Human Dimensions Specialist with The Baldwin Group, NOAA Coastal Services Center
I'm a contractor with the Human Dimensions program at the NOAA Coastal Services Center in Charleston, South Carolina. The Human Dimensions program focuses on the social, cultural, and economic aspects of managing coastal resources, or the human side of the equation.
My time is split over multiple projects. I've been involved in the development of several Web sites, including HD.gov, a one-stop-shop portal for social science information related to natural resource management. Another project I work on is CanVis, a simple software tool adapted to help coastal managers create visualizations. I provide technical support and virtual training. In addition to these projects I am involved with a group that collects photographs from Center staff members to create both a virtual and a physical Coastal Gallery. Through these galleries we hope that people better understand the many facets and geographies related to the coast.
My favorite aspect of working at NOAA is that people are valued for what they can bring to the table. We really emphasize people’s strengths and give them an opportunity to grow, making this a unique work environment.
When I was younger I used to tell people that I wanted to make a difference. They usually laughed and said that I’d see how crazy that was once I got into the real world. Now I do feel that in our own small way we do make a difference. There is no better feeling than hearing from a partner or customer that we gave them the ability to do something that they would not have otherwise been able to do. It makes all the effort worthwhile.
There is so much I want to do. The hard thing is choosing what to do and finding enough time to get it all done.
B.S. in Marine and Freshwater Biology, University of New Hampshire;
M.S. in Environmental Studies/Marine Biology, Medical University of South Carolina and University of Charleston (South Carolina).
I learned to swim before I could walk. Many of my fondest early memories were of being on boats or at the beach. I decided when I was 11, as a result of a fantastic snorkeling trip in Malaysia, that I was going to be a marine biologist.
I applied for a job after getting my master’s and was hired to work on a six-month contract. I was then offered a full-time contractor position in the Outreach, now Human Dimensions, program. I’ve been working at the NOAA Coastal Services Center for seven years.
This would depend on the age group. I would recommend that high school (and younger) students spend time on and near the water and learn as much as they can about the ocean. There are great volunteer and shadowing programs available that can help them connect with possible mentors or people of similar interests.
For college students, field experience is the key. Getting experience working part time in their field of interest, as well as taking advantage of internship (both paid and unpaid) opportunities, can be extremely helpful in securing future jobs. I would also encourage students to join professional organizations in their area of interest and keep up to date on research and events.
I’ve learned about the human side of things. Most of my undergraduate studies focused on marine biology, and I didn’t realize the importance of policy and economics and other factors until I started my master’s degree. I now see everything as interconnected and the role of the individual as well as the group in influencing coastal management.