Dealing with tropical storm and hurricane events, spills, and marine safety accidents. These are high-pressure events that demand a very high level of professionalism and responsiveness. We have seen more than 10 major storm events along the central Gulf in the last several years, in addition to the Deepwater Horizon spill event of April 2010.
What is your educational background?
I have a B.S. in marine biology from Florida State University, and an M.S. in marine science and an MPA (masters of public administration), both from Louisiana State University (LSU).
What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?
I grew up on the Gulf Coast near Tampa, Florida. My parents were schoolteachers and we spent a lot of time at the beach, and also boating and fishing. I learned how to skin dive and then scuba dive. It was a great way to see the underwater world!
How did you end up working at NOAA?
After graduating from LSU, I got the chance to be a NOAA Sea Grant Fellow. I took the opportunity and worked for a year in the U.S. Senate. Later, I became a Senate staffer, and after that, I worked for a large private corporation in Washington, DC. Then I got a position at NOAA headquarters. In the years since, I have had the honor of working for a number of NOAA line offices, and have enjoyed the work and challenges that each of them had to offer.
What is one of the special challenges of working in your part of the country?
The Gulf Coast has been “ground zero” for large hurricane events that have resulted in the loss of human lives and the decimation of entire communities and coastal areas. We have had to work, and learn, very diligently to understand the true vulnerability that coastal populations and critical infrastructure face from coastal storms and hurricanes. Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy [October 2012] clearly showed that the Atlantic Seaboard is also vulnerable to large storm and flood events. As sea levels rise, we are challenged to deal with increasing vulnerability from these events. Compounding this challenge is the growth of coastal populations every year.
What advice do you have for young people wanting a career in the "ocean realm"?
The U.S. population continues to move closer to the coast each year. This presents many challenges that NOAA has the resources to address, like helping our ports and waterways grow to support a growing nation; protecting coastal populations from coastal storms, flooding, and surge events; looking at present and future impacts of sea-level rise; and protecting, managing, and gaining a greater knowledge of our coastal habitats, oceans, and marine life. NOAA has a lot to offer! Pick the one aspect of working for oceans and coasts that you enjoy the most, and go get the education, training, and experience that will make for a good career. The most important resources you can bring, however, are your interest and enthusiasm.