Ever wonder what it’s like to be a member of the NOAA Coast Survey team? We use the Coast Survey spotlight blog series as a way to periodically share the experiences of Coast Survey employees as they discuss their work, background, and advice.
Erin Weller, Data Manager
“Our hydrographic data contributes to safe navigation, and I ensure data integrity is maintained during data transfers. The data and products we create are made available to the public on NCEI’s website and can be used for other research including fisheries habitat studies, tsunami modeling, and digital mapping.”
What is your job title and how long have you worked for Coast Survey?
I have worked as a physical scientist and data manager for a combined total of eight years.
What were your experiences prior to working for Coast Survey?
Prior to working with Coast Survey, I was a cartographer for Yellowstone National Park and mapped park utilities, geothermal features, wildfires, wildlife, park trails, noxious weeds, and much more. When I left the Park Service, I worked aboard the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson and NOAA Ship Rainier as a senior survey technician, and then at Coast Survey’s Pacific Hydrographic Branch as a physical scientist. I took a break from the government to work in the private sector for six years as a hydrographer before returning to NOAA at the Atlantic Hydrographic Branch. While in the private sector I worked on NOAA charting contracts, as well other hydrographic surveys that included pipelines along the Northern Canadian coast, unexploded ordnances in Culebra, Puerto Rico, offshore wind farms in Virginia, and lake reservoirs in Alaska, among other projects.
What is a day in your job like?
As a data manager, I maintain the Atlantic Hydrographic Branch’s hydrographic survey data and facilitate data transfer between field units, the Branch, Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Surveys Division and Marine Chart Division, and NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). I organize hydrographic and bathymetric datasets and files. I transfer data to NCEI for archival and public dissemination. I respond to public inquiries concerning NOAA’s navigational program and products, and I also work with NOAA field units to adopt best practices and make the most of the tools available.
Why is this work important?
Our hydrographic data contributes to safe navigation, and I ensure data integrity is maintained during data transfers. The data and products we create are made available to the public on NCEI’s website and can be used for other research including fisheries habitat studies, tsunami modeling, and digital mapping.
What drew you to this work?
I grew up spending time on the water. I love swimming and recreational boating. I have a bachelor of arts in geography with a minor in marine sciences and a master’s in geography/geographic information systems (GIS) from East Carolina University. This job was a natural path in my career as I choose jobs that reflect what I enjoy.
What advice would you give someone looking to pursue a career in your field?
Take advantage of opportunities that are presented to you. NOAA internships and Sea Grant offer great options for exploring various career paths and building skills. Pay attention in science and math classes. GIS and programming are a plus. Must have a passion for data organization, and a love for the ocean and nautical charts.