Melis works as a coastal management specialist for NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, assisting in various roles in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). NERRS are “living laboratories” where research staff and local communities can observe and monitor different habitats. OCM works with many partners to deliver products, services, and programs most needed by the nation’s coastal communities. This office aims to increase the resilience of the nation’s coastal zone, helping keep coastal residents safe, the economy sound, and natural resources functioning well.
Primarily, I am the liaison and program officer for California’s three NERRS: the San Francisco Bay NERR, the Elkhorn Slough NERR, and the Tijuana River NERR. I support implementing NERRS activities, including reviewing annual grant awards and programs, approving performance measures submissions, and aiding in developing five-year management plans. I also provide subject matter expertise and technical assistance on coastal management issues such as nature-based solutions (projects that use natural features or processes that artificial structures might otherwise provide) and green infrastructure to both our office and our partners. Lastly, I work hard to ensure our office — and the reserve system overall — incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and accessibility into all facets of our work.
It took a lot of experimenting to get where I am today. I’ve worked at a bee lab researching the links between pesticides and colony collapse disorder, at a marine geology lab testing samples from all over the world, and at Scripps Institute of Oceanography researching shark migration patterns. While I loved spending my days in the field, I realized that the research wasn’t getting translated for decision-makers and the general public. I remember the disappointment I felt when I realized that some of the incredible results we saw weren’t really going anywhere. That’s when I decided to go to graduate school to focus on the resource management and policy side of the environmental field, and ultimately ended up in my current role.
My parents are my biggest source of support and encouragement. As immigrants, this field was quite foreign to them, especially when I was applying to college in 2009. However, they never let their lack of understanding cloud their immense support for me. They’ve always cheered me on and celebrated my successes and accomplishments. Their hard work, tenacity, and willingness to be open-minded to new situations is what always keeps me motivated to pursue my interests.
I enjoyed working on a NERRS Science Collaborative Grant, which helped prepare communities in California for incoming disasters like flooding. I enjoy being able to contribute knowledge and expertise from my previous positions and provide support to a great team of individuals.
Our project team is working together to help protect vulnerable roads and coastal habitats from flooding disasters. This work is for the California NERRS, their state partner agencies, other California coastal managers, and the entire reserve system. It’s a critical and timely coastal management issue since flooding affects multiple regional ecological, economic, and community dynamics. I appreciate being able to work with a team of dedicated folks interested in both the human and ecological dimensions of road flooding.