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Meet Andy Ostrowski, Fisheries Biologist

January 23, 2023

As part of the Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series, meet Andy Ostrowski.

Andy Ostrowski holding an octopus on a research survey Andy Ostrowski holding an octopus caught during a Southeast Fishery Independent Survey. The octopus was released once documented. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Christina Schobernd

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Lisbon, a very small town in southeastern Connecticut.

Andy Ostrowski and his family.
Family lunch break at one of their favorite spots in Southport, North Carolina. Photo provided by Andy Ostrowski.

Where did you go to school and in what subject did you get your degree(s)?

I went to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and graduated with a double major in Environmental Sciences-Biological and Marine Biology and minored in Chemistry. I continued my graduate studies at UNCW for Marine Science and a post baccalaureate certification in Statistics.

How did you come to work at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center?

In 2012, I began working for the center as an affiliate. My work entailed reef fish life history and data analysis for the Biology and Life History group whose work centered around fish species. Then in 2016 I was hired by the center to continue that work based out of the NOAA facility in Beaufort, North Carolina. 

What do you do at the science center?

Andy Ostrowski sampling fish on a survey with NOAA Fisheries
Andy Ostrowski sampling fish collected during a survey. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Christina Schobernd

My work centers around reef fish life history. This involves processing and aging fish otoliths (ear stones). I provide the data products to stock assessments, and I am the species lead on groupers (scamp, gag, red grouper), blueline tilefish, and greater amberjack. I ensure that all our microscopes and processing equipment are operating properly. I work towards increasing efficiency of all our processes within our program. I have been involved in multiple Marine Fisheries Initiative projects and serve on a strategic team for a  6-year project investigating new techniques with near infrared spectroscopy. I also have participated in the Southeast Fisheries Independent Survey that allows me the opportunity to do fieldwork offshore collecting data for use in the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review process.

I recently completed a NOAA LANTERN detail as the Chief of Staff to the director of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center. Through my experiences I was able to better understand the complex strategic needs of the center and region. It provided a detailed overview of our Center while providing insight into a lot of what goes on in the Directorate Office that I was unaware of previouslythe taskers! It was also a unique leadership opportunity that afforded me the chance to interact with staff from all over the center.

What do you like most about your position?

I appreciate how our data directly impacts stock assessments and being involved in relevant research with my colleagues. I’ve really enjoyed working with all the different federal, state, and university partners during my time, as well as those within the center. These partners can be port samplers, data providers, and stock assessment scientists. Another aspect about my position that I enjoy is that I am able to continue field work. I get to set up and help run age validation studies. I also happily participate in Southeast Fisheries Independent Surveys because it gets me out on the water for weeks at a time and provides important context to the data and how it is used in assessments.  

Andy Ostrowski and his wife outside.
Andy and Kendall enjoying an afternoon coffee. Photo provided by Andy Ostrowski.

What advice would you have for someone interested in a career at NOAA Fisheries?

Get out there and try everything you might be interested in and, just as important, try things you might not like. I started my career as a volunteer in the marine sciences, which led to internships, an undergraduate research project, then contract positions, and finally the position I have now. Over time, I built a network of colleagues that introduced me to new people. At first, I had a hard time starting a conversation with new people, but I was lucky enough to find someone I was comfortable with who introduced me to their colleagues. It is amazing just how small the marine science field is, so your network quickly grows and leads you to some amazing opportunities.

Is there a book, quote, or person that influenced you to be the person that you are today? Tell us why.

This is a hard question to narrow down. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by many people in my life that have shaped me into who I’ve become. That includes both personally and professionally. Personally, my influences include my dad, who always provided sound advice and calm demeanor. Also my older brother Todd; he always let me tag along growing up and has always been there for me as a sounding board, and as someone who I’ve always looked up to.  

Andy Ostrowski family at the beach
Andy’s wife, Kendall, their children, Kate, Ellis, Arden, and dog, Penny, taking a break from searching for shark’s teeth and sea glass. Photo provided by Andy Ostrowski.

Professionally, it started early with my middle school science teacher, Mr. Brown, when he took me out seining in the salt marsh and gave me my start in presentations as a member of the school’s environmental club. In college, my honor’s professor Dr. Fred Scharf gave me my start in fisheries research and has always provided me with invaluable professional advice. My federal career has been guided by Jennifer Potts, whose wealth of knowledge I’ve been fortunate to be able to learn from over the years. There are a lot of others that have been as important, but these three have had the biggest impact so far.  

A quote that has stuck with me has been: “Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”

What do you like to do outside of work?

I am the lucky father of three daughters that keep me on my toes and hair turning gray! We also have a corgi that keeps us active and a house full of projects. When I do have a chance to relax, it’s usually spent playing games with my kids, reading, or cheering on the Boston Red Sox.

Contact Andy Ostrowski

Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on March 28, 2023