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podcast iconHigh Frequency Radar: Interview with Jack Harlanaudio podcast

What is IOOS? (Ocean Fact)


Meet: Jack Harlan

National Manager, U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) High Frequency Radar Network

As the national manager of IOOS’s High Frequency (HF) Radar Network, I am developing an operational network to measure coastal ocean surface currents using HF radars. Nearly all of the radars are owned by non-Federal partners, so one of our primary tasks is to bring together the partners and their data in a cohesive way. The data are used for U.S. Coast Guard search-and-rescue efforts, oil spill response, water quality monitoring, and many other applications.

Jack Harlan

What do you like most about working at NOS?

We are doing work that benefits the public, the economy, and the environment.

What is the hardest part of your job?

In this era of reduced overall funding, building a new network is challenging.

What is your educational background?

I received a bachelor of science with a double major in math and biology from the University of Colorado and an master's in physical oceanography – the study of geophysical fluid dynamics – from Florida State University. I returned to Colorado University for a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering with an emphasis in remote sensing and fluid dynamics.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

Although I lived in Colorado for most of my life, I have been interested in the ocean since I was about six, when I first waded into the Mediterranean Sea (my family lived in Germany then). Ocean and water sports have been at the top of my list ever since.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

In the 1980s, the NOAA research laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, had an internship program for Colorado University undergraduates. I interned there for a year, where I worked with the CODAR (Coastal Ocean Dynamics Applications Radar) development group. Then I left for graduate school at Florida State University. In the 1990s, a colleague and I were the first to map large areas of surface currents far offshore using a military radar system. Every data set we analyzed was an opportunity for a new discovery. In 2004, I returned to NOAA as part of the National Ocean Service Integrated Observation Team. I also worked on the National Oceanographic Partnership Program and OCEAN.US — all precursors to the present-day IOOS.

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

I would suggest that they find a college program with a mentor that they can trust.