Environmental compliance coordinators ensure that NOAA’s programs follow federal, state, and local laws, and protect marine ecosystems and resources. NOS also plays a critical role in providing information to partners that helps them follow the laws. Environmental compliance experts use something called National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis to predict and avoid any negative impacts from our scientific programs.
Mequela works with the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®), which collects ocean data using autonomous vehicles, marine telemetry, and data collection buoys. She makes sure IOOS activities don’t create harm to marine environments and coastal communities and that they follow federal environmental statutes like the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Clean Water Act. Part of her work also involves coordinating with other federal agencies to ensure they comply with the law.
Mequela got into public service because she saw that changes in federal legislation and policy were a key way to protect public health and the environment at the community level. She finds her job most rewarding when she is working with the public and educating people on the importance of environmental protection. For one project with the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe in Louisiana, Mequela reviewed oral histories from the tribe and learned about their culture and practices. The project involved installing an oyster reef that will help protect the community’s cultural resource sites from erosion. Mequela particularly enjoys working with underrepresented communities and says if she can encourage them to “go to their local government and seek change, that is when I feel the most rewarded.”