Science Center - In Our Own Words
In celebration of our 150th Anniversary, we share comments from our staff at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.
Our scientists and staff, both past and present, have taken the opportunity of the 150th celebration to share their thoughts about their time at the center.
James J. Howard Sandy Hook Marine Sciences Laboratory
Susan E. Smith - Research Fishery Biologist
Starting in August 1964, I held numerous positions as a lab aid and illustrator at what then was the U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Sandy Hook Lab. I worked on several bluefish and striped bass tagging and larval rearing programs. I also did illustrations for the Atlantic Angler’s Guide, and worked on a pictorial atlas of Atlantic coastal monthly average sea temperatures.
In February 1970, I was reassigned to the service’s Tiburon Laboratory in California to work on the Pacific Anglers’ Guide. In 1984 I was promoted to and reclassified as a research fishery biologist. In 1990 I was reassigned again to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s La Jolla laboratory as special assistant to the center director. I also served as head of the center’s publicity and scientific editing.
A rotational assignment in 1995 brought me back to the Sandy Hook lab. I served as assistant to the officer-in-charge, Anne Studholme, and as acting port captain. In 1997, I returned to fisheries research in the shark program at the La Jolla lab and retired from NOAA Fisheries in 2005.
One of the most memorable moments in my career came in 1964. I was asked to prepare lab space in the old Sandy Hook Lab’s morgue building. We were going to raise and describe bluefish eggs and larvae to better assess their population status through larval surveys. My job was to stay in the creepy old dark morgue overnight, by myself. I set up a cot and alarm clock. Every few hours I woke up to sample the eggs, drawing each stage of development.
One night about 3 a.m. I rose to sample yet another egg, positioned it under the microscope, and began to draw the egg and its developing embryo. Suddenly, I saw its very first heartbeat, and the first blood coursing through its circulatory system. The beginning of life, all within this tiny bluefish egg! I decided then to switch careers from fine art to marine biology, return to college, and study marine science.
Fresh from college, I was proud to be part of the “new frontier” of marine research at the Sandy Hook lab in the 1960s. There was excitement about new research focused on marine recreational fishery resources. I felt privileged to work with and learn from such luminaries as lab director Lionel Walford, and to be exposed to such a wide variety of interesting projects.
August 1964 to January 2005
Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Clyde MacKenzie - Fishery Research Biologist
My interest in science began during the 1930s and 1940s while growing up in the farming and fishing communities of Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Here, fishermen were the economically poorest citizens. As a young boy, I enjoyed listening to conversations between farmers and fishermen and asking questions. I learned how farmers cultivate and harvest crops and how their families endured when crops were low. This inspired me to help fishermen by learning about factors that control shellfish abundances.
Much of the knowledge that I gained as a researcher began with field observations and applying these findings to laboratory tests for ground-truthing. I studied ecosystems through extensive scuba diving and examination of dredged materials from mollusk beds. I also gained information from interviews with fishermen and local shellfish constables.
During my career with the U. S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and later NOAA, I focused on the agencies’ goals:
- Conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems
- Understand how changes in climate and weather affect marine environments
- Share knowledge gained with others
I conducted the first research program on wild oyster beds studying year-classes from settlement until market size. Based on our diving observations, the oyster companies modified their procedures, increasing oyster survival and production. I concluded that oysters and other mollusks were rarely overfished and that shifts in abundance appeared correlated to changes in their environment. In Raritan Bay, New Jersey, I found that hard clam abundance was related to the abundance of amphipod tubes in those habitats.
My work has led to more than 50 manuscripts about mollusk fisheries from the U.S. East Coast to Latin America. I published Raritan Bay Fisheries, a written history of their proud fishery. I edited a three-volume monograph of the molluscan fisheries of North and Central America and Europe.
My advice to people beginning at NOAA: set a goal to serve humanity or the natural environment and find a group that is pursuing the same goal.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, "No words can unveil the mystery of the wilderness." This inspired me to focus my career on conducting field observations in estuaries, bays, and the Atlantic Ocean. Each research challenge represented a steep climb to the top, but I attained success by hard work, determination, and collaborating with others. I feel consistently proud about supporting NOAA and its noble goals.
Milford Laboratory, 1958-1972
James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory at Sandy Hook, 1972 - Present
Habitat Ecology Branch, Ecosystems and Aquaculture Division
Diane Kapareiko - Microbiologist
I am the principal investigator researching and developing probiotics for oysters. Probiotics are beneficial bacterial strains that can prevent bacterial disease and improve hatchery production of Eastern oyster seed for aquaculture and restoration.
I discovered my passion for marine science right here at the Milford Lab! I was a college student at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, majoring in biology, unsure of what direction my degree would lead me. The university partnered with various federal and private facilities to offer co-op semesters, providing students with real-life learning experiences in the field of their major. In 1980, I participated in an internship at the Milford Lab for my co-op semester. I sampled winter flounder blood to detect pollution effects during field work onboard the research vessel Shang Wheeler. I recently completed 40 years of federal service at the Milford Lab!
Good science comes from a team effort, with cooperative colleagues possessing diverse skills working together toward a common goal: to conserve our environment.
The comradery with my colleagues at the Milford Lab, and from partnerships with academic, public, and private entities such as the commercial shellfish aquaculture industry, is genuine and very rewarding.
The most memorable moment of my career was when my former colleague Dorothy Jeffress, my supervisor Gary Wikfors, and I were awarded a 2017 Department of Commerce silver medal for our probiotic research with oysters. This is the second-highest award given by the Department of Commerce. Our development of probiotic strain OY15 to improve the survival of oyster larvae was recognized and celebrated at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
I am very proud of my 40-plus years of service toward NOAA’s mission. I am grateful for the opportunity to make scientific contributions to improve hatchery production of Eastern oyster seed through the use of probiotics. It aids in seafood sustainability and provides economic benefits to the commercial aquaculture industry of the United States and potentially beyond.
December 1980 to the present
Aquaculture Sustainability Branch
Ecosystem and Aquaculture Division
Jose (Joe) Pereira - Research Fishery Biologist
I have always been interested in marine biology. I pursued a master’s degree in 1979 at Western Connecticut State University and conducted my thesis work at the Milford Lab. I was interested in the effects of heavy metal contaminants on marine organisms, and my research focus was on the effects of silver exposure on sandworms. Fred Thurberg’s lab was already investigating the effects of heavy metals on fish, lobsters, and bivalves, so my research was a good fit.
Soon after, I transferred to the University of Bridgeport and was hired part-time at the Milford Lab as a chemistry technician, analyzing heavy metal concentrations in tissue samples. By the time I finished my degree in 1980, I knew that this was the career path I wanted to pursue. I was hired as a temporary biological laboratory technician and eventually became a research fisheries biologist.
Two memorable moments during my career stand out. In the late 1990s, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the fishery management councils were incorporating habitat considerations into management plans. I, and others at the Milford and Sandy Hook Labs, were asked to review the literature and assemble the essential fish habitat document for winter flounder. I was also asked to be lead author and incorporate everyone’s contributions into the final document. We reviewed hundreds of articles; the final document cited 144 publications. The document was published in 1999. In 2007 we were awarded a U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal for our contribution to understanding the habitat requirements and management of winter flounder.
The second moment came after I retired. In 2019, the New England Fisheries Management Council and the science center put together a draft Ecosystem Based Management Plan. They cited a paper I authored as part of my doctoral degree describing a geospatial analysis of yellowtail flounder on Georges Bank. The team identified the report as an “example of a geospatial approach for identifying habitat areas that contribute significantly to productivity.”
I was proud to work for an agency that, from the beginning, always used the best science available to inform fisheries managers and revised goals and approaches to incorporate new scientific methods as they became available.
February 1980-January 2017
Aquaculture Systems and Ecology Branch,
Ecosystem and Aquaculture Division
Jerome (Jerry) Prezioso - Oceanographer
I was drawn to a career at Fisheries when Ken Sherman visited Northeastern University just as I had completed my freshman year. I was looking for a position to fulfill my cooperative education requirement. He hired me to work at the Boothbay Harbor Fisheries Laboratory, where I learned to collect and identify marine zooplankton from the Gulf of Maine. From that time on I was hooked!
One high point of my career was the opportunity to work with scientists from several countries. Living on research vessels from the then-Soviet Union, East and West Germany, Japan, and Poland afforded me an insight into their ongoing research and life onboard.
I am most proud of having had the opportunity to continue my education while working at NOAA Fisheries. I was encouraged to share my knowledge and lab and field experiences with students from elementary school through college.
I believe that NOAA Fisheries and the science center at 150 years are poised to help the fishing industry through some of the most challenging times it has ever faced.
Fishers today are threatened not only by overfishing, but by climate change and encroachment on traditional fishing grounds from proposed leases for mineral extraction and wind farms. By providing data on the status of marine resources in this dynamic, constantly changing environment, NOAA Fisheries can help guide future decisions to the best outcome for all parties involved.
Years of Service: 47
Bureau of Commercial Fisheries – Boothbay Harbor, ME 1968
National Marine Fisheries Service – Woods Hole, MA 1969 - 1971
Climate and Oceanography Branch,
Ecosystem and Aquaculture Division,
Narragansett Laboratory 1976 – Present