What is your title and what do you do in your position?
As the acting chief of the National Geodetic Survey's (NGS) Communications and Outreach Branch, I work with the staff to respond to questions from the public and with NGS scientists to roll out new products and services. Other major activities include planning large outreach events and increasing our digital communication efforts. I am also the constituent resource manager, which I describe as overseeing all things related to customer engagement. I support a lot of activities with our stakeholders, like hosting webinar series, creating online videos, developing email campaigns, and finding ways to incorporate customer feedback into how we complete our mission.
How did you end up working at NOAA?
I studied public policy hoping to help implement science and engineering in government. I learned a lot about NOAA's mission while working at the Maryland Sea Grant College during graduate school, and found my job at NGS through the Presidential Management Fellows Program. My knowledge about geodesy has been on-the-job training, but it has been a great fit.
What do you like most about your job?
I am motivated every day to help ensure that NGS's excellent science, products, and services reach our end-users. I particularly like solving problems, whether it involves learning how to take advantage of a new digital communication tool or communicate a complicated scientific issue. NOAA has a great mission, but it relies on all of us to figure out how to be effective as the world, environment, and priorities change all around us.
What is the hardest part of your job?
The nature of my job continually challenges me to find new ways of explaining how the National Spatial Reference System underpins all mapping, infrastructure, and geospatial applications. The hardest part is communicating the value of things that people cannot physically see but that are important to their daily lives, like geodetic datums.
What is your educational background?
I have an MS in engineering and public policy from the University of Maryland at College Park. I focused on environmental policy, which helped redirect my career from my undergraduate degrees—a BS in materials science and engineering and a BA in English literature, both from the University of Pittsburgh.
What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?
I love the outdoors, grew up near Lake Erie, and visited my grandparents every year on the Jersey Shore, but my interest in the ocean and coasts really piqued during graduate school at the University of Maryland. I loved learning about the Chesapeake Bay and had the opportunity to spend time on Maryland's Eastern Shore, camping and exploring with friends.
What advice do you have for young people wanting careers in the "ocean realm"?
No experience is bad experience, so take advantage of any opportunities that you have. Whether it's a tour on a boat or a "dry" report you need to write, they are all opportunities to learn about the field that interests you. Also, ask questions of people in the field because most people love to talk about their work, and you'll learn a ton!
What is one of the coolest experiences you've had on the job?
A few years ago, I participated in a field project at the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on the south shore of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I helped establish accurate elevation points across the marsh. I gained hands-on experience using tools and technology I communicate about and saw how the work I support at the federal level has real, local impacts—and all while spending time in the beautiful environment that NOAA works to protect every day.