Marine telemetry uses devices attached to animals — called tags — to gather data. Telemetry tags don’t just report the animal’s movements; they can also record information about the animal (temperature, heart rate, oxygen levels), its behavior (vocalizations, breathing, tail beats), and its environment (sound, temperature, salinity, light). The Animal Telemetry Network, part of NOAA’s U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), provides a unified, stable, and continuous national infrastructure for sharing and accessing marine telemetry data.
I oversee the Animal Telemetry Network (ATN) program, including collaborating with the IOOS regional associations, managing program funds, collaborating and networking in the telemetry community, and managing the ATN Data Assembly Center, where different sources of telemetry data are aggregated and made available to the public.
Growing up in the summers on Cape Cod, I knew that whatever path my career would take that it would most certainly be tied to the ocean. I pursued a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s in ocean engineering. The day after finishing class work for my master’s, I climbed aboard a U.S. Navy oceanographic vessel, the USNS Kane, for a four-month expedition to gather geological evidence from the mid-Atlantic to confirm the theory of seafloor spreading.
My NOAA career began in 1970, when the agency was created. My first job at NOAA included developing and testing ocean instruments and observing technology.
In January 1975, my career reached an inflection point. I was scheduled to be the sixth person aboard the R/V Gulf Stream on a cruise in the Gulf of Maine. A last-minute administrative glitch prevented me from participating in the cruise. The five-person crew sailed without me, but never returned. All lives were tragically lost. Despite the emotional impact of this tragedy, I remained set on my ocean-based career. This decision was validated a few short months later when, on a work dive in Connecticut, I was able to save the life of my dive buddy when his regulator stopped working at the bottom of Long Island Sound.
Between 1970 and now, I’ve been a branch chief, a CEO, and now the ATN network coordinator. I’ve worked in different line offices within NOAA and in the private sector. I’ve traveled to every continent except Antarctica, made friends in 30 countries, and given multiple presentations to Senate and House appropriations committees. Over the last six years, it has been a joy and a privilege to apply my skills and experience to bringing the ATN from a concept to a fully functioning program.
In 2016, the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics (AIP) got wind of the fact that I was one of the few living individuals who was actually onboard the historic four month 1968 USNS Kane voyage. The trip gave me the privilege of working with Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp, who created the first topographical map of the seafloor. During the cruise, we gathered geologic evidence in the mid-Atlantic rift valley to help confirm the theory of seafloor spreading and plate tectonics. AIP interviewed me about the cruise and my overall career, and I donated some 200 photos I’d taken on the cruise, which are available online at the AIP Niels Bohr Library and Archive.
Do your homework up front, including talking with those currently working in the ocean to help identify a career that would fit your interests and skills — science, technology, policy, etc. While seeking at least a master’s level education, spend your summers working on, near, or around the ocean.