the future. According to Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, Louisiana’s coast is rapidly diminishing. Clay explains that it is a natural progression; we can only control our actions related to it. We must be proactive about the occurring situation and move away from the coastal regions.

For now, Clay hopes to continue his research on coastal trees and one day become a professor, giving credit to the St. Michael family for helping him find a passion in teaching. “The reason I went to St. Michael is because it felt like a close knit family,” he says. “My senior year, we began a program where we could assist a teacher with one of their classes. I was assigned Algebra I with Mrs. Brouillette. Having a leadership role in education changed my whole perspective. The key is to get involved in your education.”

Clay’s TED talk will be March 23, 2019, on LSU’s campus. You can learn more about Clay’s research and TED talk topic here: