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NOS International Program Office


MEET: Lynne Mersfelder-Lewis

International Affairs Specialist, NOS International Program Office

My office does international-level work on ocean and coastal management and issues involving marine protected areas. As an international affairs specialist, I manage a large, NOAA-wide program with the Republic of Korea. I also work with other countries, and communicate with others about the interesting work we do. 

Lynn Mersfelder-Lewis


What do you like most about working at NOS?

The international aspect is my favorite part – working with cross-cultural colleagues. I also feel privileged to work with a variety of people at all levels of NOS and NOAA, with other agencies, and with nongovernmental organizations. I like being able to think creatively in my job, as well as learning about, and working on projects that address, the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on coastal areas.

What is the hardest part of your job?

There are two. One is trying to understand other cultures and how they operate. Secondly, it can be hard, at times, to demonstrate that you are making an impact when working on long-term concepts and projects, such as capacity building, which is fostering another country’s ability to manage and protect its own coastal and marine resources.

What is your educational background?

I have a bachelor’s in international studies from The American University. My studies focused on the Middle East with a minor in Jewish studies. I took some classes in biology and oceanography. Much of what I have learned, though, I have learned at work, simply by listening to my colleagues and taking training classes that pertain to my career.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

As a kid, I wanted to be a marine biologist, but when I fainted in biology class, I knew I should think about another way to approach my interest! My dad encouraged me to look into international business as a career prospect. As it turns out, I landed somewhere in between.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

I was extremely lucky to get a paid internship here at NOS, where I worked summers, holidays, and part-time during college. All around, it was a good fit, and after I graduated, a permanent position was offered to me. Yippee!

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

While you are in junior high, high school, and college, volunteer or work anywhere and everywhere that you possibly can to get a broad view of potential jobs, careers, and organizations. Ask everyone you know where you can learn more about what people do in their jobs and if they know anyone you can talk to about career choices. Go to work with your parents, friends, and neighbors, and find out what they do. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions! As you discover what might be a good fit for you career-wise, you’ll get a better idea of what your educational path should be.