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Women's History Month 2022

March 03, 2022

Meet some of our colleagues who work for NOAA Fisheries across the country and get a closer look at their many contributions.

Women's History Month 2022 collage

To celebrate Women's History Month, we are highlighting some of our colleagues who contribute to NOAA Fisheries' core missions every day. Learn more about more about their career journeys, why they became scientists, their day-to-day jobs, and what Women's History Month means to them. 

Women of NOAA Fisheries

Lynne Barre, Seattle Branch Chief for the Protected Resources Division and the Recovery Coordinator for Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales

Lynne Barre
Lynne Barre on the water at sunset. Photo courtesy of Lynne Barre.

Lynne Barre has been working passionately on the recovery of Southern Resident killer whales since they were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2005. In 2011, she became a Branch Chief overseeing a variety of programs for marine mammals and other threatened and endangered species, like rockfish in Puget Sound. Currently she works with partners throughout the Pacific Northwest, in the United States and in Canada as the Seattle Branch Chief for the Protected Resources Division and the Recovery Coordinator for endangered Southern Resident killer whales. In spring of 2022, Lynne will also be serving as the Acting West Coast Associate Deputy Regional Administrator. Lynne studied Biology as an undergraduate at Georgetown University, with a minor in Fine Arts. She also has an interdisciplinary Master's degree from San Diego State University from studying animal behavior and more specifically, bottlenose dolphins. After graduate school, she spent a few years studying dolphins in Australia and worked on a variety of scientific studies.

As part of the recovery program for endangered Southern Resident killer whales, Lynne raises awareness about the whales through NOAA Fisheries' Species in the Spotlight initiative, spreading the word about the kinds of research and management efforts most needed to support Southern Resident killer whale recovery. She works tirelessly to provide information to the public about the threats the whales face and inspire stewardship by letting people know what they can do to help.

Learn more about Lynne Barre and her work

Lesley Hawn, Fish and Wildlife Administrator

Woman posing with a small tuna onboard ship as a Hawai‘i-based longline observer
Posing with a small tuna as a Hawai‘i-based longline observer. Photo courtesy of Lesley Hawn.

From cold and muddy surveys in the Chesapeake Bay to weeks at sea as a Hawai‘i longline fishery observer, Lesley Hawn has had many rugged adventures as a scientist and mother. In her current role, she serves as a co-manager of the Pacific Islands Regional Observer Program.

Lesley grew up as a child “military brat” of a parent serving full-time in the U.S. Army. Her first memories as a child began in Hawai‘i—followed by Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia. Her curiosity, love for the ocean, and desire for adventure got her started in fisheries. Today, she is working in the Pacific Islands Regional Observer Program again, though in a different capacity. This time she is a co-manager who oversees the contract for observer services and the collection of observer data. She also manages how the data are shared with science and regulatory partners. Observer data is an independent data collection process that captures operational data, such as the catch composition of target and non-target species, protected species interactions, and gear configuration. This data contributes to science, fishery management, and the conservation of Endangered Species Act listed species. 

Learn more about Lesley Hawn and her work

Ellen Roots McBride, Sacramento River Basin Branch Supervisor

 McBride and kids ziplining in Belize
McBride and kids ziplining in Belize. Photo courtesy of Ellen McBride.

Ellen Roots McBride works as a Sacramento River Basin Supervisor. In this role, she works with a great team to implement Endangered Species Act protections for the listed species within their geographic area, the Sacramento River watershed in northern California. A typical day for Ellen consists of coordinating with our partner agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Caltrans, the California Department of Wildlife, Department of Water Resources, hydropower generation facilities managers, and hatcheries management issues. She is often reviewing letters or biological opinions that are issued under section 7 of the ESA, doing interagency coordination on projects that affect multiple agencies, and cross-program coordination with our other offices or our Science Centers. California has the most managed water system in the country with lots of dams, weirs, and canals! Her job entails finding creative ways to ensure our migratory fish are able to access the habitat they need to thrive. 

Ellen grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in B.S. Biology with an emphasis on animal behavior. She also completed her M.S. in Molecular Biology at Texas Tech University working on emu DNA and researching the genome sizes of flightless birds.

In her free time, Ellen enjoys spending time with her kids, birdwatching, hiking, camping, nature photography, travel, listening to and performing music, and genealogy--she just finished writing a book on some family history!

Learn more about Ellen Roots McBride and her work

Valerie Ouellet, Diadromous Species Scientist

Valerie Ouellet wears a blue shirt and tan chest waders by a freshwater stream in a forest and holds a measuring board with an American eel on it.
Valerie Ouellet measuring an eel. Photo courtesy of Valerie Ouellet.

Valerie Ouellet is a diadromous species scientist for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Protected Species Branch. Her home base is at our Orono Field Station located in Orono, Maine. She grew up on a farm in a small rural town called Padoue in Quebec, Canada. She was always interested in science, and the farm provided plenty of opportunities to explore and learn. 

Valerie earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at Université de Montréal and her master's and doctoral degrees at INRS Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre in Quebec City, Canada. For her master’s degree, she looked at how fluctuating water levels in the St. Lawrence River impacted muskrat survival in the winter. For her doctoral degree, she developed computer models to understand how water temperature in the St. Lawrence River could impact fish habitat. The INRS was a great place to learn how fundamental science can support applied science and management, because there’s really strong collaboration between academics and government.

Learn more about Valerie Ouellet and her work

Michelle Passerotti, Fish Biologist

Michelle Passerotti kneels down on a beach next to a thresher shark that washed ashore on Cape Cod. A tall wall of rip-rap rock is behind her.
Michelle Passerotti with a thresher shark. Photo courtesy of Michelle Passerotti.

Michelle Passerotti is a fish biologist for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Apex Predators Program and Population Biology Branch. Her home base is at our Narragansett Lab in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Michelle grew up in Perry, Florida, a small town in Florida’s Big Bend region. Her childhood was spent snorkeling the seagrass beds of Apalachee Bay picking up bay scallops, fishing for spotted seatrout and red drum with her dad, and generally being barefoot and outside. The vast array of critters she encountered during dips into the Gulf of Mexico piqued her interest in marine biology. By age eight, she knew she wanted to be a scientist. 

Michelle attended Florida State University, where she got a degree in biology and also participated in the certificate program in marine resource ecology. Through that program, she was fortunate to intern at the NOAA Fisheries lab in Panama City, Florida. During her internship, Michelle tagged sharks and completed a shark diet study. She also participated in reef fish and habitat studies there, and these internship experiences introduced her to fisheries management and forged a new path. It really helped shape her career. 

After finishing her bachelor’s degree in 2003, she worked as a contractor at the Panama City Lab before moving on to complete a master’s degree at Louisiana State University in 2007. Michelle earned her doctoral degree from the University of South Carolina in May 2021. Her dissertation research focused on using near infrared spectroscopy—a type of chemistry using lasers—to age fish rapidly based on a non-destructive scan of their otoliths. This is work that she is able to directly apply to her new role at the Science Center.

Learn more about Michelle Passerotti and her work

Katrina Poremba, Fish Biologist for Water Operations and Delta Consultations

Woman conducting water monitoring samples, turbidity, depth, and temperature  on multiple creeks that flow into the Columbia River
Conducting water monitoring samples, turbidity, depth, and temperature on multiple creeks that flow into the Columbia River, for the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. Credit: Katrina Poremba/NOAA Fisheries

Katrina Poremba works on Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultations for Sacramento Valley's waterways. Consultations are the way we make sure federal projects do not jeopardize salmon and steelhead populations. She received a Bachelors in Marine Biology, a Bachelors in Zoology, a Minor in Leadership Diving, and a Minor in Scientific Diving from Humboldt State University. Katrina received her NOAA Corps Officer Commission from the Coast Guard Academy and her Masters in Conservation Biology from Nebraska State University.

Currently, there is a drought in the Sacramento Valley, which puts many populations of fish in danger due to high temperatures in the waterways. Katrina is currently assisting other consultants in configuring ways to manage the water reserves of the Sacramento Valley in order to save these fish populations that are in danger of the drought. In her free time she enjoys free diving, scuba diving, paddle boarding, hiking, camping, and photography. During her time as a NOAA Corps Officer, Katrina was the dive master and lead diver for a sunken ship wreck operation in a remote area of Alaska. She was working on a hydrographic survey vessel. To map the ocean floor of this particular bay, her team had to collect information of this discovered shipwreck. It was very exciting to be one of the first to dive on this wreck, for work purposes.

Learn more about Katrina Poremba and her work

Maureen Trnka, ​Advisor for Regulatory Programs

Maureen Trnka kneels beside a large turtle
Maureen Trnka kneels beside a large turtle. Photo courtesy of Maureen Trnka.

In her role as the Advisor to Regulatory Programs, Maureen Trnka advises the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs on all issues in his portfolio. She actively engages across NOAA, and the Department of Commerce on regulatory program activities. These include supporting the conservation and recovery of marine mammals and endangered species; ensuring economically and biologically sustainable fisheries; and promoting habitat stewardship through restoration and conservation. Maureen grew up in Illinois, which provided a challenge with her interests in marine science since there was no ocean in sight. Instead of getting discouraged, Maureen created opportunities for herself by volunteering at the Shedd Aquarium and learning all she could about marine species, ecosystems, and conservation. 

Maureen attended the University of Chicago for 2 years, and DePaul University for 2 years to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She then moved to Fort Lauderdale to attend Nova Southeastern University for a master’s degree in marine biology. Her thesis evaluated the spatial distribution of the cyanobacteria Lyngbya spp. on the coral reefs of Broward County, Florida. Her doctoral degree is from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Coastal and Marine System Science. Her dissertation was a remote-sensing project that looked at the associations between chlorophyll and wind forcing over the entire Gulf of Mexico, derived from satellite observations.

From an early love of the ocean to science fairs to seriously studying the ocean, one piece of advice Maureen would give others is be persistent in your dreams and not give up!

Learn more about Maureen Trnka and her work


Last updated by Office of Communications on March 04, 2022