Unsupported Browser Detected

Internet Explorer lacks support for the features of this website. For the best experience, please use a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, or Edge.

Meet Joy Merino, Fisheries Biologist

March 08, 2024

As part of the Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series, meet Joy Merino.

A woman smiles in front of a bush with bright pink flowers Joy at home in Lafayette, Louisiana. Photo provided by Joy Merino.

Where did you grow up? 

Being the second oldest of four sisters raised in Fancy Prairie, Illinois, I felt like the character Jo from Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women, but the tiny town was among corn fields. My sisters and I called ourselves the “Hunter Sisters” and sang professionally at fairs, festivals, and international televised sports events before we went our separate ways for college. My parents valued education and women's rights.

A woman in sunglasses near a massive green sculpture of a praying mantis
Joy at one of her family's favorite places to visit–St. Louis Museum, St. Louis, Missouri. Photo provided by Joy Merino.

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

Although voted by my high school as “most likely to become a housewife,” I earned a Master’s of Biology from University of Louisiana where I studied seagrass and wetland ecology by airboat and seaplane. Before that, I double majored in anthropology and philosophy with a minor in geography at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. There, I met my partner of 29 years and ran off to collect insects in the Everglades with him. This landed us in the south where I took occasional classes in GIS, web design, and computer networking.

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

I accepted a Fisheries Biologist position 24 years ago focused on Louisiana coastal ecology and restoration for the Southeast Fisheries Science Center that I could start as a student while completing my Master’s studies. I am in the same position as when hired, but my duties have been all over the place. The focus changes about every 3 years, which I have loved.  

What do you do at the science center?

I’m involved with many aspects of the Habitat Ecology Branch of the Population and Ecosystems Monitoring Division including social science, tribal engagement, Caribbean work (habitat, strategic planning, funding governance), acquisitions, aquaculture, employee morale, and wind energy. For 20 years, I supported the Restoration Center in coastal Louisiana where I worked via a cooperative agreement and grants in partnership with several federal agencies. I prepared environmental assessments, reviewed habitat construction plans, 20-year budget plans, and produced science publications. As part of a field office in a tenant occupied building, I was our NOAA Fisheries representative and performed the duties to support facilities and administration.

I recently completed a detail with science center leadership and a LANTERN (Leveraging Abilities, Needs, Talents, Energies & Resources Network) opportunity, which is part of a development program to promote employee growth, networking, and collaboration. I did this with NOAA’s Southeast Regional Office, in their Sustainable Fisheries Gulf of Mexico Branch. They taught me much about fishing regulatory processes and regional planning. 

What do you like most about your position?

People and learning. What I enjoyed most in my position initially was the intergovernmental collaboration and working with hundreds of scientists and engineers. My duties have since changed. The variety of tasks and respect for NOAA staff is what sustains me now. 

A family of three gathered together smiling in an outdoor setting
Joy and family members Avi and Sergio enjoying a performance at rainy Festival Internationale 2023. Photo provided by Joy Merino.

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

Follow your desires, but take what you can get along the way. Be tenacious, yet ask for and accept help. Many times my path led me right into the things I had tried to avoid, such as statistics, and it positively influenced my perception of myself and my work.

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

Many people have influenced me: my father and his respect for nature, sense of humor, and wonder; the support of many employers and associates; my mother’s home and financial freedom values; and my sisters I’ve lived vicariously through as a professor, musician, nurse, world traveler, and more. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy solitary activities like gardening, rock hunting and collecting crystals, organizing, repurposing rubbish, and spending time with my handsome sons Avi, who is eight, and Zen, who is fifteen.

Contact Joy

Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on March 12, 2024