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Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary


MEET: Becky Shortland

Resource Protection Coordinator, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

In my position as a resource protection coordinator, I help develop management plans and regulations, support our Sanctuary Advisory Council, work with law enforcement officers who patrol the sanctuary, and foster people's participation in conservation of the marine and sanctuary environment.

Becky Shortland


What do you like most about working at NOS?

I feel privileged to be part of a keenly committed team of people involved in many aspects of coastal resource protection. One recent example is the sanctuary’s 2006 management plan, which prohibits vessels from dropping anchor in sanctuary waters. It’s exciting to see your colleagues’ years of work come to fruition in this way.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Being patient. Progress in coastal resource protection takes time. I’ve lived on the Georgia coast for more than 30 years, so I’m acutely aware of the degradation that’s occurred in the coastal and marine environment. In some cases, it can take years from the time an environmental issue is recognized until effective management actions are put in place. In the meantime, the resource continues to be hampered. That’s why it’s important to involve citizens and users of the resource in every aspect of the regulatory process. Behaviors can be changed long before regulations hit the books, and, ultimately, an open, inclusive process results in workable regulations and an informed public that understands the reasons behind them.

What is your educational background?

I have gained all of my experience on the job, and I’m very lucky to be learning all the time.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

Moving to Georgia as a young adult and outdoor lover. You can’t go walking or kayaking with a beautiful marsh expanse all around you, and marvel at the plants, the fish, the animals, and the birds – egrets, herons, osprey! – and not want to do your part to protect it. Almost one-third of the Atlantic Coast’s tidal salt marshes are located in Georgia. The salt marshes are delicate ecosystems, and they are at risk, as simply as I can say it, from the burgeoning human population here. Even aside from my job at NOAA, I’m deeply committed to public involvement in environmental issues.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

In the early 1980s, I lucked into a job with The Georgia Conservancy, a statewide, nonprofit environmental advocacy and educational organization. I eventually headed up the Conservancy’s coastal office, and we partnered with NOAA and the sanctuary on a variety of projects. My current position at NOAA opened up about 10 years ago, and it was exactly what I wanted to do. It still is!

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

I would tell them to get involved. Volunteer wherever they can, and do whatever they can, to help protect and preserve the ocean and coastal environment. Competition for jobs is stiff these days, so young people should study hard and seek internships to broaden their experience. They should also be aware that a career in the “ocean realm,” regardless of tasks or specialty, is rarely a “9 to 5” proposition. The hours are long, but the rewards are incredible.