Elite marine scientist named fellow in her field | East Jefferson community news

Slidell resident Laurie Jugan’s passion and effort as a marine scientist have earned her an award that highlights her as an elite member of her field.

The Marine Technology Society named her as a 2020 fellow, a lifetime achievement award given to members who have distinguished themselves in the field.

Jugan is president of the Gulf Coast section of the organization, an area that spans from Louisiana through the panhandle of Florida. She is the first woman from the section to receive the award.

Jugan has spent nearly 30 years connecting the latest technology advancements with the marine science industry to solve problems in waters around the globe but especially in the Gulf Coast.

She spent 25 years as an oceanographer, working for a small company that developed technology for underwater projects. In her position, she wrote proposals, managed contracts and supervised teams at Stennis Space Center and across the globe.

One project that she is especially proud of created software that helped divers see better underwater or stay protected by knowing where they shouldn’t venture. The tool became an instrumental technology for the U.S. Navy during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Divers went into that area of the world, and we were able to keep them safe,” she said.

The software, developed for naval research at Stennis, is one example of “how much technology happens in our own backyard,” Jugan said.

Jugan is now an independent consultant supporting the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology, a nonprofit located at Stennis. Her technical roles include at-sea exercise direction and the creation of environmental products that assist the Naval Fleet in navigating global waters.

She said she loves making matches between the companies or entities that are developing technology and problems that need solving.

Many such connections have been made, she said, during the Marine Technology Society’s annual OCEANS conferences which brings together professionals in the marine science and technology field. She served three times as organizer for the OCEANS conference.

In 2009, she chaired the event, which was held in Biloxi, Mississippi, and brought more than 2,000 attendees and an economic impact of $3 million to the area, she said. The conference was slated to again be held in Biloxi in 2020, but in response to COVID-19 the meeting became a virtual event.

But she also saw the need to connect technology and projects on the Gulf Coast on a more regular basis. So, she co-founded the Oceans in Action workshops held annually since 2011. She helped to bring in the Advanced Naval Technology Enterprise as part of the workshop.

“Research is great, but an operational project is where that research goes into a tool that gets implemented and helps a mission. At Stennis, so many research tools go into missions. That is what Oceans in Action is about,” she said.

She said one outcome from Oceans in Action is that underwater drones are being used more in Gulf waters, and states across the Gulf Coast are working together to solve problems that are harder to tackle with manned equipment. “We are hearing little success stories all over the place about that,” she said.

In addition to being the first woman from the Gulf Coast area to receive the award, she was only the sixth to be named from the area in the organization’s history.

She said she is proud to be a recipient and pleased that the award will put the spotlight on the groundbreaking work in the area of marine science being done at Stennis. “When people think of Stennis, they think of aerospace. But to think that is all Stennis does is misinformed. There is so much work being done here for Gulf waters.”

Jugan said when she started out as an oceanographer, she had very little support. “Now you see more women interested in the field. Society norms are really changing. Women now see other women and know they can do it. Women are rising to positions that are visible.”

Jugan also serves on the Board of the INFINITY Science Center and co-hosts a WRJW radio spot highlighting business activities along the Gulf Coast.

She received her award on Oct. 8 via the virtual OCEANS 2020 conference.

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