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Celebrating Black History Month 2022

February 04, 2022

Join us in celebrating Black History Month. Learn more about some of our exceptional NOAA Fisheries employees and how their work contributes to our mission every day.

Collage of NOAA Fisheries employees for Black History Month 2022

February is Black History Month. Each year we honor the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shaped the nation. The theme for 2022 is "Black Health and Wellness."

To celebrate with us, explore the staff profiles below to learn more about some of our colleagues across the country. Find out more about how their every day work contributes to our mission of ensuring sustainable fisheries, protecting marine life, and conserving habitat. Hear what Black History Month means to them, what they like most about their work, and how they fill their time outside of work to recharge.  

Meet Mal Brassfield, Network Manager

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Mal speaking on stage

Mal Brassfield specializes in network management in the Infrastructure Section of the Operations, Management, and Information Division at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center. He started out as a Biological Technician sorting plankton, but has held various positions at the Center. Mal received an Associates degree from Miami-Dade Junior College, majoring in Physics and Mathematics.

In his free time, he enjoys gardening with his wife and keeping his yard manicured. He also likes to read, recite poetry, play the piano, play tennis, and go to the golf range with his grandkids. 

Learn more about Mal Brassfield and his work

Meet Michelle Duncan, Fisheries Education Specialist

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Michelle holding a Gulf sturgeon that was tagged with an acoustic transmitter.
Michelle holding a Gulf sturgeon that was tagged with an acoustic transmitter to track the movement within Pensacola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Frank Parauka.

At the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Michelle Duncan assesses spawning for various species of snappers and groupers. This involves taking a thin section of the ovary to identify cell structures, under a microscope, that are indicative of present or past spawning events. Histology helps to determine maturity and assists with population assessments. Over the past 19 years, her interests have expanded to include educational research, to understand barriers related to diversifying marine science and NOAA’s scholarship programs. Through her outreach activities,  Michelle shares with students the amazing research conducted by biologists at NOAA to help with local ocean conservation efforts.

Michelle grew up on a farm in Georgia, but developed a love for manatees in high school which led her to Bachelor’s degree in Marine Science. She received NOAA’s Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions Graduate Sciences Program scholarship, supporting her Masters in Fisheries Biology at Clemson University. In 2021, she completed her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, with the assistance of NOAA’s Advanced Studies Program scholarship. 

Learn more about Michelle Duncan and her work

Meet Kimberla Fairley, Acquisition Management Specialist

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Medium close up of a black woman with long braids in a pink turtleneck sweater smiling for the camera.
Credit: Kimberla Fairley

As the Acquisition Management Specialist for the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Kimberla's contracts a wide range of goods and services for the center. Just recently, she helped the center's Antarctic Division purchase critical parts for modifying gliders that operate remotely in the Southern Ocean. Their Information Technology team purchases hardware system maintenance and continually helps navigate the Government Purchase Program. 

Kimberla grew up in Fresno, California. Since then, she's traveled extensively and has lived in eastern, western, and southern parts of the United States and overseas. Her three degrees are in Accounting, Business Administration and a Master’s in Public Administration with the emphasis in Acquisition Management. The latter she earned while in active duty military with the United States Air Force. Kimberla also loves traveling and has many hobbies: quilting, reading science fiction fantasy, and riding her Yamaha V-star cruiser. She's even been to Rolling Thunder (twice!).

Learn more about Kimberla Fairley and her work

Meet LaGena Fantroy, Librarian

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LaGena standing in front of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer while it is docked.
LaGena Fantroy visiting NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer while it was docked in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

As a Librarian at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, LaGena provides general library support and works on special tasks and assignments. Currently she is working on the NOAA Network Strategic Plan, updating library services based on feedback from a recent staff survey. These services include interlibrary loan support when documents are not accessible online, bibliographic support, and journal subscription expansion. LeGena supports NOAA’s regional and national education and outreach missions and participates in NOAA’s Fisheries Education Council. She is also a NOAA Library Advisory Committee member representing all NOAA Fisheries libraries.

LeGena grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and holds several degrees, all from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi. They include an Associate’s of Arts in Science Education, an Associate’s of Science in Environmental Science, an Associate’s of Science in Business Administration, a Bachelor’s Degree in Library and Information Science with a minor in Business Administration, and a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. LeGena says she is blessed with aging parents and three children in high school and college. She is a grandmother of three girls and one little boy. The family roles of aunt, daughter, mom, and grandma never give her a moment of boredom. Her home life is filled with love, happiness, and joy. She also has a 6-pound Maltese Yorkie mix named Tankie, who keeps her busy! 

Learn more about LeGena Fantroy and her work

Meet Trika Gerard, Chief of Staff

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Trika catching juvenile snapper in Florida Bay.
Trika catching juvenile snapper in Florida Bay. As a larval fish ecologist, the objective is to catch the "smaller" fish! Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

As the Chief of Staff at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Trika Gerard manages the day-to-day operations and responsibilities of the center’s directorate office. She also manages internal and external information flow to and from the director, including requests for data from the headquarters office or correspondence from constituents and Congressional staff. In this capacity, she works behind the scenes to problem solve efficiently. She also serves as a strategic advisor and counsel to the center directorate office and the leadership team.

Trika grew up in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in biology from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia and a Master’s degree and doctorate in Environmental Science from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida. Outside of work, she enjoys shopping and traveling. The pyramids of Egypt and dipping in the Dead Sea in Jordan are her favorite travel experiences. Visiting the Taj Mahal is a close second!

Learn more about Trika Gerard and her work

Meet Jonathan Molineaux, Fisheries Biologist

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Jonathan Molineaux represents NOAA booth at the 91st Annual National Technical Association Conference in 2019. Photo Credit: Dr. Uvetta Dozier.

Jonathan Molineaux won the 2020 Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award, part of the Black Engineer of the Year Award STEM Conference. As a fisheries biologist at NOAA in the Office of Protected Resources, Jonathan is an integral part of our work implementing the Endangered Species Act, completing interagency consultations under Section 7 of the Act. Jonathan helps minimize the impact of other agencies’ projects on endangered species. Projects that he has worked on include consulting on Navy training and testing activities and research permits.  

Jonathan also performs geographic information system work to organize spatial information into more accessible formats like maps and software. In his spare time, he is involved in two diversity and inclusion working groups. He explains how his interest in endangered species conservation began at a local pond and led to the ocean. 

Learn more about Jonathan Molineaux and his work

Meet Naeem Willett, Fish Biologist

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Naeem Willett processing a red snapper otolith at the Panama City laboratory.
Naeem Willett processing a red snapper otolith at the Panama City laboratory. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

As a Senior Research Associate for the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Naeem's work supports the Life History and Biology Branch of the Fisheries Assessment, Technology, Engineering, and Survey Division. His main focus is sectioning and aging fish otoliths, or ear bones. The otolith is sectioned so the core of the otolith can be seen when they are mounted onto a microscope slide. To determine the age of the fish he uses a microscope and count annual growth rings in the otolith, similar to counting rings on a tree. Age data is used to help gain a better understanding of fish populations so we can monitor and manage the species we study. The primary species Naeem processes is red snapper. He also processes several other species such as scamp grouper, gag groupergolden tilefish, and blueline tilefish, and has assisted with other projects such as the Gulf of Mexico shark pupping and nursery survey.

Naeem attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and received a Bachelor’s of Science. He also studied at Delaware State University to get his Master’s of Science degree. He is proud to have attended these universities, which are Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Outside of work, Naeem enjoys time spent with his wife of 12 years, three children ages 15, 10, and 5, and their dog Brutis. Aside from family time, he enjoy shooting pool. Naeem has played in an amateur 9-ball league for several years. In 2021, he played in Las Vegas for the American pool players Association National team tournament.

Learn more about Naeem Willett and his work

Last updated by Office of Communications on March 02, 2022

Diversity and Inclusion