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Meet Jennifer Koss

Deputy Director, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

Jennifer Koss

As the deputy director of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, I work with the director to manage the program’s day-to-day operations, including coral conservation policy development, program implementation, budget development, and personnel management, as well as domestic and international partnership building and program development.

What do you like most about working at NOS?

For a little over a year, I have been in my job at NOS as a “transplant” from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. While my experience at NOS has been very short, I can say with conviction that the camaraderie, energy, and freedom within NOS to be creative and innovative when it comes to coastal natural resource management are exciting and rewarding. NOAA is “the little agency that could.” We have a diverse, complex, and often overwhelmingly challenging mission. We are under-funded and under-recognized, yet we do great things every day that inform and enhance the lives of every person living in the United States as well as many abroad.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Contracts.  Need I say more?

What is your educational background?

I have a BS in oceanography and biology from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!") and a Master of Marine Policy from the University of Delaware (same football uniform, but I'm still not sure what a "Blue Hen" is).

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

My dad was in the U.S. Navy and used to call the ocean "primordial amniotic fluid." I was fortunate enough to have been born on the California coast and to have lived on Italy's Tyrrhenian Sea, on Lake Michigan, and up and down the East Coast. I think the countless hours of staring into tide pools, looking for seashells, and getting knocked over by waves, coupled with a strong connection to the water, pretty much sealed my fate.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

My first job out of grad school was a two-year fellowship through the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program in Annapolis. Through that job, I got to know the staff in the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, one of whom brought me on as a contractor in the NOAA Restoration Center. That was 14 years ago and I've never looked back.

What advice do you have for young people wanting a career in the "ocean realm"?

Do it! Talk to lots of people who are in the "ocean realm" and find out what it's meant to them.  Research your options in terms of high school and college classes. If you can take classes abroad and learn about how other countries approach coastal and ocean issues, then do that, too!

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Did you know?

Reefs rival rainforests in the amount of biodiversity they support. Thousands of creatures rely on coral reefs for their survival. Hidden beneath the ocean waters, reefs are also some of the oldest ecosystems on the planet, reflecting thousands of years of history. Although individual coral polyps are tiny, they create the largest living structures on earth—some reefs are visible from space! Learn more