Justin works with a team of educators, interns, and volunteers to create a welcoming environment where locals and visitors from all over the world learn about the abundant wildlife, ocean conservation, and the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments.
As the manager of the Greater Farallones visitor center in San Francisco, I coordinate and teach hands-on marine science field trips and virtual programs for kindergarten through university classes, sharing the wonder of our sanctuary with thousands of students annually. Other duties include helping take care of our exhibits and cold saltwater aquariums, giving public presentations, creating new education programs, developing partnerships with other agencies and community groups, designing flyers and brochures, and helping our team host events like our art and science “Soirée” series and our annual celebration of sharks, “Sharktoberfest.”
I grew up in a fairly technical family of software engineers, so I felt at home studying math and science and enjoyed teaching. In college, I discovered the field of ecology and was hooked on learning about how organisms relate to each other and to their physical environment especially when that meant working at California field stations. Field stations are fascinating places with all kinds of characters. I found the mix of scientists, students, community volunteers, artists, and specialists—all focused on protecting, studying, and teaching about one unique place—to have an incredible magnetic draw for me. After completing graduate school, I returned to the world of field stations as an educator and program assistant then moved to central Chile to work as an educator and outreach specialist for Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas, a marine research and teaching laboratory. When I returned to California I was excited to continue working in marine science education. I have been an Education & Outreach Specialist for NOAA’s Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary now for over 10 years.
Every day that I get to work with students is a great day at work. Sometimes I answer the question of “How was your day?” with a simple, “We taught programs today!” Other highlights working for the sanctuary include hosting classes for field trips at our visitor center, conducting a week of intertidal abalone surveys on the Farallon Islands, and developing new after-school partnerships with the city of San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families.
One of my current projects is to teach 50 virtual programs in all 50 states in celebration of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ 50th Anniversary. I have a passion for plankton and ocean conservation, so I’m really enjoying ramping up to deliver these programs about plankton/ocean acidification and deep sea coral communities.
Seek out experiences working and teaching about science in the field with all ages, including adults. If you are struggling to break into the field, volunteer as an educator, naturalist, or engage in citizen science to gain more experience and make connections. You could also consider working abroad to gain a different kind of experience.