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NOAA Coastal Services Center

MEET: Darlene Finch

Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator, NOAA Coastal Services Center

As the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Coastal Services Center (CSC), I work with coastal managers in the region stretching from New York to Virginia to improve the delivery of NOAA CSC products and services.

Darlene Finch

What do you like most about working at NOS?

I truly enjoy working with our state and local partners – folks who are making day-to-day decisions about how we use our coastal areas. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to use my knowledge of city and regional planning. Plus, I love being an advocate for our oceans and coasts.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Finding ways to be innovative and make progress on protecting coastal resources and communities under current economic conditions. States and localities have no resources, and face further budget cuts in the future. Their morale is pretty low, and it’s difficult to figure out how to help them address the plethora of coastal and ocean challenges. 

What is your educational background?

I have an undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary environmental studies. I also have a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

My passion for the ocean and coasts came from my childhood, when I could always be found around the water. Back then it was rivers and pools, but as is the case with many others, I eventually migrated downriver to the coast. 

How did you end up working at NOAA?

I came to NOAA as a Sea Grant Fellow (they are now called Knauss Fellows) right out of graduate school. Following the fellowship, I worked on storm-water regulations for a consulting firm. Then NOAA hired me to work on National Marine Sanctuaries and Estuarine Research Reserves.

What advice do you have for young people wanting a career in the "ocean realm"?

We need good science, but we also need good policy makers. Over the coming decades, more and more will be demanded of our coastal and ocean areas, and we need to understand and creatively manage these uses. Sometimes it amazes me how little we really know about coastal and marine ecosystems. While the science and data are getting better, we will always have to manage these resources with incomplete information. We need to get smarter about how we manage them under uncertainty, and make sure we pursue adaptive strategies that allow future change.