RDML Anita Lopez
Deputy Director, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps
Deputy Director for Operations, NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
Iwas born and raised in Southern California. I’m very passionate about science and have always been drawn to the ocean. I spent a lot of time
at the beach and as a young girl I wanted to be a marine biologist. In high
school, I was an Explorer Scout at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif., and was exposed to space programs.
With a degree in electrical engineering technology, I worked overseas in
Korea and Japan in semiconductor manufacturing business. I enjoyed
what I did and made a lot of money doing it, but at the end of the day, I
realized that wasn’t the pathway for me. So after a lot of soul searching, I
realized I really wanted to serve my country and go out to sea. I applied to
the Coast Guard but found out about the [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] NOAA Corps in the library. Less than three
months later, I was at basic officer training and a NOAA Corps officer.
As a young ensign on the oceanographic research ship Discoverer, I worked
with world-class scientists, along with a very mission-focused civilian work-force. As a conning officer, managing and conducting myriad operations was
a dream come true. It was amazing to make a daily contribution in collecting
environmental intelligence data to benefit the nation and the world.
On Miller Freeman, a fisheries vessel that sailed in the Bering Sea, averaging
245 days a year, I really became a professional mariner. Conducting operations
in those environmental conditions provides you with experience in perfecting
your ship-handling skills and taking care of your shipmates. As the operations
officer on David Starr Jordan, I worked closely with the scientists to better
understand the ecosystem-based management for fisheries and how our ship’s
capabilities and mission packages could be optimized and collect the data.
Command at sea is the pinnacle of any sea service career. On Oscar Elton
Sette, it was very fulfilling to lead a group of dedicated and talented people into
successfully executing our mission requirements. NOAA’s ships are multimission capable. The challenges of conducting different missions every two to
four weeks with different researchers, and doing so safely, takes constant training and attention to detail to ensure the data we collect is accurate and reliable.
For example, in a single year and sailing 220 days, our diverse mission
requirements included conducting trawling missions for fisheries stock
assessments, handling pot gear or outrigger gear to target specific species,
conducting marine mammal surveys, operating remotely operated vehicles,
fisheries habitat mapping and relocating endangered monk seals, to removing
thousands of tons of marine debris off the northwest Hawaiian Islands.
NOAA missions touch lives of Americans every day in protecting lives and
property through weather forecasts, storm warning and climate monitoring to
coastal restoration and fisheries management. Having the opportunity to serve
in an organization that has such a wide portfolio is truly a unique experience.
We also work very closely with the Coast Guard, helping each other out where
our missions intersect in the most effective use of our resources. I am very
proud to be able to collect the environmental intelligence to inform the decisions that protect commerce and the economic interests of the United States
in the world’s largest EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone]. ;
“The challenges of conducting different missions every two to four
weeks with different
researchers, and doing
so safely, takes constant training and attention to detail to ensure
the data we collect is
accurate and reliable.”
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 64 SEAPOWER / SEPTEMBER 2015