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Meet Lisa Desfosse, Deputy Director for Science and Operations

March 23, 2022

Part of the Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series, meet Dr. Lisa Desfosse.

Dr. Lisa Desfosse with her daughter, Jamie. Photo provided by Lisa Desfosse. Dr. Lisa Desfosse with her daughter. Photo provided by Lisa Desfosse.

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, a small town outside of Allentown (for those that remember the Billy Joel song).

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

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology from Millersville University of Pennsylvania and my doctorate in Marine Science from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.

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

I worked for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for about 11 years, 10 of which were as the Research and Statistics Director. I then worked for NOAA Fisheries Headquarters for about 5 years as the National Cooperative Research Coordinator and the National Observer Program Coordinator. I moved to the Gulf coast after getting hired by the center as the Director of the Pascagoula laboratory. I decided it was a great time to relocate and work for NOAA Fisheries in the field. The laboratory director position provided me with the opportunity to work at a more regional level as well as raise my daughter in a more rural setting.

Image of Lisa Desfosse.

What do you do at the science center?

I am currently the Deputy Director for Science and Operations. I oversee the Operations, Management, and Information Division activities such as facilities, IT, administration, and budgeting, as well as the science programs for the Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Division and the Population and Ecosystem Monitoring Division.

What does the recognition of Women’s History mean to you?

While getting my degrees in marine science, there were a few women in the field who became role models for me. However, at that time most positions were still held by men. In more recent years, I have seen an increase in women entering the field and, in particular, more women being promoted into leadership roles across the agency. Women’s History Month is a time where we can all recognize the contributions of the women that came before us and made great strides in our field, as well as recognizing the highly skilled women with whom we currently work with. Hopefully, those of us will someday be a role model for the women that come after us.

Lisa DesFosse (right) shaking hands with Kathy Sullivan (left)
Lisa introducing Dr. Kathryn Sullivan at an event at the science center in Pascagoula in 2013. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Who is the most influential woman you know? How does she inspire you?

The most influential woman I know, although not personally, is Kathryn Sullivan who was the NOAA Assistant Administrator in 2013–2014. She inspired me with her ability to reach out to staff on a personal level, whether via email or in person. She showed that she really cared about not only what the staff were working on but also on how they were doing. She is a good role model to other women in how to balance being a strong leader with the ability to really get to know people on a personal level.

Lisa and Jamie, her daughter.
Lisa Desfosse and her daughter, Jamie. Photo provided by Lisa Desfosse.

What are some of the biggest challenges that women face today? Do you see these changing in the future?

I think some women still face challenges moving into leadership roles. This issue seems to be getting better every year but women (and men) need to recognize that women are capable of being extremely good leaders. They need to take opportunities that allow them to grow in their careers and provide them with the skills and connections needed to move up into leadership positions. For many women this requires a balance of work and personal life, which at times is difficult when trying to raise a family. With more flexibility (such as telework and remote work) we may see it becoming a little easier for women to take advantage of opportunities in other parts of the agency without having to struggle with keeping up with personal responsibilities. I think and hope that we will continue to see more and more women in leadership roles throughout the agency.

What do you like most about your position?

I like being in a position where I can influence the way the center functions, both in the science realm and in the administrative aspects of our jobs. In recent years, we have seen many great changes and improvements in how the center functions, including the new strategic plan and the reorganization, and I was very glad to be a part of those activities. I also like the ability to work with the diverse staff across the center and get to know the staff on both a professional and a personal nature.

Bandit, Lisa's co-worker who frequently participates in conference calls.
Bandit, Lisa's co-worker who frequently participates in conference calls. Photo provided by Lisa Desfosse.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I have four dogs (three Siberian Huskies and a Catahoula) which keep me busy, even when I am trying to work. I like fishing, boating, and being outside in nature.  

Contact Lisa

Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on March 24, 2022