The Marine Spatial Ecology Division is part of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). Marine spatial ecology combines physical, biological, and social sciences to provide information on the marine ecosystems and human activities in an area. This allows decision-makers to coordinate and manage human and industrial activities in the marine environment while considering the effects to marine ecosystems and coastal communities. This is especially valuable for the aquaculture, energy, and tourism industries.
Chris Jeffrey grew up on the island of Grenada, a place where he says people scuba dive and fish for sustenance. He was a high school science teacher when he “realized that, as a marine biologist, one could make a respectable living” out of scuba diving and fishing. He went back to school to get his Ph.D. Since his goal was to be a field ecologist, he initially resisted his professor’s suggestion to apply for a Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. He says “I thought it was a terrible idea, that the fellowship would have been a waste of my time because I wanted to be a field ecologist in the Caribbean, not working in an office reviewing government policy in the Washington, D.C. metro area. I was terribly wrong.“ During the fellowship, he helped characterize and map coral reef habitats in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Chris has been working with NCCOS since his fellowship days. He describes one amazing moment when he was diving to count fish species and other marine life in southwest Puerto Rico: “At the end of a dive, two manatees suddenly appeared and hung out and frolicked with my dive buddies and me for several minutes.” In addition to being a fun dive, Chris says that was a really enjoyable project overall — counting the marine life in specific areas allowed NCCOS to report on the quality and condition of coral reef ecosystems. Now, more of his work involves supervising others who are working on research projects and reports. He points to mentoring younger scientists as a very rewarding part of his work.