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Marine Protected Areas Center

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MEET: Lauren Wenzel

Acting Director, National Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Center

As the acting director of the National MPA Center, my job is to lead the great team we have at the Center to build the national system of MPAs. The Center helps MPAs and MPA programs across the United States protect ocean resources more effectively through technical support, analysis, mapping, training, and stakeholder engagement.

Lauren Wenzel

What do you like most about working at NOS?

I get to work on ocean conservation, every day, with a great group of people. As diverse as NOS is, we're all working toward healthy and productive oceans and coasts. People respect and rely on NOS and NOAA. I always get a positive response when I tell people where I work.

What is the hardest part of your job?

MPAs are an important tool for conserving ecological and cultural marine resources, but many ocean users worry about restrictions on access and use. One big challenge is communicating to our diverse stakeholders about the diversity and flexibility of MPAs as a management tool, and the evidence that they are making a real difference in protecting and restoring resources.

What is your educational background?

I've always had diverse interests, so I'm a generalist. I have a B.A. in English and history from Oberlin College in Ohio, and an M.S. in resource management and policy from the University of Michigan.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

I grew up going to the beach in Maine, and later worked in the fishing industry in Alaska. I've always been drawn to the ocean, and I love having a national perspective that takes in such diverse habitats and regions.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

Before coming to NOAA, I worked at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources on efforts to restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. While I loved being close to the ground, I was ready for a broader perspective.

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

Get experience on ocean issues in whatever ways you can. That way, you'll discover what you really like to do, and have a variety of experiences that will help you later in ways you may not be able to imagine now.