Jan Roletto

Research Coordinator, Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Jan Roletto

As the research coordinator for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, my responsibilities include designing research studies, developing and implementing the sanctuary's conservation science and management plans, and assembling long-term monitoring data to assess the health and extent of pressures on sanctuary resources. I also promote the sanctuary as a sentinel site for research, monitoring, and implementing damage assessment and restoration projects following injuries from natural or human causes.

What do you like most about working at NOS?

The best part of my job is knowing that I will never be bored, because every day has new challenges and accomplishments. The Greater Farallones is a very complex sanctuary, with deep ocean habitats, rocky shores, and estuarine mud flats and marshes. It surrounds coastal and offshore islands, and is just offshore of San Francisco with its nearly eight million people. This is a blessing as well as a curse, because there are so many issues and stressors on the health of the sanctuary. It's good that I like to multitask!

What is the hardest part of your job?

The biggest challenge is keeping up the collection of long-term monitoring data. This level of data collection does not have a great story behind it every year, which can make it difficult to justify the funding. I keep telling folks that monitoring data is like a savings account in the bank. You save your money a little bit at a time, but all the time, so that when your refrigerator breaks you have the money to repair it or purchase a replacement. Our 18-year data set for rocky and sandy beach shorelines shows us the health and trends of the sanctuary's habitats and species. These data will come in handy when we need to assess the impacts of climate change.

What is your educational background?

I graduated with a master's degree in marine biology. I minored in anatomy and physiology, concentrating on the behavior and health of marine mammals and seabirds.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

I've always lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Protecting the environment is part of our culture. Even in grade school in the 1960s we recycled, used the metric system, and stenciled warnings on street drains not to throw polluting items down them because it would harm the ocean.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

My former boss, Ed Ueber, was the inspiration. He's retired now, but he was the manager of both the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries. He wanted a marine mammalogist to work for him and build a science department for both sanctuaries.

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

Learn how to write for the general public, and always be open to learning new things. We have good, strong laws to protect the ocean, but we must have the will and funding to enforce the laws, and make certain that violators pay for both intentional and unintentional mistakes.