Meet Chris Simoniello: Education and Outreach CoordinatorMay 22, 2009
Diving into ocean waters to install and retrieve instruments that provide information about water temperature, salinity, currents, and more is only one part of 1998–99 Career Development Grantee Chris Simoniello’s duties as the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) Education and Outreach Coordinator. The goal of the organization is to make science relevant to a wide audience. Chris serves on many committees and councils to connect decision makers, planners, and emergency managers with reliable, up-to-date, and user-friendly information about the Gulf of Mexico. Chris says her position requires dedication, creativity, the ability to play nice with others, a passion for the environment and people, a sense of humor, an interest in learning, and a belief that change can come.
Chris grew up surrounded by nautical history on Staten Island. “My father built beautiful models of famous vessels, I attended the Star of the Sea school, played in the Sailor’s Snug Harbor softball league, and, from the age of 10, biked to the Prince’s Bay Trade Mart with my friend Susan, crab pots tied to our handlebars, in search of unsuspecting Raritan Bay blue crabs,” says Chris. After a brief stint as a pre-law major, a summer course in marine biology got Chris back on track. “It was love at first field trip!” she says.
During her graduate tenure, Chris was awarded an AAUW Career Development Grant that helped her finish her studies in time to accept a position with the Southeast Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing System (SEACOOS) project. While there, Chris developed and coordinated a four-state education and outreach program. The national attention the project received and the subsequent GCOOS project led NOAA to appoint Chris to serve as a U.S. delegate to the Global Ocean Observing System program in Indonesia, where she spoke at the 4th NOAA-Indonesia Ocean Observations Capacity Building Workshop. “The program develops effective ways to communicate real-time information, particularly time-sensitive information like early warning of tsunamis,” explains Chris.
GCOOS and SEACOOS are part of a larger global system monitoring the “pulse of the Earth.” The Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) is a network of content providers that link existing and planned global observation systems, such as an early warning system for wildfires in Africa with the goal of “empowering the international community to protect itself against natural and human-induced disasters, safeguard water resources, manage energy resources, and conserve biodiversity, among other things.” Under GEOSS, the Global Ocean Observing System is the program dedicated to monitoring the world’s oceans.
Through her experiences Chris sees the most important issue in marine science today as too many people and not enough education. “Until humans rethink the way we live, we continue to be the biggest threat to the marine environment. And until adequate funding is given to educate our citizens, the problem will continue to escalate,” says Chris.