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Meet Mal Brassfield, Network Manager

February 17, 2022

Part of the Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series, meet Mal Brassfield.

Mal Brassfield on stage during the 50th anniversary of the center’s Miami facility. Mal Brassfield on stage during the 50th anniversary of the center’s Miami facility. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Where did you grow up? 

I mainly grew up in Miami, Florida. However, I have also lived in Brooklyn, New York and Los Angeles, California.

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

I received an Associates degree from Miami-Dade Junior College, majoring in Physics and Mathematics.

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

In 1971, after graduating from high school, I was fortunate enough to get hired under a “junior fellowship” program at the Tropical Atlantic Biological Laboratory, which was part of the  Department of the Interior. The lab is at the same facility that now houses the science center in Miami. 

What do you do at the science center?

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Mal Brassfield standing with other NOAA Fisheries staff
Mal Brassfield at the 50th anniversary of the center’s Miami facility. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Since joining NOAA I have held various positions. Currently I specialize in network management in the Infrastructure Section of the Operations, Management, and Information Division. It has been a long road to this point, because I actually started out as a Biological Technician sorting plankton. After a few years, I transitioned to a Mathematical Technician/Programmer. In 1986 I became the Systems Administrator of a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) MicroVAX computer system within the Sustainable Fisheries Division. In 1988, Dr. Joan Browder established a partnership with the University of Miami and the center to help communicate via the DECnet with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Spain–this was cutting edge technology then. During this time I studied constantly to keep myself up to speed so that I could help replace, build, and install new networks and software that allowed us to have a strong computing signature. 

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Mal Brassfield speaking on stage
Mal Brassfield at the 50th anniversary of the center’s Miami facility. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Shortly thereafter, our servers and users connected to the internet for the first time on October 29, 1992. This was after many months of hard work building and installing the infrastructure and software. This setup was initially exclusive only to the Sustainable Fisheries Division, but with equipment procured and my network expertise I was able to configure IP addresses to allow access for the entire Miami lab via a “gateway.” In 1994 Dr. Bradford Brown, the center director at the time, tasked me to configure 3Com NetbuilderII routers. He also asked for me to provide these internet connections to the other center laboratories outside of Miami. Our network space changed in May 1995 to the current one when we procured space from the Internet Network Information Center. This allowed us to become a subset of noaa.gov which is used for the agency. Since the 1990s, I have installed and maintained software and network equipment (firewalls, routers, and switches) that have become instrumental in protecting the science center and improving our communications. 

What do you like most about your position?

I like figuring out things and solving problems. It gives me a “natural high” when I am troubleshooting a network issue and I find the right conclusion that follows a step-by-step process. On two different occasions, I received compliments from outside companies stating: “you all have one of the most stable systems we’ve seen.” That says we’re doing something pretty good!

February is Black History Month, what does that mean to you?

Black history is America’s history, and it should never be sullied or forgotten! African Americans have continued to push forward, despite enslavement and injustices suffered, and this month helps to celebrate those triumphs and accomplishments. In my family, my grandparents overcame racial injustices throughout the 1800s and worked hard to achieve success. They passed their strong sense of pride down to their children and to me and I love them for their unbridled pride!

What do you like to do outside of work?

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Mal Brassfield with his family.
Mal Brassfield with his wife and children. Photo courtesy of Mal Brassfield.

I love gardening with my wife and keeping my yard manicured. I enjoy reading in general, reciting poetry, as well as playing the piano and serenading my wife! I enjoy going to the golf range with my grandkids and playing tennis. 

Contact Mal Brassfield

Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on February 18, 2022