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up close image of Erik Estela on ship's bridge LTJG Erick Estela. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/NEFSC
side view of research vessel Victor Loosanoff at sea Research Vessel Victor Loosanoff is operated by the NEFSC's Milford Laboratory. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/NEFSC

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May 19, 2017
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

NOAA Corps 100th Anniversary

Talking with: LTJG Erick Estela

"I’m often told how cool my job is."

Environmental science is a major interest for Erick Estela, who finished two summer ecology research internships in Sierra las Minas, Guatemala while attending the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).  While in college, he worked as a geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing technician for UPR’s environmental science lab and the Tropical Large-Scale Ecology Lab for three years. He was an environmental exchange student in 2007 at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain before graduating with a Bachelor of Science in general sciences from UPR in 2010.  Prior to joining NOAA, Estela worked as a scientist lead guide for an ecotourism company leading snorkeling and night kayak tours in a bioluminescent bay in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. He served in the American Peace Corps in the west African nation of Senegal as an agroforestry agent.

How did you learn about the NOAA Corps and what attracted you to it?

I learned about NOAA Corps after I returned from my service with the Peace Corps in Senegal. I was looking for a job where I could combine my science background with the operations side of the projects. I found the job description online and I had to apply!

Where have you been stationed and for how long during your time in the corps?

After graduating in May 2013 from the NOAA Corps Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC) at the U.S Coast Guard Academy, I was stationed aboard the NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow for two and a half years as a navigation and medical officer. Now I’m the marine operations officer and the officer in charge of the 49-foot research vessel Victor Loosanoff at the NEFSC’s Milford Laboratory in Milford, Connecticut.

What do you most like or enjoy about being in the NOAA Corps?

I enjoy the flexibility and commitment NOAA Corps officers have in supporting the NOAA line offices. I have the opportunity to participate in various projects in two or three states or sail a variety of vessels with little notice. NOAA Corps is the forefront of research, we just make it happen!

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?

It is a challenge to be away at sea during anniversaries or family events. I have had the support of my command during family emergencies but it can sometimes be a logistic challenge.

What are common questions people ask you about your job?

Often people ask me if I’m part of the Navy or the Coast Guard. They are always fascinated when they learn about the commissioned officers of NOAA Corps. I’m often told how cool my job is.

If you are active, do you think you will stay in the NOAA Corps until you retire?

Yes, absolutely. Every morning I look forward to going to work, and that is hard to find. After I serve as admiral I will start thinking of retirement!

What is the best advice you can give to something thinking about the NOAA Corps as a career option?

NOAA Corps is an elite group of officers and it is very a competitive process. The best advice I can offer is to gain as many experiences as possible. For example, get involved in internships or volunteering, activities that show a commitment to serve the community and the country.

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The Northeast Fisheries Science Center conducts ecosystem-based science supporting stewardship of living marine resources under changing climatic conditions. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources and their habitat through scientific research, management and enforcement. NOAA Fisheries Service provides effective stewardship of these resources for the benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public. Join NOAA Fisheries on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

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(File Modified Dec. 14 2017)