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Meet NOAA’s new National Observer Program Coordinator and Electronic Technologies Coordinator

November 01, 2017

NOAA Fisheries’ National Observer Program (NOP) added two critical new staff members during the summer of 2017.

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Elizabeth Chilton


Elizabeth Chilton is the new NOP Coordinator after previously working with the North Pacific Observer Program at the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) in Seattle.  She started her career in fisheries as a North Pacific groundfish observer in 1990.  “My experience working with the commercial fleet as a groundfish observer in the North Pacific provided me with a solid foundation in fisheries sampling and management,” says Chilton. 

After completing an M.S. in Fisheries Oceanography at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Liz concentrated on fishery independent data as research biologist at the AFSC Fisheries Laboratory in Kodiak, Alaska deploying on commercial fishing vessels and collaborating with industry partners on cooperative research themes in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands. 

She shifted her focus to fisheries dependent data with the North Pacific Observer Program as the field operations supervisor in 2011. Along with managing field operations, Liz also worked with implementation of the partial coverage observer program on smaller commercial vessels fishing in Alaska. While on detail to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in early 2017, Liz served as the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program Branch Chief. She brings invaluable field experience to the NOP from two coasts. 

Brett Alger


Brett Alger is the NOP’s national Electronic Technologies Coordinator.  Since 2009, Brett worked in the Sustainable Fisheries Division at the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Fisheries Regional Office, leading efforts to advance implementation of electronic monitoring and reporting with the NEFSC, the Northeast Fishery-Dependent Data Visioning project, and nationally with the Electronic Technologies Working Group.  He helped coordinate and implement the Northeast Multispecies (groundfish) Fishery Management Plan and was co-lead on groundfish sector development. 

“I think innovations in electronic technologies present a lot of potential for improvements in fisheries science and management,” say Alger.  Brett also has worked for the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Natural History Survey, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Natural Resources from Central Michigan University and a Master of Science degree in Fisheries Management and Science from Michigan State University. 

Chilton and Alger join long-time NOP staff members Dennis Hansford and Lee Benaka.  Dennis coordinates national observer training and safety and staffs the Safety Advisory Committee. He coordinated and chaired the 6th, 7th, and 8th International Fisheries Observer and Monitoring Conferences. Dennis also has served on various Equal Employment Opportunity and Blacks In Government committees.  He recently returned to the NOP after an Army National Guard deployment to Kuwait and Jordan during 2016 and 2017.  Benaka serves as Chair of the U.S. National Bycatch Report Steering Committee and coordinates the production of the National Bycatch Reports and updates.  Lee also focuses on science related to the estimation of discard and release mortality.  In August 2017, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Fisheries Society.