Maybe it was the trips to Monterey Bay Aquarium in grade school at Meyers Elementary, or the enthusiastic biology lessons by South Tahoe High School's Roy Benavidez.
Whatever sparked her love for the ocean's animals, former Lake Tahoe Unified student Alexis Rudd has taken her passion to the highest levels of study.
Rudd, working on her Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Hawaii, studies whales, dolphins and other marine mammals in waters where few have had the opportunity to glimpse the creatures.
"Every time I see an animal that's rare or hard to see, I feel lucky," Rudd said Monday while visiting South Lake Tahoe.
To study the animals, Rudd rides around on inter-island barges that traverse the rough channels where smaller research craft often cannot go. Rudd mounts sonar devices on the ships to listen in on the activity of whales and dolphins.
Research in the lesser-studied territory offers new insights into the lives of the animals, Rudd said. But working in rough waters does have its consequences.
"I actually never got seasick before I went out on these boats," she said.
Currently Rudd lives on Kaneohe on the island of Oahu. She'll likely be working on her current project for at least five years, but hopes to finish her doctorate before then, she said. Living on an island isn't always easy, she added.
"I miss skiing a lot," Rudd laughed. "I miss the space. Oahu is kind of a small island. Plus, it's really hot."
Rudd never realized in high school that she'd eventually be traveling the world, eavesdropping on the conversations of maybe the most intelligent animals. And she hopes that won't stop current high school students from doing great things.
"One of the things that I think is important for high school students to remember is that where you are in high school is not necessarily where you're going in life," she said.
Students at Zephyr Cove Elementary are collecting school supplies that will be donated to schools in rural Cambodia.
Donations will be collected until April 27 and can be dropped off at the front office or to counselor Jenay Aiksnoras' room inside ZCES located at 226 Warrior Way, Zephyr Cove, Nev.
Items that can be donated include stickers, crayons, markers, puffy balls, pipe cleaners, puzzles, Legos, googly eyes, glitter, board games, construction paper, glue and stencils.