Loisette Marsh (Rutt)

1945 Collegian


My early childhood was spent on the shores of Vancouver Island, Canada. My father had been a sea captain and he always had to live by the sea.

We had our own private beach and at low tide there were fantastic creatures to be seen – crabs, sea stars. I was fascinated by them. That's where it all started.

We moved to Perth when I was 10. My school years spanned across World War II, 1939 – 1945. I owe a lot to the Biology teacher at MLC, Mrs Nicholas. She guided me along the biology path and really fired my enthusiasm.

I graduated from UWA with an Honours degree in Zoology. Dr Ernest Hodgkin was my mentor during postgraduate work and, later, he encouraged me to do marine research.

I married and had two children. My career really started when we returned to Perth after living in Norfolk Island and Fiji.

I was offered the chance to work at the WA Museum and I jumped at it. It was exactly what I wanted. I started as a graduate assistant in the mollusc department, eventually becoming curator in what is now the Department of Aquatic Zoology.

In the '70s and '80s I went on field trips to amazing places around the WA coast such as the Houtman Abrolhos and offshore atolls as well as Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Indonesia.

We dived in a lot of places that hadn't been dived before. It was magical to be able to do these things and get paid for it.

I guess not many people can say they have a genus of sea cucumber named after them, as well as several marine inverterbrae species. The sea cucumber is not the prettiest animal; it's all red and spiky. I much prefer the sea star and I am lucky to have one from the Red Sea named after me.

I don't feel I have done anything outstanding, but my greatest satisfaction has come from contributing to knowledge of the fauna of WA coral reefs and adjacent areas.

The scientific research has helped the conservation movement. Back in the '70s we recommended Ningaloo Reef should become a marine park, which eventually came to pass.

On MLC: My fondest memories are of some of my classmates, some of whom are lifelong friends.