The NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources presents the first profile in our series to highlight staff members from various backgrounds who contribute to the field of marine ecology and conservation, and specifically individuals who work on Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act programs that support our mission.
Jonathan Molineaux grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and discovered his passion for the environment while working as a local park guide. “I worked at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. while I was enrolled in a part-time Masters program in environmental management at the University of Maryland University College. I certainly wasn’t an endangered species expert at the time, but I’ve always had a love for animals and a strong desire to protect them in their natural state which definitely helped lead me to my current federal job at NOAA.”
Finding His Passion in Marine Ecology and Conservation
Jonathan found his way to NOAA Fisheries through one of is professors who was also a project manager for a NOAA contractor. His initial contact at NOAA, Kellie Foster-Taylor, became a mentor along with Kris Petersen and Cathy Tortorici, his current managers.
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. He completes 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 we authorize.
Jonathan performs geographic information system (GIS) work to organize spatial information into more accessible formats like maps and software. He is currently developing a GIS system for our new environmental consultation organizer (ECO) application. He is developing a critical habitat database with colleagues in our regional offices, which will hopefully blossom into a national database to support NOAA’s mission.
In his spare time, he is involved in two diversity and inclusion working groups. Jonathan enjoys the work in these groups as he believes in supporting NOAA’s Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Plan. The plan is focused on creating and fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce, a top priority for the federal government and a mission imperative for NOAA.
Moving Towards a More Diverse Conservation Community
This dedication to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) work and diversity is a major reason why Jonathan was chosen for the Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award. He was presented the award at the 2020 Black Engineer of the Year Award STEM Conference in February 2020. The conference is an annual networking conference and awards ceremony that hosts STEM professionals and students to share and celebrate their experiences and careers. “I was so excited and extremely humbled to receive the award,” said Jonathan. “I assisted in NOAA’s engagement with the 2019 conference where I was able to connect with many talented students and young professionals, sharing potential career opportunities that NOAA had to offer. It is a goal of mine to continue working towards developing the field of natural resource protection and management into a more diverse community.”
Advising Students About Classes and Career Choices
Jonathan has a broad educational background which has served him well in his work at NOAA. He received his bachelor’s degree from Saint Edward's University where he majored in global studies and minored in environmental science. Jonathan later completed a Master of Science program in Environmental Management despite not having a science degree for his Bachelors. Maintaining a varied skill set has enabled Jonathan to gain a better understanding of environmental issues from an international lens. This has helped him complete consultations in areas outside of the United States including the coastal waters of Namibia and South America.
A Typical Day
A day at work for Jonathan revolves around effective time management, juggling several consultation projects at one time. For example, the projects he is working on at the moment include:
- Drafting a fish effects analysis for a biological opinion on the impact of U.S. Navy training activities on species offshore.
- Reviewing the impacts of seismic research off the coast of Alaska on endangered species.
- Working on a GIS system for the division’s new consultation tracking system which will assist in collecting and analyzing project area data to aid Endangered Species Act Section 7 biologists in more effectively and efficiently completing consultations.
As a consultation biologist, Jonathan’s main role is to prevent government projects from jeopardizing endangered and threatened species. Jonathan conducts in-depth research and participates in open dialogue with agencies to determine how to move ahead with these efforts while safeguarding endangered species’ safety and survival. This ensures government projects maximize protections for imperiled species using the best available science while meeting agency needs.
Mitigating possible threats and protecting marine mammals is all part of a day’s work for Jonathan. It also plays an important role in the Office of Protected Resources’ mission and NOAA’s overall mission of science, service, and stewardship.