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USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

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MEET: Jeff Johnston

Program Specialist, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

As a Program Specialist with the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, my primary duties revolve around the study and documentation of the history, archeology, and conservation of materials we've recovered from the wreck of the USS Monitor.  I serve as the sanctuary’s historian, which includes myriad activities such as working closely with our partners, getting dirty in the artifact conservation lab, conducting research on recovered artifacts, working with museums on exhibits about the history and archeology of the USS Monitor and other 19th-century ships, and developing and participating in educational and outreach programs. If it’s related to maritime history, I'm happy to help.

Jeff Johnston

Jeff Johnston (right), Program Specialist, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

What do you like most about working at NOS?

I'm sure everyone says the people and the opportunities, but for me, it really is the people and the opportunities that we have. The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary has one of the longest-running active archaeological projects, and we are known for the work we have done, and continue to do, across this country and in many others around the world.  The people I've had the pleasure to work with at NOS – those who have helped me along the way and those who have helped make our work possible – are the best in the business.

What is the hardest part of your job?

There just are not enough hours in the day...

What is your educational background?

It is all history, conservation, and archeology, but oddly enough, I don’t have a degree in any of those fields.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

I was born and raised in southeast Virginia. I spent a lot of time on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and exploring up and down the rivers and creeks of Virginia when I was growing up, and I continue to do so today. I cannot remember ever not liking or not being interested in history. So coming from an area that is so rich in maritime history, and history in general, my interest was inevitable. Coming from a coastal town, I think I've always been aware of "ocean issues," but working for NOAA has given me more exposure to the details of how we impact our waters every day. 

How did you end up working at NOAA?

I worked for one of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary’s partners back in the mid-90s. As part of that job, I was doing research on artifacts and helping develop educational and outreach programs for the sanctuary, so when the opportunity to work directly with the sanctuary presented itself, I jumped at the chance.

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

Look into the variety of venues in the field and decide which area best captures your passion! Like a lot of the historical items and cultural resources I work with on a daily basis, our oceans, bays, rivers, and creeks are all unique in their own way. Unlike historical and archaeological resources, our waters are renewable resources, but only if we learn how to interact with them correctly.