Black History Month is observed every February to recognize the history and achievements of African Americans and their central role in our nation’s history. As we celebrate this year, we’d like to highlight the extraordinary research and important contributions of African Americans at NOAA Fisheries. Trailblazers like Dr. Ambrose Jearld, one of NOAA’s first African American fisheries biologists, led the way for many young scientists and specialists to pursue their dreams and their passion for marine and environmental science. Check out these interviews with our colleagues to learn more about their contributions to NOAA.
Larry Alade, Research Fisheries Biologist
Larry's primary role as research fisheries biologist is to investigate and develop scientific tools to assess the health of fish populations in the region to inform and advise the federal fishery management process. This involves studying and monitoring changes in fish abundance, distribution and demographics (i.e. size, age, sex etc.), measuring and quantifying impacts of fishing activity and understanding biological and physical processes within the ecosystem that contribute to the observed changes in the fishery resource.
He first came to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center as an intern after completing his master’s degree in applied computer science. He later returned to the Science Center while earning his doctoral degree. After finishing his Ph.D., the Science Center hired him in 2008 to work for the Population Dynamics Branch assessing groundfish stocks. Larry is a 2020 John Bullard Diversity Award winner.
Calvin Alexander, Study Fleet Field Scientist
Calvin Alexander is a field scientist based out of NOAA Fisheries' Narragansett Lab in Rhode Island. He is part of a team that works with our contracted study fleet and partner institutions.
He was born in Trinidad and Tobago and grew up five minutes from the beach. He would go trolling for wahoo, blackfin tuna, mahi mahi, and other pelagic fish with his father, who was a commercial fisherman on the side. He was awarded a National scholarship to attend the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry, now under the university umbrella of University of Trinidad and Tobago and then left Trinidad and Tobago to complete his bachelor’s degree in Aquaculture and Fisheries Technology at the University of Rhode Island. After that, he served as a fisheries observer for two and a half years and today he provides support for vessels using Fisheries Logbook and Data Recording Software for Electronic Vessel Trip Reporting by training captains, equipment installation, and troubleshooting issues that pop up.
Ebony S. Contreras, Chief Learning Officer
Ebony S. Contreras is the Chief Learning Officer for NOAA Fisheries. She is the responsible for creating and leading our learning programs and strategy. She collaborates with and advises learning coordinators throughout our regions and science centers, serves as the Human Capital Management Office representative on the Fisheries Strategic Action Team for Inclusion, and works alongside other Chief Learning Officers in two interagency Department of Commerce workgroups.
She has spent 17 years of her career working in five federal agencies, non-profit, and private sectors and officially joined NOAA Fisheries in 2019. Her goal is increase the overall capacity for leadership by developing a pipeline of diverse and prepared leaders across all levels.
April Croxton, Research Fishery Biologist
April Croxton was a research fishery biologist at the Centers Milford Laboratory and is currently on detail to the NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture. She studies how marine animals and their immune systems respond to environmental stressors such as poor water quality, pollution, and ocean acidification.
Growing up, she was a big fan of nature shows that highlighted marine animals and the marine environment. She knew she was destined for a career in marine science since the fourth grade. Her parents recognized her interests in the field at a very early age and made sure that I was engaged in marine-focused activities throughout my elementary, middle, and high school years. Her advice to those seeking a career in science is to, "Always remember why you are doing it." As a young, female African-American scientist, she has faced many challenges in her field, but her passion for marine and coastal science is what drives her every day. "Find that passion within and you will be able to overcome any obstacle that you encounter," Croxton said. "Secondly, have fun and enjoy the wonderful experiences that you will have during your journey."
Jarita Davis, Technical Writer & Editor
Jarita Davis is a science editor at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. She spends much of her day revising research papers to ensure clear organization, logic continuity, correct use of language, and resolution of contradictions.
She attended Brown University to study Latin and ancient Greek, and while her focus was on literature and languages, she also studied classical history, art, architecture, and archeology. Her undergraduate work included semesters abroad in Athens, Greece, and Rome, Italy and a summer working on the archaeological excavation of an ancient Roman Basilica on the Greek island of Corfu. She taught English to students in Rome for two years and then applied to a PhD program in English at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Instead of teaching after graduate school, she worked as a science editor at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Three years later she joined NOAA as a writer and editor. She published her first collection of poems, Return Flights, in 2016, and she is currently working on a novel.
Renee Eaton, GIS Developer
Renee Eaton is a GIS Developer for NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation and has worked with NOAA Fisheries for six years.
As a GIS developer, data sharing and accessibility is a big part of her role. She works to transform the way people look at habitat policy and restoration efforts through spatial mapping and analysis. Some of her projects include the NOAA Restoration Atlas redesign and an immersive experience highlighting the impacts of the completed restoration work on Town Brook in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Whether she's developing a complex mapping application or helping to design a public outreach tool, each project offers an opportunity to learn something new while supporting our habitat restoration programs.
Jones Harbor, Program Analyst and Audit Liaison
Jones Harbor is a Program Analyst/Audit Liaison for NOAA Fisheries' Strategic Planning and Performance Evaluation Division. His day-to-day responsibilities are to serve as liaison for NOAA Fisheries’ audits from the U.S. Government Accountability Office and Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General in collaboration with NOAA’s Audit and Information Management Office, and to assist technical leads and programs nationwide in accurately and thoroughly responding to audits.
He grew up in Nigeria and played soccer with several major teams before his invitation to play on the Nigerian National Soccer Team. He arrived in the United States on July 4, 1981 to begin his studies at Alabama A&M University and followed up with a graduate degree at the University of Maryland College Park where he studied accounting and finance.
Gail Haynie, Human Resources Administrator
Gail Haynie is a Management Analyst for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement where she works in human resources administration. Gail has been with the office since 2012, and has worked in federal government for almost 32 years.
With encouragement from co-workers and managers, she took a variety of training courses and received certificates of accomplishment in human resources, budgeting, and more, including a Human Resources Certificate of Accomplishment from the USDA Graduate School. Her advice to today’s young people interested in a career with the federal government is to apply, apply, apply—even if you don’t know what you want to do in life. The federal government has lots of opportunities and can provide a pathway to a fulfilling career.
Kwanza Johnson, Academic Programs Coordinator
From Ohio to Florida to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Kwanza Johnson has focused on mentoring students and providing opportunities for people from all backgrounds.
She is an alumna of Bethune-Cookman University, a privately owned, historically black college/university (HBCU) and new member of the NOAA Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems. While in college, she completed the Integrated Environmental Science Bachelor of Science program, which introduced her to geographic information systems and remote sensing.
In the summer of 2016, she was a student in the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program. Her project investigated the effects of red tide on tourism to Cape Cod at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Marine Policy Center. After leaving the PEP program, she taught sixth grade science for Broward County Public Schools in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She was accepted into the Pathways Program and after an internship in Ohio, she joined NOAA as the Academic Programs Coordinator in 2018. Today, she works with students at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center who have been involved with NOAA’s Ernest F. Hollings undergraduate scholarships, Educational Partnership Program undergraduate scholarships, and Experiential Research & Training Opportunities.
Jonathan Molineaux, Fisheries Biologist
Jonathan Molineaux is a fisheries biologist and winner of the 2020 Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award, part of the Black Engineer of the Year Award STEM Conference.
As a fisheries biologist at NOAA in the Office of Protected Resources, Jonathan wears many hats. He is an integral part of our work implementing the Endangered Species Act, completing interagency consultations under Section 7 of the Act. Jonathan helps minimize the impact of other agencies’ projects on endangered species. Projects that he has worked on include consulting on Navy training and testing activities and research permits.
Jonathan also performs geographic information system (GIS) work to organize spatial information into more accessible formats like maps and software. In his spare time, he is involved in two diversity and inclusion working groups.
He explains how his interest in endangered species conservation began at a local pond and led to the ocean.
Jolvan Morris, SCUTES Coordinator
Jolvan Morris coordinates our Students Collaborating to Undertake Tracking Efforts for Sturgeon (SCUTES), a collaboration between NOAA Fisheries, sturgeon researchers, teachers, and informal educators to bring more awareness about sturgeon and the Endangered Species Act into schools and classrooms.
Jolvan supports teachers as they integrate SCUTES curriculum into their classes or programs. She works with K-12 instructors and informal educators across the nation and in Canada. To get to where she is today, Jolvan interned twice in our Protected Resources Division, while she was in graduate school and again after completing her degree. As the SCUTES program was first being developed, she compiled information for teachers as they designed sturgeon-centric lesson plans for SCUTES and also created activities herself. Jolvan earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Science at Florida A&M University. Six years after her second internship, she was hired as our permanent SCUTES Coordinator.
Tony Orr, Research Biologist
Tony Orr is a research biologist at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. He leads a team to study the abundance, population dynamics, survival, and foraging ecology of the California stock of northern fur seals.
With the help of veterinarians, he works to examine the health and diseases that affect both of these species. He is also involved in other research projects on several marine mammal species that inhabit the California Current Ecosystem. These include Pacific harbor seals, Guadalupe fur seals, Steller sea lions, and gray and humpback whales.
He is a volunteer member of Seattle Inspiring Connections Outdoors and a former Tukwila team lead. The organization’s primary goal is to get low-income and underserved youth out of the city to experience and explore the great outdoors. He often gives talks at local schools and at the University of Washington to help engage underrepresented and marginalized students in STEM and AVID programs.
At the Science Center, Tony is a volunteer member of the Team for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity. He works with Center leadership on policies, procedures and practices to promote an inclusive workplace that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve.
Temi Oyewole, Funds Management Specialist
Temi Oyewole is a Funds Management Specialist for NOAA's Office of Habitat Conservation. She has worked with NOAA for over 15 years and currently works in the Operations, Management and Information Office in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Temi works with the Finance and Budget team to coordinate and track procurement and contractual actions. She works on a variety of projects and recently helped put together an interagency agreement with the National Park Service and NOAA Fisheries that will aid restoration efforts in Caribbean park units that sustained significant damages caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Audy Peoples, Fisheries Biologist
Audy Peoples is a fisheries biologist with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. He was an intern for the Center in 2013 while participating in the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program. As an intern, he worked in the Protected Species Branch, studying the feeding ecology of the gray seal.
Today, he works for the Oceans & Climate Branch in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Currently he is working to develop a database of longfin squid paralarval abundance from archived samples. With his knowledge, experience, and involvement in so many NOAA partnered programs, Audy was able to apply for a position at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center through their Talent for the 21st Century Program. This program is devoted to widening NOAA’s hiring net while building a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Sheila Stiles, Research Geneticist
Sheila Stiles is a research geneticist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Milford Laboratory. She was the first full-time African American woman hired at the Milford Laboratory and has spent more than 50 years advancing research in shellfish genetics and recruiting/mentoring the next generation of scientists.
She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and her early interest in the natural world led her to study science. She went to Xavier University in Louisiana, where she earned her B.S. degree in biology. She attended the University of Connecticut in Storrs, and received a master’s degree in zoology and ecology. Then, she earned a Ph.D. in fisheries and genetics from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She was recruited to the Milford Lab after earning her degree at Xavier and has been there ever since. Today, she is a research geneticist and project leader. Her current research focuses on mussels and encompasses three components: breeding, molecular genetics using DNA/RNA analysis, and field evaluations for stock restoration and analysis.