Regional response officers provide scientific support to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in preparation for and during response to oil and chemical spills. They provide the USCG with scientific advice, weather forecasts, spill trajectories, and other information essential to spill response. They’re part of the Office of Response and Restoration’s Emergency Response Division, which is also responsible for oil spill preparation, including developing scientific tools and training partners in oil and chemical spill response.
Lola was preparing for a career in finance when she saw the effects of oil spills while visiting her grandmother in Nigeria. She changed her major to environmental science and has concentrated on oil spill response ever since. At first, she found it difficult to get into the field of oil spill response. She advises those starting out to network with experienced professionals and not to be afraid to start applying for jobs — “you can’t begin a career until you do.”
In the course of her own networking, Lola learned about the NOAA Corps, the uniformed service that operates NOAA’s ships and planes and serves throughout NOAA’s offices. Lola joined and, after boot camp, sailed for two years aboard NOAA ship Gordon Gunter. Now, she works as a regional response officer with the Office of Response and Restoration. She coordinates with the USCG and NOAA scientists to answer questions about where spilled oil or chemicals will go, what resources and ecosystems are at risk from the spill, and how to predict and minimize the impacts. Lola says “this job is always exciting and truly rewarding, because we get to see real-time results of our work.” In fact, she says “the best part of the job is seeing the before and after” of a successful response effort.