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Tara Wallace, Branch Chief

Tara Wallace

Tara Wallace, branch chief, Marine Chart Division.

Tara Wallace: A Day in the Life Donut chart showing the typical work duties of Tara Wallace, branch chief, Marine Chart Division. Planning and support for marine debris response and removal projects. Pink chart segment spanning 50% of the whole: the percentage of time Tara Wallace spends on managing production of nautical charts bringing people together to get things done. Green chart segment spanning 25% of the whole: the percentage of time Tara Wallace spends on responding to internal and external inquiries Data management Blue chart segment spanning 25% of the whole: the percentage of time Tara Wallace spends on attending meetings Diversity and Inclusion projects Yellow chart segment spanning 12.5% of the whole: the percentage of time Tara Wallace spends on administrative tasks Daily Duties

Donut chart showing how Tara Wallace, branch chief, Marine Chart Division, spends her time.

The Office of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division maintains over 1,000 nautical charts, detailing over 95,000 miles of shoreline and 3.4 million square nautical miles 152,888 kilometers and 11,661,674 square kilometers of U.S. waters. The charts give mariners the information they need to navigate safely, including how deep the water is, where the shoreline is, and the locations of dangers to navigation (like shipwrecks) and aids to navigation (like buoys and lighthouses). The Marine Chart Division is made up of six regional teams of cartographers, plus support staff that provide data management, quality assurance, distribution, and other services.

What are your basic job duties?

I’m responsible for managing a staff of ten cartographers. Our team covers the Southeast region, including handling charting services and activities and producing nautical charts for the area from Florida to South Carolina. I also handle Freedom of Information Act requests for our division and represent NOAA on the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

How did you know you wanted to pursue this line of work?

I have always loved reading maps, especially the Rand McNally Atlas. I got the opportunity to go back to school to pursue a degree in cartography. After only one semester, I knew this was what I wanted to do.

When has your work felt most exciting or rewarding?

Anytime I interact with the public and hear someone say they “love our charts.” Getting that positive feedback from people who use our products makes me proud of the agency and the services we provide.

What NOAA project have you enjoyed working on the most?

I was part of a team that helped implement a new nautical chart system (called NCSII). We needed a way to simplify our processes so that we could produce and update nautical charts faster and more frequently. At the end of the project, we had the new system that we use today to create Electronic Navigational Charts.

What would you recommend to those who want to pursue a career in your field?

Focus on completing your bachelor’s degree, but stay abreast of the latest software and technologies. Branch out and take that Python class! Don’t be afraid to seek new and different opportunities.

  • Name: Tara Wallace
  • Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
  • Education: Bachelor of Business Administration; Associate of Applied Science in Applied Geography
  • National Ocean Service Program Office: Office of Coast Survey

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Author: NOAA

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