Office of Aquaculture Staff

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Headquarters Staff


Michael Rubino

Dr. Michael Rubino is the Director of the Office of Aquaculture at NOAA's Fisheries Service. The office seeks to foster marine aquaculture through policy, science, technology transfer, outreach, and international collaboration. Dr. Rubino has led the development of aquaculture regulations for federal waters, the National Shellfish Initiative, NOAA and DOC aquaculture policies, and science tools for aquaculture management. Earlier he worked at the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation where he designed environmental investment funds. He also was the CEO of an aquaculture R&D company and a partner in a shrimp farm in South Carolina. He holds a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Michigan. email:

David O'Brien 

David O'Brien has been the Deputy Director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture since 2012. David joined the office in 2006 where he served initially as Program Coordinator and later as International Coordinator. Mr. O'Brien started his career at NOAA in 2000 as a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow and served for six years within the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources implementing listing and recovery provisions of the Endangered Species Act. A fishery biologist by training, Mr. O'Brien worked for two years as an aquaculture extension agent as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, West Africa prior to his graduate education. Mr. O'Brien has an M.S. in Marine Estuarine and Environmental Science from the University of Maryland, and a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Massachusetts.  email: david.o'

Susan Bunsick 

Susan Bunsick is a Policy Analyst in the NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture. Susan leads legislative and regulatory initiatives in support of sustainable marine aquaculture development, and collaborates with the regional aquaculture coordinators and headquarters staff at NOAA and other federal agencies to address permitting challenges and improve regulatory processes for aquaculture projects. She has been supporting NOAA aquaculture activities since 2001, after completing a Master's degree in Marine Policy at the University of Delaware. While at the university, she co-authored a major study that developed recommendations for a regulatory framework for offshore aquaculture in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone.  For most of the 1980s and 1990s, Susan conducted energy market and industry studies for the Department of Energy.  She began her career as an emergency preparedness specialist and later a budget analyst at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, following completion of an M.A. in Public Affairs from the George Washington University and a B.A. in Public Service from the Pennsylvania State University.  email:

Mike Rust 

Dr. Michael Rust is the Science Advisor for the Aquaculture Office. In this role, he works with NOAA researchers to implement a coordinated aquaculture research strategy across NOAA and in concert with other federal agencies. Mike also works to coordinate aquaculture research activities among federal agencies and academic and international partners. Dr. Rust comes to the program from NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center where his research focused on multiple areas of marine aquaculture.  He served as the Program Manager for  Aquaculture Research at the Center, the mission of which is to provide the scientific information and technology needed to create viable, environmentally sustainable marine aquaculture industries and to protect and restore wild fisheries. Mike has fisheries and aquaculture experience both domestically and internationally, in countries including the Philippines, Haiti, Norway, and Canada. He earned a Ph.D. in Fisheries from the University of Washington, dual M.S. degrees (animal science and international development), and a B.S. in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado.  email:

Mark A. Rath 

Mark serves as the Science Coordinator for the Office of Aquaculture. He acts as a liaison between government scientists, regulators, and the public, placing him in a unique position to bridge science and practice. Prior to joining NOAA, Mark worked in several sectors of the aquaculture industry including food and ornamental fish production, restoration, public aquariums, agricultural extension and aquatic research models. He earned his M.S. in Aquaculture from the University of Maryland Marine Estuarine and Environmental Science program in 2004 and over the years has worked with many species, including tilapia, yellow perch, striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon, menhaden, blue crabs, oysters, clownfish, sea urchins, African clawed frogs and zebrafish. At the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, Mark led the aquatics team in the development and management of over 15 different aquaculture research laboratories on that campus and at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center. In 2011-2012 Mark served as President of the Zebrafish Husbandry Association. email:

Clete Otoshi

Clete Otoshi is the Program Coordinator for the Office of Aquaculture. His responsibilities include coordination of international research collaborations, project management, and budgeting. Prior to joining NOAA, Clete managed the growout division of the Shrimp Program for Oceanic Institute in Hawaii. He led research and development of indoor recirculating system technology for the production of marine shrimp. His work included managing research trials during a five-year joint-venture project funded by the Department of Commerce's Advanced Technology Program to support commercialization of this sustainable technology. Clete also led international technology transfer projects where he designed and successfully demonstrated indoor recirculating system shrimp production in research and commercial-scale systems. Clete holds a M.S. degree in Marine Biology from the University of Oregon and a B.A. degree in Biology from the University of California, San Diego. email:

Cindy Sandoval

Cindy Sandoval is the Communications Specialist for the Office of Aquaculture. Her responsibilities include providing relevant marine aquaculture information to stakeholders and designing program outreach strategies. Prior to joining NOAA, Cindy worked as a public affairs specialist and video producer for the Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While there, she worked to highlight conservation success stories and was the lead for the region's new media outreach efforts. Her work included managing social media and video platforms to educate and inspire those interested in endangered species conservation. Her past experience as a public affairs specialist has afforded her the opportunity to design communications strategies for numerous fish and wildlife restoration programs across California, Nevada, and the Klamath Basin. Cindy holds a M.A. in Professional Writing as well as dual B.S. degrees in Biology and Public Relations from Northern Arizona University. email:


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Regional Aquaculture Coordinators (based in NOAA Fisheries Regional Offices)


Diane Windham 

Diane Windham is the Southwest Regional Aquaculture Coordinator for the Aquaculture Office.  She works out of the Sacramento office of NOAA Fisheries Southwest Regional Office in California. Ms. Windham has over 24 years of federal regulatory experience, including 17 years with NOAA Fisheries. Before becoming the Southwest Regional Coordinator, she worked as a Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the NOAA Fisheries Sacramento office, working on recovery planning and other Endangered Species Act (ESA) issues. She has an extensive background in the federal ESA regulatory program, including Section 7 and 10 activities, as well as with NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Ms. Windham holds a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  email:

Jessica Beck-Stimpert

Dr. Jessica Beck-Stimpert has been the Southeast Regional Aquaculture Coordinator for the Aquaculture Office since 2008. She is based out of the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office located in St. Petersburg, Florida where she works with federal and state agencies, industry, and members of the scientific, academic, and NGO communities on a variety of marine aquaculture issues. Recently, Dr. Beck-Stimpert finalized rulemaking efforts for the Gulf of Mexico Aquaculture Fishery Management Plan which marks the first comprehensive permitting program for aquaculture in U.S. federal waters. She received an M.S. in Biological Sciences from Florida Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University, where she conducted research on larval finfish feeding behaviors and pre-release conditioning for state stock enhancement programs. email:

Laura Hoberecht 

Dr. Laura Hoberecht is the Aquaculture Coordinator for Oregon and Washington in the West Coast Region. In this role, she facilitates the exchange of aquaculture-related science and policy information between NOAA's Aquaculture Program and federal, state, local, and tribal entities, as well as the general public. She has been extensively involved in the development and implementation of the Washington Shellfish Initiative and the Shellfish Interagency Permit Team. Current projects include updating Washington's net pen siting guidelines and developing an Oregon Shellfish Initiative. Dr. Hoberecht has worked in the field of marine science for over 20 years. She received her BS degree in Food Science and Nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley and her MS and PhD degrees in Aquatic and Fishery Science from the University of Washington. Dr. Hoberecht's graduate work focused on population dynamics modeling and marine lipids. She has worked for NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) since 1997, starting as a contractor doing field work in Alaska, then as a Fishery Biologist in California conducting ESA and EFH consultations, and since 2011 as an Aquaculture Coordinator. email:

David Nichols

David Nichols joined the program in May 2016 as the Pacific Islands Regional Aquaculture Specialist. Based in Honolulu, David is responsible for working with industry and research partners to develop marine aquaculture throughout the Pacific Islands
Region including American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawaii. A primary goal for the Region is to simplify regulatory processes in cooperation with state and other responsible federal agencies. David is currently leading the development of a regulatory Management
Plan for aquaculture in federal waters in the Pacific Islands Region. Prior to joining the aquaculture program, David was the NMFS Regional Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 6 Coordinator and ESA Section 7 biologist. He has been in Hawaii since 1999 and has worked with the Humpback Whale National
Marine Sanctuary, the state of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources and NOAA’s fishery observer program. David received his B.S. degree in biology from the University of Southern Indiana. His master’s degree research at the University of Southern Mississippi focused on the environmental physiology of shrimp. email:

Kevin Madley

Kevin Madley is the Aquaculture Coordinator for the Greater Atlantic Region, based in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Kevin works with federal and state agencies, industry, and members of the scientific, academic, and NGO communities on a variety of marine aquaculture issues. He has over 7 years of federal regulatory experience with NOAA Fisheries. Kevin worked as a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for nine years in the Center for Spatial Analyses and Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration divisions. Kevin has also worked for consulting companies providing GIS services, in-water site assessments, and regulatory assistance to business and property owners. Mr. Madley earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in biological sciences from the University of South Florida. email:

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