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Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management

Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program

MEET: Elaine Vaudreuil

Manager, Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM)

As the Manager of the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, I lead a team that helps states and communities protect their coastal lands. As more people want to live on and visit the coast, it’s important to protect some of the land from development so the public can enjoy its beauty, wildlife, and recreational possibilities for generations to come. Our program works with state and community partners to identify the most important coastal lands, then gives them money to help them protect that land forever.

Elaine Vaudreuil

What do you like most about working at NOS?

I get to work with a great group of bright, talented people – both at NOAA and in states and communities – who are dedicated to safeguarding the health and vitality of our nation’s coasts and ocean. I also enjoy getting out and seeing the places we’ve helped protect and having a chance to meet the folks who have worked so hard to purchase and protect those lands.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Land conservation in coastal areas can be fast-paced and complex. When you’re dealing with real estate negotiations and trying to line up funding sources, it can be challenging for project partners to get all the pieces to fall into place at the right time. There can be surprises along the way, too, especially when researching a property’s title or environmental conditions. You have to be ready to do creative problem-solving.

What is your educational background?

I majored in urban and environmental planning at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture. I also have a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in land use and coastal management.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

I was very fortunate to live near the ocean as a child and to enjoy many camping trips going crabbing along the Chesapeake Bay. I was also lucky to visit nature parks when I was growing up and to have access to woods, creeks, and trails near home to enjoy time outdoors. Whether it’s by a trickling creek or a roaring ocean, for me, getting outside and spending time in nature at the water’s edge is a very peaceful experience. Now, I’m lucky enough to be a part of creating that experience for others.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

I started with NOAA doing policy research as a graduate student and was hired to work on coastal and ocean policy issues full-time shortly after graduating from my master’s program.

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

Be intellectually curious and don’t be afraid to think outside the box! In the “ocean and coastal realm,” you can find yourself as a scientist working on policy issues, or a policy expert drawing on lots of science. So much of what we do in coastal and ocean management is making connections between a wide range of expertise and people, whether it’s connecting scientists and policy makers or connecting folks practicing in different fields, such as floodplains, fisheries, water quality, parks and refuges, ports and marinas, energy facilities, or urban development. Study a range of subjects. Look at issues from different perspectives. A lot can be accomplished by thinking creatively and looking for win-win solutions to complex, multifaceted issues. You’ll never be bored!