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Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

MERITO in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary


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Meet: Rocio Lozano-Knowlton

Program Coordinator, MERITO (Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans) Program, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

As the coordinator of MERITO, a marine science and conservation education program tailored to raise awareness of ocean issues and motivate youth in traditionally underserved communities  to pursue careers in marine science or resource protection, I work in the field at our local watersheds, along the California coast, at the Channel Islands, and, occasionally, at other national marine sanctuaries.

What do you like most about working at NOS?

It’s very rewarding to work with the education team at the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and NOS to deliver the most up-to-date information on ocean science and resource protection to our culturally diverse communities. I believe the products and services we deliver affect people’s behavior and outlook toward our coastal and ocean environments.

It is a privilege to work at NOAA — the agency that published much of the information I studied during my college years in México. NOAA people are very engaged in their work. They are constantly learning, creating, and adjusting to new challenges and opportunities.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is coping with the financial instability of the MERITO program. MERITO has had positive impacts in southern and central California because it was designed based on community needs. However, it is very difficult to constantly seek and secure external and internal funding to provide the ocean education and outreach services that the communities need.

What is your educational background?

I have a bachelor of science in physical oceanography from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, México, and a master of science in marine resource protection from Herriot Watt University of Scotland. I am fully bilingual (Spanish-English) and also speak some Japanese.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

Born a thousand miles away from any ocean, I was inspired to study for an ocean career during a family trip to Cancun, México, when I was 11 years old. After 13 years of working in assorted ocean-related jobs and witnessing first-hand the rapid decline of marine resources in various parts of the world, I decided to focus my career on marine conservation education. At about the same time, I moved permanently to the United States to be with my husband.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

An opportunity arose in 2004 when the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary posted a job announcement for a community liaison to the MERITO program. I got the job, and have since worked to develop, and later implement, the MERITO program in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

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

If the ocean is your passion, you will succeed. You can be a researcher, explorer, entrepreneur, policymaker, educator, filmmaker, engineer, manager – the options in ocean careers are as vast as the ocean itself. Even if you are not a “scientist-type,” do not be afraid to take “hard-core” science classes! You will be surprised how handy they will be later on, when you apply them to understanding both small- and large-scale ocean processes.