Meet: Holly Bamford

Assistant Administrator, National Ocean Service (NOS)

As the newly appointed assistant administrator of NOS, my goal is to put the oceans at the forefront of society's collective mind. I want the country to understand the important role that the oceans and coasts play in our everyday lives, and get people to care and be as excited about the oceans and coasts as we are here in NOS.

Holly Bamford

What do you like most about working at NOS?

Throughout my different roles within NOAA, I have always enjoyed the people and the diversity of work we do in NOS the most. NOAA is so important to the health of our economy, communities, and the coastal ecosystem, and NOS's direct connection to protecting and conserving our ocean and coastal resources is something that inspires and impresses me every day.

What is the hardest part of your job?

I believe the hardest part of my job is to represent the incredible diversity of our organization. In a single day I am responsible for key national issues regarding conditions in our national marine sanctuaries, navigational tools and services, coastal management, oil spill response, workforce management, and the condition of our facilities. To be able to balance the workload, I need an understanding of all aspects of our organization and the work we do.

What is your educational background?

I have a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry and a bachelor's in business management. This is a unique combination and one that has been a tremendous advantage during my time at NOAA. Understanding the science is essential, but also being able to manage funds, develop programs, and communicate what we do is extremely important when working in a science agency.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

I have a personal connection with the coasts. I grew up along the coast, my family still lives near the ocean, and I enjoy spending time near the water. My children continue to inspire my interests in the ocean, too. I want to pass on to them the love that I have for the ocean with fun memories like the ones that I had growing up. I want to do my part to help conserve our coasts, so that my children, and future generations, can experience them as well.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

I spent my time in academia before I joined NOAA. I weighed my choices: Stay in academia full-time, or take the opportunity to learn about the federal perspective when approaching science? I chose NOAA because I believed it was the right place to integrate science with policy. There was also a strong commitment in NOS to develop partnerships with the academic and private sectors to meet our common goals of ocean science and service.

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

I always encourage people to pursue their interests in oceans and coasts. The great thing about this kind of career is that there are so many ways to approach the critical work that needs to be done, and you are rarely limited to how you can make an impact. I also suggest to people in school who are deciding to go with either science or policy to lean toward the science. In this field, it is important to have a baseline understanding of the interconnections between the physical, chemical, biological, and social sciences. If you have that foundation, you can learn how it applies to policy.