NOAA Fisheries is proud to join the nation in recognizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer+ (LGBTQ+) Pride Month to commemorate the many contributions of LGBTQ+ colleagues. This celebration throughout June is held to increase the awareness of LGBTQ+ history and contributions of individuals who are a part of this community.
Explore the features below to learn more about a new employee resource group created to provide a safe space for all. Get a closer look at the work of staff members throughout the country who help achieve our mission of ensuring sustainable fisheries and conserving marine species for future generations.
Celebrating Pride Month with Safe Space and Community
The Northeast Fisheries Science Center's new LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group provides a safe, welcoming, and affirming space for LGBTQ+ and their allies. Group co-chairs talk about the importance of this group, goals, activities, future plans, and more!
Meet Rachel Eckley, Research Associate
Rachel's role at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center is to organize the Caribbean strategic planning project, which aims to improve data limitations of the U.S. Caribbean region as they relate to stock assessment and ecosystem-based fisheries management. She loves being able to collaborate with center personnel and regional partners in the U.S. Caribbean, and feels lucky to have found a position that uses both of her specialties of Hispanic cultures and marine science.
Rachel grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, in the middle of the country and very far from the ocean. She attended Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina for her undergraduate degrees. She earned a Bachelor's of Science in Marine Science and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Spanish. For the Marine Science program, she participated in research focused on habitat use of coastal shark species. She later attended Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where Ishe earned a Master’s of Science in Marine Science.
Pride means celebrating who you are, who your friends are, and who strangers are. Pride Month is a time to embrace those that may have a different life experience than you, and remind those close to you that they matter. It is also a time to acknowledge the contributions that members of the LGBTQ+ community have made to society while recognizing that we have a long way to go for equality.
Natalie McLenaghan, Marine Habitat Resource Specialist
Natalie McLenaghan is a Marine Habitat Resource Specialist with the Office of Habitat Conservation’s Restoration Center. For her role, Natalie serves as a Federal Program Officer and a Competition Manager for coastal habitat restoration and resilience grants. She was raised in the tiny village of Windsor, NY, along the banks of the Susquehanna River. It was there that she developed a fondness for collecting fossils and crayfish out of local streambeds at a very early age. Forty years later, those are still some of her favorite activities to engage in whenever she visits her hometown. Her mom played a role in influencing her to be the person she is today and she aspires to someday be as fun and amazing as she is.
Natalie takes pride in working at NOAA Fisheries, in an office that restores habitat for threatened and endangered species and builds resilience in coastal communities. She finds the work to be meaningful and it provides a sense of purpose.
Meet Kristin O'Brien, Program Support Specialist for the Office of Habitat Conservation
Kristin O'Brien is a Program Support Specialist for the Office of Habitat Conservation. She does cost documentation for the Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program and the Deepwater Horizon program. Kristin grew up in Fremont, Michigan, where her childhood home was in the middle of the Manistee National Forest. Growing up in a forest next to Lake Michigan gave her a great love and passion for environmental protection and conservation.
Outside of work, Kristin is a comedian and playwright. She's currently producing and directing a new play that she wrote that will be at Woolly Mammoth theater in late July of 2022.
Her grandfather was her greatest influence. He loved and accepted her for who she was. He helped her set up a bake sale during their community yard sale days to raise money for AIDS research. It was the first time she felt like she was contributing something positive to the world and he was the person who always encouraged her to pursue a life of government service.
Meet Darius Thibodeaux, Help Desk Technician for the Office of the Chief Information Officer
Darius Thibodeaux is a Help Desk Technician (VIP) for the Customer Experience and Service Delivery Team in the Office of the Chief Information Officer. His key responsibility is to serve as the primary point of contact for all VIP-related IT Help Desk incidents and requests. He was born and raised in Takoma Park, Maryland. Darius was always a technical savvy kid, even at a young age. This even inspired his father to navigate into the IT field because of his innate skills. He always knew that somewhere along the line in his career that his technical prowess would play a role in his career and success.
Outside of work, Darius thoroughly enjoys traveling, ATVs, playing video games, recording podcasts, and his passion, singing—whether it is with church choirs or community groups. The mentor who best influenced him is Eve Hogan. She was the Senior Editor of Chicken Soup for the African American Soul, and he met with her at a young entrepreneur program in 2011 where she was the facilitator. Working at NOAA Fisheries gives him the opportunity to use his technical background to do what he loves to do, and that is serve and help.
Meet Abigail Wells, Molecular Geneticist for the Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Abigail Wells is a Molecular Geneticist (Lynker contractor), who is supporting the North West Fisheries Science Center. Her key role there is to generating genetic data on marine species. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and she grew up spending much of her time outdoors. Her biology teacher showed her Punnett squares were a fun puzzle. This led her to pursue dual Environmental Science and Cellular Biology degrees. The combination of these interests brought her into her first genetics lab working on Phycodnaviridae, viruses that infect algae. That’s where she learned the skills needed to work on the fish, coral, whale, and microbiome genetic projects at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center.
Outside of work, Abigail likes to fly recreationally and volunteer with GenPride. Working to support NOAA Fisheries as a contractor for Lynker has been an amazing journey. She has grown tremendously in the lab, been out to remote field sites and away to sea, and she works with an amazing group of people. Together they have achieved great scientific work, leading to more informed resource management choices. We have also driven forward a diversity and equity team model that has taken root at many other science centers. Working there inspires her to keep asking questions, and to serve their science and each other with curiosity, creativity, and dedication.