Yaritza coordinates long-term response activities related to hurricane-generated marine debris in the Caribbean and other regions.
As a Marine Debris Hurricane Response Coordinator for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program (MDP), Yaritza works with NOAA partners to track the removal and disposal processes of marine debris after a hurricane. Her work primarily takes place in the Caribbean, but she also supports the Southeastern U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Islands.
As far back as Yaritza can remember, she’s had a passion for education and environmental protection. “My interest in marine debris prevention developed at a young age,” Yaritza recalls, “when I began noticing litter such as single-use plastic, fishing lines, and even packages from foreign countries on otherwise remote beaches.”
Yaritza says that her work gives her “an incredible sense of purpose.” In addition to making a positive impact in the wake of hurricanes, she has also had the opportunity to work as an educator for Puerto Rico Sea Grant and as a Biology professor. In these capacities, she and her students conducted hands-on activities to learn about the impact of marine debris on Puerto Rico’s coasts. As of this writing, she, her colleagues, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation are providing guidance and information about marine debris to school-age girls as they create a series of Spanish-language videos about marine debris to promote the involvement of girls in science.
In addition to the sense of purpose that Yaritza derives from her work, she said that “the caring and supportive MDP staff makes it even more fulfilling.”