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Harriman Expedition Retraced

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Alison Hammer

NOAA Physical Scientist


Alison Hammer

Alison Hammer
In my job as a physical scientist with the Special Project office at the National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), I wear many hats. I develop Web sites, GIS maps, and presentations and documents on the assessment of conditions and the management of marine resources, some that relate directly to Executive Orders or recent acts by Congress. The projects I am currently involved with, other than the Harriman Expedtion Retraced Web Site, focus on marine protected areas, estuarine habitat restoration, and coral reefs.

My background is in marine affairs and coastal management, a branch of study that brings together the science, economics and sociology of ocean and coastal research and protection. My interest in the marine environment started in the third grade, when I read an article in World Magazine about the clubbing of baby Harp Seals. Coincidently, I had just been assigned a "what do you want to be when you grow up" essay for school. I asked my mom, "What kind of job protects seals?" She replied, "a marine biologist," and, clearly, I listened. I studied marine science at University of Miami, and there focused on management problems that affect marine resources, including over-development and pollution.

In graduate school at the University of Rhode Island I had an internship in a city facing a very big pollution problem. Runoff from land was seriously polluting the bay. The local shellfish were making people sick, the community's health and the livelihood of its fisherman were both threatened. I worked on education and problem-solving at the local level. Once I finished school, I headed to Washington, where, at NOAA, I work on marine projects that are national in scope.

I have also always loved the ocean; just seeing it brings me a true sense of peace. It doesn't matter what season it is, although warmer is better, since I love to swim.

I have never been to Alaska, and can't wait to see the marine wildlife, particularly seals, sea lions and whales. I will be on the second leg of the Harriman Expedition Retraced, which means I will cross the International Date Line and visit Russia's Chukchi peninsula -- two experiences that, back in third grade, I could not have imagined.

My advice to young people interested in marine science is to follow your heart. It can be difficult to get your foot in the door, but hard work and persistence can pay off. Learn as many skills as possible -- study science and policy, get "hands-on" technological experience with GIS mapping or web site development. Don't be afraid of technology or computers -- these are tools used for learning about and protecting our coastal habitats.

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For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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