Chandler native now explores the world’s oceans - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler native now explores the world’s oceans

December 22nd, 2021 development
Chandler native now explores the world’s oceans

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Chandler native Mattie Rodrigue says she’s seen more than a few raised eyebrows when she tells them a kid from the desert is now a marine biologist.

“They say, ‘What?!’” Rodrigue said. “More often than not I get questions from people … ‘Ah, I wanted to do that when I was a kid, and then I decided to go somewhere else. So my goal is to make sure any kid that wants to be a marine biologist, knows that it’s a possibility.”

Now, Rodrigue spends most of the year on the OceanX ship as its science program lead. OceanX is a global nonprofit ocean exploration organization.

Rodrigue returned to Chandler earlier this month to visit with family. While here, she made an appearance at the OceanX Adventure exhibit currently being displayed at the Crayola Experience in Chandler Fashion Center.

She credited her teachers while she was growing up in Chandler for helper her reach the bottom of the ocean where she has discovered new species. Rodrigue went to Dobson High School and graduated from Arizona State University. When she’s not on the ship, which she is about 8-to-10 months a year, she calls New York home.

“Mattie actually had a couple of weeks break, and because she is local here in Chandler, OceanX had reached out to us,” said Casey Santoro, the general manager at Crayola Experience. “We thought, what a great partnership, we already had the OceanX display going on here, so it just fit perfectly for everybody.”

Rodrigue said she loved to explore the desert when she was growing up.

“I want to know what is out there, I want to find new things, I want to discover and explore,” Rodrigue said. “But ultimately I’m passionate about the future of the oceans.”

Rodrigue said it was on a trip to California when she was in the fourth grade that her mother suggested she talk to a marine biologist. That’s how a kid from the desert who grew up hundreds of miles away from any ocean became interested in marine biology.

Now she dives in their underway vehicles to depths of 3,000 feet below the surface. She also has sent robots down as far as 18,000 feet to explore.

That has allowed her to meet new species on a regular basis. How often?

“Pretty often,” she said. “I don’t have the exact count for you, but we have an amazing resource in the vessel. We get a lot of eyes underwater, a lot of eyes on the surface, and a lot of eyes up in the air. … Utilizing the capacity that we have on board, helps us see in those places at the right time where we’re able to discover something great.”

Rodrigue said she enjoys a chance to tell children about OceanX’s mission.

“I haven’t done one in person in a while, obviously,” Rodrigue said. “But especially coming to my hometown, and especially getting to talk to kids who are just like me when I was little, and interested and curious but maybe not sure what the next step was. Or how to get involved in what they’re curious and excited about. Anything I can do is just incredible.”


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