Nerelle works as a communications and outreach coordinator at the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. This sanctuary, part of the National Marine Sanctuary System, is responsible for helping to protect and preserve the resources within its boundaries. It has a rich historical and cultural heritage representing more than 3,000 years of human history. It is also home to over 150 species of coral and thousands of animals and plant species. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) focuses on supporting research on marine sanctuaries and provides science-based data needed to make meaningful management decisions.
My duties look different on any given day. Some of the things I do include designing and implementing new and ongoing improvements to the visitor center exhibits and outreach materials such as fact sheets, presentations, video and photo media, and more. I work with our internal team and collaborate with external partners to share our programs with a diverse public audience. I also handle our social media, track our community engagement, and assist our science and education teams with outreach programs or events. It’s a lot, but it’s a good time!
My career has been anything but a straight line, and I believe it’s made me more passionate about what I do today. After I got my bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing, I tried doing sales marketing jobs and realized I needed more personal meaning out of my career. I came home to American Samoa, worked at the Department of Commerce for a few years as an economic planner, and grew my experience in local government and community-based projects. I later moved to the private sector and worked in marketing, designing graphics, and engaging with the public through community sponsorships. During this time, I went on adventures every weekend and rediscovered the natural beauty surrounding my island home. I felt my values aligned whenever I learned and shared information about sustainability, the environment, and science. When I heard about the position at National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to positively impact myself and my community.
Within my first year at NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, I hit the road running. I completed a fautasi (Samoan longboat canoe) maritime heritage project, relating it to our local sanctuaries’ cultural heritage. This project included working with partners to co-host an inaugural fautasi maritime heritage symposium, designing an exhibit at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center about fautasi, and printing the first magazine publication on the history of fautasi in American Samoa. This project took many long and painstaking hours of research that involved digging up old newspapers and compiling all the information in a way that made the information easy to understand and appealing! This was not a typical science project, but it was so meaningful because it was rooted in Samoan cultural context and is a living practice even today.