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Meet Jade Chau, IT Specialist-Data Management Analyst

May 10, 2022

Part of the Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series.

Jade Chau near Mountain High Resort in the Angeles National Forest outside of Pasadena, California. Jade Chau near Mountain High Resort in the Angeles National Forest outside of Pasadena, California. Photo provided by Jade Chau.

Where did you grow up? 

I was born in an ethnic Chinese town called Chợ-Lớn, about five and half miles south of Sài-Gòn (Hồ-Chí-Minh City). When I was 14, my parents sent us (my brother, me, and my two younger sisters) away seeking asylum as refugees, known as the “Boat People”.  We lived through several refugee camps in Malaysia and the Philippines under harsh and primitive conditions. The journey was long and strenuous. We came to America in May 1982.

Jade with black drum fish.
Jade with a black drum she caught during a red drum survey at Cypremort point, Louisiana. Photo provided by Jade Chau.

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

With very little English, I finished 3 years of high school at Thomas Jefferson Senior High in Tampa, Florida with a 3.0 GPA. I attended University of Tampa and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. 

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

My role at the center has changed over time. I was hired to help a growing Vietnamese fishing community in southeastern Louisiana. Initially, I was interpreting and translating NOAA Fisheries meetings, rules, and materials from English to Vietnamese and vice versa. Then I became a federal port agent and was responsible for collecting fisheries data and biological sampling in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. I am a Hurricane Katrina survivor. A tornado from Katrina destroyed our home in Pass Christian, Mississippi. My family and I relocated to Tampa, Florida for an opportunity as a data manager located at the Southeast Regional Office. 

Jade Chau with coworkers.
Jade (left) and co-workers participating in the SEDAR Values Stream Mapping workshop. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

What do you do at the science center?

I am responsible for processing and managing commercial fisheries data from North Carolina to Texas into the Accumulated Landing System. The center maintains this database which contains current and historical commercial landings data. These data are an important input to our stock assessment process and the database is frequently queried for other data requests. I also manage our Vessel Operating System, which is an annual survey of active vessels and state boats that conducted fishing activities in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic areas. I respond to data requests from colleagues within the center, the regional office, and non-government agencies.

What do you like most about your position?

The states’ commercial fisheries data in the Gulf and South Atlantic region is complex and it has changed over the years in regards to the reporting process. The work I like the most is when I am able to improve the coherence of the data, simplify the process, and ensure time and effort is being used efficiently. Most of my work is behind the scenes but I know it is vital to our mission, providing the scientific advice and data needed to effectively manage the marine life of the Southeast Region and Atlantic high seas.

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

Jade and family celebrating her mom's 80th Birthday.
Jade and family celebrating her mom's 80th Birthday. Photo provided by Jade Chau.

My mother. The love and respect toward her parents, and sacrifice for her children has influenced me to be the person that I am today. Her marriage was pre-arranged by her father at the age of 20 to a man she did not know. Little did she know that she would bring eight children into this world. Her dedication to serve her own family and her in-laws was met with patience and resilience. She gave everything she had to pave the way for my siblings and me (her four oldest children) to leave communism searching for freedom and a prosperous future for us that she could not have control or knowledge of the outcome where we would end up. At the time, she knew she had to get us safely out of the country, but with hope, courage and perseverance she arranged transportation with someone she barely knew. She and the rest of my other siblings reunited with us in the United States 10 years after we arrived. I also believe wholeheartedly that the Almighty God watched over our journey and kept us safe every step of the way.

What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?

It reminds me of who I am and where I came from. I am proud of my Vietnamese and Chinese heritage, while  loving the United States of America. Both of my grandfathers’ families migrated to Vietnam from China after World War I. They were searching for freedom to escape from the communist regime. The most important reminder is that America has freedom and opportunities to offer for anyone who believes and works hard. It also reminds me not to take freedom for granted because of the many men and women in uniform (military and police) who have sacrificed to serve and protect people in this country. It is also an opportunity for me to share with others of my culture and heritage and to embrace who I am and my intellectual ability to contribute. 

Lotus Ponds (https://www.gardenia.net/plant/nelumbo-nucifera)
Lotus Ponds (https://www.gardenia.net/plant/nelumbo-nucifera)

What is your favorite flower? Tell us why.

Lotus is one of my most favorite flowers. It is the most beautiful flower and useful plant in my opinion. It grows mostly in Vietnam and China. The plant grows in the muddy water but it blooms so magnificently. The roots, leaves, and the seeds can be used in cooking of different delectable dishes. This flower is a symbol of purity.

What does being a career civil servant mean to you?

I had misconceptions that all governments are not trustworthy because of my past experiences. Initially I was cautious, even skeptical, when I started to work for the U.S. government early on. The more I got to know and work with my colleagues at NOAA Fisheries and people from other agencies, my perception has changed. I have learned that nothing functions perfectly in this world but I can help to improve things when possible and make it a better place. I continue to thrive at work through changes and maintain the best service even in the most challenging situations. My time at the center has had many challenges and they made me realize the best way to contribute is when I identify an issue or problem, I am also prepared to provide a solution. 

Jade helps to serve food at a friend's 25th Anniversary Celebration.
Jade helps to serve food at a friend's 25th Anniversary Celebration. Photo provided by Jade Chau.

What do you like to do outside of work?

When I am not working, I love gardening and all types of crafting, but the thing I love the most is cooking. Cooking is a way of escape for me from daily stress. I often share my food with neighbors, seniors, foster and church families, and friends. I create my own recipes that combine the right fresh or dried herbs and seasonings. I have also created a few signature sauces that go great with seafood, meats, or vegetables.

Contact Jade


Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on May 10, 2022