The Integrated Ocean Observing System Office, or IOOS, is responsible for gathering and observing data that are essential to improving weather and climate conditions and their impacts on coastal communities; improving public safety and health; and restoring and protecting healthy coastal ecosystems. Integrated ocean information is available online for the general public. Mathew works as a physical scientist, improving access to this information by working on data management and ensuring the products put out by IOOS are easily accessible to the public.
Growing up as a surfer near the ocean, I always wanted a career that had something to do with the ocean. I took a marine ecology class in high school where we learned about the various animals and how our local beaches changed throughout the year.. I thought it was fascinating and realized that this was my path. After my undergraduate degree, I volunteered on a few NOAA research cruises and took an internship doing research in the Arctic Ocean. During the internship, I interviewed for a position at NOAA working on standardizing, documenting, and archiving oceanographic data. That was 13 years ago, and I’ve been working on standardizing and sharing oceanographic data ever since.
In elementary school I went to a local ocean education center where I interviewed a marine biologist for career day. She was so knowledgeable and excited about her career that I knew I wanted to do something in marine science. I continued to pursue that path through college and it all connected together in my introduction to oceanography class when we talked about ocean waves. After that class, I went home, met a friend at the beach and described all of the different phenomena we saw there. That’s when it all really connected. Not only did I want to study the ocean and learn more about the processes but I wanted to visualize those patterns. Building off my passion for math I started writing code to make maps and plots to visualize the oceanographic data we collected during class. That subsequently led to finding out more efficient ways to make these graphics, which led into data standardization and data sharing. I often thought to myself, “What if all data were consistent and easy to find?” That’s where data management came to be my calling.
One project I’m particularly proud of is being a part of the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee’s Biology - Integrating Core to Essential Variables Task Team. I contributed to the development of data flow pathways, which are the processes by which collected data are managed, formatted, and published for use by the public. This gives easier access to marine mammal and coral observations that are key to marine conservation efforts. The project I worked on led directly to the standardization and sharing of coral reef observations from NOAA’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program, or NCRMP. You can find those data at the NCRMP organization dashboard in the Ocean Biodiversity Information System.
I believe a strong foundation in science by pursuing a degree is extremely valuable. Gaining experience developing code and working in teams is also important. Take advantage of internships and find any way to get in-the-field experience.