Meet Stephen Gill

Chief Scientist, Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS)

Stephen Gill

As the chief scientist for CO-OPS, I ensure that CO-OPS programs are science-based and that our data and products have scientific integrity for multiple applications. I work with international and national tide and sea level panels and committees, oversee the development of internal technical training programs, and provide training and technical mentoring. I frequently interact with the public and the media to provide information on tidal phenomena, water level measurement, and sea level change.

What do you like most about working at NOAA?

It is a great job to be a NOAA public servant. I get to work with a broad variety of oceanographic, meteorological, and geodetic data, not just from the United States, but from around the globe. I get to look at data from real-time tsunami and storm surge events to long-term, century-scale sea level trends. I am able to help our agency provide a tangible set of data and data products that provide very meaningful information for managing our coasts, for public safety, for the economy, and for the benefit of ecosystems. I also enjoy teaching and mentoring.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The worst parts of my job are the daily automobile commute and those all-too-frequent automatic workstation reboots right when I am doing some important work.

What is your educational background?

I have a B.S. in meteorology and oceanography and a master’s in physical oceanography from the New York School of Engineering and Science. I also obtained one-year specialty training in tidal theory and tidal analysis at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California at San Diego.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

The “aha moment” was an earth science course in my junior year of high school. I originally wanted to be a meteorologist, but turned my attention to the oceans while in college.

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

Get a well-rounded education as an undergraduate, including courses in marine science, geology, and physical and chemical oceanography. Statistical and time-series analysis comes in handy in the real world of oceanography. Learn to use GIS. Don't be afraid to "jump into" the data to work through and understand problems. Never stop learning. Always look to apply your knowledge to understanding and solving real-world problems.

What is one of the most important things you’ve learned while working at NOAA?

Everything in nature is connected and the Earth is one large system under increasing stress. What happens with climate, the weather, and the oceans in one part of the globe is teleconnected to other regions, and nothing happens in isolation.

What is one of the coolest experiences you've had in your job?

One of my most interesting experiences happened early on in my NOAA career, when I was part of a group performing tidal studies in marshes along the West Coast. I got to travel to almost every marsh system from Southern California to Oregon. That set the stage for realizing how important tidal data are to understanding how ecosystems function.