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Gulf Oil Spill Conference and Celebrating Estuaries

06 February 2020

I recently attended the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science (GoMOSES) conference, where experts in the field of ecosystem science shared their knowledge about impacts of oil spills in the Gulf, and how this knowledge can inform regional management and policy decisions. 

2020 marks ten years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — one of the worst marine oil spills in U.S. history. When I was just a teenager, I was deeply impacted by images of the damage caused by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, shaping my appreciation of the marine environment’s vulnerability to man-made disasters. It is quite possible that I chose a life of public service and environmental policy, in part, due to the Exxon Valdez disaster. Twenty years later, I jumped at the chance to play a key role in NOAA’s response to the Deepwater disaster. This was a seminal time in my professional development due to NOS’s role in spill prevention, response, and restoration. Those disasters are still sharp in my memory and continue to foster my personal and professional interest in learning about the impacts of these events and advances in marine oil spill science.

As a part of my time at GoMOSES, I participated in a session titled “Women in Oil Response and Emergency Management,” where early-career scientists heard firsthand experiences from female leaders in the field of emergency management, and learned about career opportunities beyond academia. I will also participate in the closing plenary session of the conference, "Gulf Science in the Next 10 Years,” where I will share some of my major takeaways from last fall’s White House Summit on Partnerships in Ocean Science and Technology, including the importance of fostering cross-sector and public-private partnerships in order to advance ocean science and technology.

Speaking of partnerships, NOS’s Office for Coastal Management is celebrating #EstuaryLove throughout the month of February. #EstuaryLove is an annual campaign to raise awareness about the importance of estuaries, while also celebrating the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. The system, a partnership program between NOAA and coastal states, is a network of 29 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems. The reserves serve as outdoor classrooms for students and teachers; living laboratories for researchers; and reserve staff work within the community to bring science to bear on local issues.  

Part of the campaign includes estuary fun facts and stories. Here are two to consider: 

  • 75% of all fish and shellfish harvested in the U.S. began their lives in an estuary. 

  • The total fish catch in estuaries contributes $4.3 billion to the U.S. economy every year.

You can celebrate your #EstuaryLove by visiting a research reserve near you, or by taking steps to help protect these treasures. Learn more about the value of the reserves, and follow the campaign using the social media links provided in the highlight below.


Nicole R. LeBoeuf
Assistant Administrator (Acting)
Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management,
National Ocean Service
two people on paddle boards in a wetland


Throughout the month of February, join us as we celebrate estuaries and our 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves with special posts from NOAA's Office for Coastal Management. Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and the new Digital Coast Instagram account to celebrate all things estuaries. Look for #EstuaryLove.

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Assistant Administrator (Actg.) Portrait

Nicole R. LeBoeuf
Assistant Administrator (Acting), National Ocean Service

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