As a research scientist with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science — and influenced by her experiences growing up in a post-industrial city — Andrea uses scientific expertise to tackle contaminant monitoring, environmental justice, and coastal management issues.
I am a physical research scientist with the National Mussel Watch Program. I coordinate and support field surveys, reports, technical memos, and peer-reviewed publications associated with past, current, and present National Mussel Watch Program activities. I support decision-making by conducting data analysis, developing publications, assisting with data distribution and communication, and answering data requests. I will also be working with NCCOS social science and biogeography teams to develop and test new contaminant-socioeconomic hypotheses.
Growing up in the post-industrial city of Saginaw, Michigan, led me to develop a special passion for environmental justice, starting at the age of nine. For my first science fair project, I used sunflowers to remediate lead found in local playground soil. Through my research and involvement in community activism, I became aware of the disproportionate impact of environmental issues on underserved communities. During the Flint Water Crisis, I worked alongside community organizations to provide technical support and to advocate for clean water access for all residents. I also served on a statewide panel to revise the Michigan Lead and Copper Rule. My dissertation research focused on determining the potential transport pathways of perfluorinated compounds, commonly known as PFAS, from river sources to drinking water intakes in Great Lakes surface waters, a topic driven by environmental justice issues important to Great Lakes communities. I intend to become a leader in the fields of containment chemistry and environmental justice to improve health outcomes in the many coastal communities that have environmental issues similar to my hometown. My ultimate goal is to contribute to research that reduces environmental risks in minority and low socioeconomic status communities as it is important to me to be a voice for these populations.
To students interested in pursuing a career with NOAA, I would first recommend building a strong background in sciences, particularly in the environmental science, chemistry, and biology disciplines. It’s also very valuable to gain practical experience through NOAA internships, training, or research opportunities. As an undergraduate student at Florida A&M University (FAMU), I was trained as a NOAA Educational Partnership Program with Minority-Serving Institutions Environmental Cooperative Science Center scholar. After receiving my master’s degree, I returned to FAMU as a NOAA Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems (CCME) Scholar for my doctorate. My experience as a CCME Scholar during a three-month NOAA Experiential Research and Training Opportunity at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, under the supervision of Dr. Mark Rowe, gave me an understanding of life as a NOAA employee as I participated in activities and interacted with the laboratory staff on a daily basis.