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Women's History Month 2022

March 03, 2022

Meet some of our colleagues who work for NOAA Fisheries across the country and get a closer look at their many contributions.

Women's History Month 2022 collage

To celebrate Women's History Month, we are highlighting some of our colleagues who contribute to NOAA Fisheries' core missions every day. Learn more about more about their career journeys, why they became scientists, their day-to-day jobs, and what Women's History Month means to them. 

Women of NOAA Fisheries

Catie Alves, Scientist at Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Catie Alves smiles and gives the thumbs up as she poses next to her dive gear while sitting on a boat. She is wearing a light blue long-sleeved shirt and black leggings. There is blue water and a beach with palm trees in the background.
Catie Alves

Catie Alves grew up in Narragansett, Rhode Island, and spent most summers playing in the shallow waters of the local beaches. This is where she developed a passion for the ocean. This passion grew deeper when she developed an excitement for scientific inquiry from field trips to the coast with enthusiastic teachers. She pursued a biological sciences degree at Connecticut College. While there, she became SCUBA certified and studied abroad in Bonaire, in the Netherlands Antilles. While there, Catie discovered a new interest in coral reef conservation and fisheries science.

Catie became a scientist to combine her passion for the ocean with her keen attention to detail to protect and conserve marine ecosystems. She strives to understand the technical side of conservation and help bridge the gap between policymakers, the public, and other stakeholders.

Learn more about Catie Alves and her work

Lynne Barre, Seattle Branch Chief for the Protected Resources Division and the Recovery Coordinator for Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales

Lynne Barre
Lynne Barre on the water at sunset. Photo courtesy of Lynne Barre.

Lynne Barre has been working passionately on the recovery of Southern Resident killer whales since they were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2005. In 2011, she became a Branch Chief overseeing a variety of programs for marine mammals and other threatened and endangered species, like rockfish in Puget Sound. Currently she works with partners throughout the Pacific Northwest, in the United States and in Canada as the Seattle Branch Chief for the Protected Resources Division and the Recovery Coordinator for endangered Southern Resident killer whales. In spring of 2022, Lynne will also be serving as the Acting West Coast Associate Deputy Regional Administrator. Lynne studied Biology as an undergraduate at Georgetown University, with a minor in Fine Arts. She also has an interdisciplinary Master's degree from San Diego State University from studying animal behavior and more specifically, bottlenose dolphins. After graduate school, she spent a few years studying dolphins in Australia and worked on a variety of scientific studies.

As part of the recovery program for endangered Southern Resident killer whales, Lynne raises awareness about the whales through NOAA Fisheries' Species in the Spotlight initiative, spreading the word about the kinds of research and management efforts most needed to support Southern Resident killer whale recovery. She works tirelessly to provide information to the public about the threats the whales face and inspire stewardship by letting people know what they can do to help.

Learn more about Lynne Barre and her work

Keeley Belva, Communications Manager

Image of keeley Belva with NOAA's two mascots.
Keeley with NOAA’s two mascots—Owlie Skywarn and Sanctuary Sam. Photo courtesy of Keeley Belva.

As the communications manager for the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Keeley gets to tell others about the important work that the science center team does. Some days that means working with news media, some days it means creating web content and (shameless plug) writing a newsletter, Sea Notes. She is always looking for ways to show the value of the center’s science.

Keeley started working at the science center in March 2021, but has been with NOAA for almost 20 years. While she was in school in Honolulu, she had an internship with NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. After graduating, Keeley started working for the sanctuary as a contractor coordinating their sanctuary advisory council, and then took a position with Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument when it was created. Those experiences led her to a federal position as a public affairs officer for NOAA headquarters. Most recently, Keeley worked for the state of Washington as a communications manager. When the communications manager position opened at the science center, she knew it was a good opportunity to come back to NOAA and again focus on marine science communications. Keeley started college at Colorado State University, majoring in Technical Journalism, but she graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (studying on the beach sounded much better!). She has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. 

Outside of work, she loves to travel, especially to spend time with friends and family, or to find a beach. She has proudly visited all 50 states! While the pandemic has slowed this down, she's still been able to do some exploring around the Pacific Northwest—usually with her dog, Kona.

Learn more about Keeley Belva and her work

Janet Coit, Assistant Administrator

Janet Coit visits a farmer’s market
Janet Coit visits a farmer’s market—one of her favorite activities. Photo courtesy of Janet Coit.

Janet Coit, the head of NOAA Fisheries, shares about her background, her inspirations, and what Women’s History Month means to her. We sat down with Janet to find out more about her career path, passions, and perspective on leading NOAA Fisheries. 

Janet grew up in Syracuse, New York, and attended Dartmouth College. She holds a law degree from Stanford Law School, where she was president of the Environmental Law Society and a member of the Environmental Law Journal. Environmental law and policy has long been a passion for her. Before joining NOAA, she was Counsel to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by the late Senator John Chafee, where she focused on reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act and other major environmental statutes.

In her free time, Janet is an avid reader and kayaker.

Learn more about Janet Coit and her work

Lisa Desfosse, Deputy Director for Science and Operations

Image of Lisa Desfosse.
Lisa Desfosse

As the Deputy Director for Science and Operations at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Lisa oversees division activities such as  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. Lisa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology from Millersville University of Pennsylvania and her doctorate in Marine Science from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.

She has four dogs (three Siberian Huskies and a Catahoula) which keep her busy, even when she is trying to work! Lisa also enjoys fishing, boating, and being outside in nature in her free time.

Learn more about Lisa Desfosse and her work

Lesley Hawn, Fish and Wildlife Administrator

Woman posing with a small tuna onboard ship as a Hawai‘i-based longline observer
Posing with a small tuna as a Hawai‘i-based longline observer. Photo courtesy of Lesley Hawn.

From cold and muddy surveys in the Chesapeake Bay to weeks at sea as a Hawai‘i longline fishery observer, Lesley Hawn has had many rugged adventures as a scientist and mother. In her current role, she serves as a co-manager of the Pacific Islands Regional Observer Program.

Lesley grew up as a child “military brat” of a parent serving full-time in the U.S. Army. Her first memories as a child began in Hawai‘i—followed by Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia. Her curiosity, love for the ocean, and desire for adventure got her started in fisheries. Today, she is working in the Pacific Islands Regional Observer Program again, though in a different capacity. This time she is a co-manager who oversees the contract for observer services and the collection of observer data. She also manages how the data are shared with science and regulatory partners. Observer data is an independent data collection process that captures operational data, such as the catch composition of target and non-target species, protected species interactions, and gear configuration. This data contributes to science, fishery management, and the conservation of Endangered Species Act listed species. 

Learn more about Lesley Hawn and her work

Diane Kapareiko, Scientist at Northeast Fisheries Science Center  

Female scientist stands in front of fume hood holding a test tube at the Milford Lab.
Microbiologist Diane Kapareikoat the Milford Lab

Diane grew up on the Connecticut shoreline. As a small child, she and her immediate and extended family all lived near Bridgeport, Connecticut. Seaside Park was within several blocks of where they lived and it has a beautiful stretch of beach on Long Island Sound. One of her earliest memories is frolicking along the shore and watching seahorses swimming in the water. Diane says, "Looking back, I’d say that was my first foray into marine science."

Diane had an affinity for science and majored in biology while attending the University of Bridgeport. At the time, she wasn’t sure what direction her degree would lead her in, but she knew she wanted to work in the field of biology. While at Bridgeport, her university partnered with various federal and private facilities, offering “co-op semesters.” These semesters gave students real-life, hands-on learning experiences in their field. In 1980 it led her to Science Center’s Milford Lab and while aboard the lab’s research vessel Shang Wheeler, she learned how to draw blood from winter flounder to see how it was affected by pollution. That experience solidified her passion for marine science. 

Learn more about Diane Kapareiko and her work

Ellen Roots McBride, Sacramento River Basin Branch Supervisor

 McBride and kids ziplining in Belize
McBride and kids ziplining in Belize. Photo courtesy of Ellen McBride.

Ellen Roots McBride works as a Sacramento River Basin Supervisor. In this role, she works with a great team to implement Endangered Species Act protections for the listed species within their geographic area, the Sacramento River watershed in northern California. A typical day for Ellen consists of coordinating with our partner agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Caltrans, the California Department of Wildlife, Department of Water Resources, hydropower generation facilities managers, and hatcheries management issues. She is often reviewing letters or biological opinions that are issued under section 7 of the ESA, doing interagency coordination on projects that affect multiple agencies, and cross-program coordination with our other offices or our Science Centers. California has the most managed water system in the country with lots of dams, weirs, and canals! Her job entails finding creative ways to ensure our migratory fish are able to access the habitat they need to thrive. 

Ellen grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in B.S. Biology with an emphasis on animal behavior. She also completed her M.S. in Molecular Biology at Texas Tech University working on emu DNA and researching the genome sizes of flightless birds.

In her free time, Ellen enjoys spending time with her kids, birdwatching, hiking, camping, nature photography, travel, listening to and performing music, and genealogy--she just finished writing a book on some family history!

Learn more about Ellen Roots McBride and her work

Valerie Ouellet, Diadromous Species Scientist

Valerie Ouellet wears a blue shirt and tan chest waders by a freshwater stream in a forest and holds a measuring board with an American eel on it.
Valerie Ouellet measuring an eel. Photo courtesy of Valerie Ouellet.

Valerie Ouellet is a diadromous species scientist for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Protected Species Branch. Her home base is at our Orono Field Station located in Orono, Maine. She grew up on a farm in a small rural town called Padoue in Quebec, Canada. She was always interested in science, and the farm provided plenty of opportunities to explore and learn. 

Valerie earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at Université de Montréal and her master's and doctoral degrees at INRS Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre in Quebec City, Canada. For her master’s degree, she looked at how fluctuating water levels in the St. Lawrence River impacted muskrat survival in the winter. For her doctoral degree, she developed computer models to understand how water temperature in the St. Lawrence River could impact fish habitat. The INRS was a great place to learn how fundamental science can support applied science and management, because there’s really strong collaboration between academics and government.

Learn more about Valerie Ouellet and her work

Michelle Passerotti, Fish Biologist

Michelle Passerotti kneels down on a beach next to a thresher shark that washed ashore on Cape Cod. A tall wall of rip-rap rock is behind her.
Michelle Passerotti with a thresher shark. Photo courtesy of Michelle Passerotti.

Michelle Passerotti is a fish biologist for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Apex Predators Program and Population Biology Branch. Her home base is at our Narragansett Lab in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Michelle grew up in Perry, Florida, a small town in Florida’s Big Bend region. Her childhood was spent snorkeling the seagrass beds of Apalachee Bay picking up bay scallops, fishing for spotted seatrout and red drum with her dad, and generally being barefoot and outside. The vast array of critters she encountered during dips into the Gulf of Mexico piqued her interest in marine biology. By age eight, she knew she wanted to be a scientist. 

Michelle attended Florida State University, where she got a degree in biology and also participated in the certificate program in marine resource ecology. Through that program, she was fortunate to intern at the NOAA Fisheries lab in Panama City, Florida. During her internship, Michelle tagged sharks and completed a shark diet study. She also participated in reef fish and habitat studies there, and these internship experiences introduced her to fisheries management and forged a new path. It really helped shape her career. 

After finishing her bachelor’s degree in 2003, she worked as a contractor at the Panama City Lab before moving on to complete a master’s degree at Louisiana State University in 2007. Michelle earned her doctoral degree from the University of South Carolina in May 2021. Her dissertation research focused on using near infrared spectroscopy—a type of chemistry using lasers—to age fish rapidly based on a non-destructive scan of their otoliths. This is work that she is able to directly apply to her new role at the Science Center.

Learn more about Michelle Passerotti and her work

Katrina Poremba, Fish Biologist for Water Operations and Delta Consultations

Woman conducting water monitoring samples, turbidity, depth, and temperature  on multiple creeks that flow into the Columbia River
Conducting water monitoring samples, turbidity, depth, and temperature on multiple creeks that flow into the Columbia River, for the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. Credit: Katrina Poremba/NOAA Fisheries

Katrina Poremba works on Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultations for Sacramento Valley's waterways. Consultations are the way we make sure federal projects do not jeopardize salmon and steelhead populations. She received a Bachelors in Marine Biology, a Bachelors in Zoology, a Minor in Leadership Diving, and a Minor in Scientific Diving from Humboldt State University. Katrina received her NOAA Corps Officer Commission from the Coast Guard Academy and her Masters in Conservation Biology from Nebraska State University.

Currently, there is a drought in the Sacramento Valley, which puts many populations of fish in danger due to high temperatures in the waterways. Katrina is currently assisting other consultants in configuring ways to manage the water reserves of the Sacramento Valley in order to save these fish populations that are in danger of the drought. In her free time she enjoys free diving, scuba diving, paddle boarding, hiking, camping, and photography. During her time as a NOAA Corps Officer, Katrina was the dive master and lead diver for a sunken ship wreck operation in a remote area of Alaska. She was working on a hydrographic survey vessel. To map the ocean floor of this particular bay, her team had to collect information of this discovered shipwreck. It was very exciting to be one of the first to dive on this wreck, for work purposes.

Learn more about Katrina Poremba and her work

Kim Raum-Suryan, Marine Mammal Specialist

Kim Raum-Suryan at Graves Rock steller sea lion rookery
Kim Raum-Suryan at Graves Rock steller sea lion rookery. Photo courtesy of Kim Raum-Suryan.

As Marine Mammal Specialist at NOAA Fisheries, Kim Raum-Suryan's job is to protect and conserve marine mammals. She is the recovery coordinator for the endangered Western Distinct Population Segment of Steller sea lions in Alaska, and the coordinator of the international Pinniped Entanglement Group and the Alaska Regional Coordinator of NOAA’s Ocean Guardian School Program. Kim also works on finding effective ways to prevent negative human-marine mammal interactions. She creates new outreach and education to bring more awareness to the plight of marine mammals. 

Kim was born in Ohio but moved to El Segundo, California at the age of three. She lived just a few blocks from the beach and spent much of her childhood in the ocean. She earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Management, with minors in biology and English, from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. She received her M.S. degree in Marine Science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (part of the California State University system), in Monterey Bay, California.

Outside of work, Kim loves to be outside, spending time with her husband and son, hiking with their dogs, riding bikes, and exploring Southeast Alaska by boat. She also has a penchant for travel. 

Learn more about Kim Raum-Suryan and her work

Roxanne Robertson, Scientist

On-board the R/V Coral Sea during a Trinidad Head Line research cruise off northern California.
On-board the R/V Coral Sea during a Trinidad Head Line research cruise off northern California.

Roxanne grew up in Eureka, California. She earned her bachelor's degree in biology and a minor in scientific diving from Humboldt State University. Recently she obtained her master's degree in fisheries, also from Humboldt State University. Roxanne's key responsibility as a scientist is conducting and supporting oceanographic research along the Trinidad Head Line (THL) off northern California. She coordinates monthly research cruises to collect hydrographic and zooplankton data along the THL. These data provide information on the state of the ocean-ecosystem and helps with understanding how the base of the food chain responds to environmental and climatic forcing. 

There are many people who have influenced her over the course of her life. Her family, friends, teachers, mentors, and peers have all left an imprint on who she is today. She learned a lot from those who led by example and demonstrated integrity. Her teachers from her early childhood, who supported and encouraged exploration, had a particularly strong influence on her desire to wonder, ask questions, and eventually become a scientist. 

Learn more about Roxanne Robertson and her work

Emily Rose, Chief of Staff

Emily's newest adventure is as a member of the San Diego Rebellion women's tackle football team where she is playing safety and punter.
Emily's newest adventure is as a member of the San Diego Rebellion women's tackle football team where she is playing safety and punter.

Emily Rose grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, attended Santa Rosa Junior College and later transferred to the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Emily graduated with a degree in Meteorology. She played soccer at both Santa Rosa Junion College and University of Hawai'i at Manoa. She later received her Master's in Environmental Policy and Management from American Military University. 

Emily's family has been a very strong influence in her life, encouraging her to follow her dreams and supporting her in all of her sports adventures. She was the only girl on both her soccer and hockey teams growing up, and they drove her to practices and games all over southern Wyoming and Northern Colorado (sometimes even farther). She would not be the woman that she is today without the support of her family, particularly her mom and dad. They gave her the tools to figure things out and allowed her the opportunities to try different things, while helping her to succeed in the things shes done.

Learn more about Emily Rose and her work

Cathy Tortorici, Endangered Species Act Interagency Cooperation Division Chief 

Cathy Tortorici sits outside of NOAA Fisheries Headquarters building
Cathy Tortorici works in the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources as the Interagency Cooperation Division Chief. Credit: Cathy Tortorici/NOAA Fisheries.

As the Division Chief of the Interagency Cooperation Division in the Office of Protected Resources at NOAA Fisheries, Cathy works with her staff to implement section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. The team works with other agencies across the federal government, including NOAA, to consult on projects and programs that could impact imperiled species (e.g., corals, turtles, whales, fish). Consulting means working with other agencies to reduce impacts to endangered and threatened species and the habitats in which they live. Cathy's division also leads national policy development to support NOAA Fisheries’ implementation of the ESA to protect, conserve, and recover endangered and threatened marine and migratory species.

Cathy grew up in St. James, Long Island, New York, and spent her childhood roaming around woodlands near her house and the beaches along the North Shore of Long Island. She earned her undergraduate degree in biology at the University of South Florida and her Master’s Degree in Entomology from the University of Kansas. You might ask, “How does a person who is interested in insects (and spiders for that matter) end up working on imperiled species like turtles and whales?” Cathy says the answer lies in being able to think broadly about how the principles of ecology and animal behavior can apply across ecosystems, along with a lot of on-the-job training and seeking out experts in their fields to lend their expertise to project/program support. 

Learn more about Cathy Tortorici and her work

Maureen Trnka, ​Advisor for Regulatory Programs

Maureen Trnka kneels beside a large turtle
Maureen Trnka kneels beside a large turtle. Photo courtesy of Maureen Trnka.

In her role as the Advisor to Regulatory Programs, Maureen Trnka advises the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs on all issues in his portfolio. She actively engages across NOAA, and the Department of Commerce on regulatory program activities. These include supporting the conservation and recovery of marine mammals and endangered species; ensuring economically and biologically sustainable fisheries; and promoting habitat stewardship through restoration and conservation. Maureen grew up in Illinois, which provided a challenge with her interests in marine science since there was no ocean in sight. Instead of getting discouraged, Maureen created opportunities for herself by volunteering at the Shedd Aquarium and learning all she could about marine species, ecosystems, and conservation. 

Maureen attended the University of Chicago for 2 years, and DePaul University for 2 years to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She then moved to Fort Lauderdale to attend Nova Southeastern University for a master’s degree in marine biology. Her thesis evaluated the spatial distribution of the cyanobacteria Lyngbya spp. on the coral reefs of Broward County, Florida. Her doctoral degree is from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Coastal and Marine System Science. Her dissertation was a remote-sensing project that looked at the associations between chlorophyll and wind forcing over the entire Gulf of Mexico, derived from satellite observations.

From an early love of the ocean to science fairs to seriously studying the ocean, one piece of advice Maureen would give others is be persistent in your dreams and not give up!

Learn more about Maureen Trnka and her work

Last updated by Office of Communications on March 29, 2022

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