New NOAA effort to connect agency with its customers

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Nov 13,  2009

Three hired for extension, outreach, education pilot project


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Extension, Outreach and Education (EOE) Pilot Program officially began in October with the hiring of three project team members.

Matthew W. Capps, Stacy J. Ray and LaDonna “L.D.” Hinesley will work to help NOAA improve its ability to have meaningful, two-way conversations with the public and strengthen teamwork and information sharing across NOAA agencies throughout the Gulf Coast region.

“We are pleased to have hired such qualified personnel to implement such an important NOAA engagement program in the Gulf of Mexico,” said LaDon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, who will serve as the leader of this project along with Tony Zodrow, executive director of GulfQuest, an interactive maritime museum set to open in 2011 in Mobile, Ala. “The success of this pilot could lead to a significant change in the way NOAA engages its constituents.”

Capps, Ray and Hinesley are working from offices on the fourth floor of the International Trade Center on North Water Street in downtown Mobile, Ala. GulfQuest’s offices are also located at the International Trade Center, which fosters collaboration between the two organizations. The Trade Center is the headquarters of the Alabama State Port Authority.

The EOE Pilot Program was established in response to a Science Advisory Board report that called for the creation of a program to reinvent NOAA’s approach to extension, outreach and education activities. “The EOE pilot will lead to a set of recommendations to NOAA for improving its ability to engage with constituents across all eight NOAA regions nationwide,” Swann said.

When GulfQuest opens on Mobile’s downtown waterfront, the EOE Program will move to that location. The EOE program and GulfQuest educators will work together to develop programs for the general public and school groups that address environmental issues that are important to both organizations. “With a projected annual attendance of 300,000 visitors, GulfQuest will provide unique opportunities for the EOE program to reach current constituents as well as future generations of NOAA constituents,” Zodrow said.

Capps to focus on climate, resiliency
Capps will serve as a NOAA climate and resiliency engagement specialist. He will work with NOAA agencies that deal with climate and resilience issues to help them better connect with the people who use NOAA’s information and products.

One of his first tasks is creating a climate and resiliency engagement panel with people from all types of industries, government agencies and non-government organizations to work with NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration Team.

“The panel will play a vital role for the team by providing input and guidance to address regionally relevant climate and resilience issues that impact the Gulf of Mexico’s built and natural environments,” he said.

Capps has a master’s degree in landscape architecture and a bachelor’s degree in landscape horticulture, both from Auburn University. While earning his master’s degree, Capps worked with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the Town of Dauphin Island, Ala., to design a master plan for the Town of Dauphin Island’s working waterfront and central business district that was grounded in the principles of resiliency and sustainability.

Ray to focus on nutrients, hypoxia
Ray, who is the NOAA nutrients and hypoxia engagement specialist, will work closely with the NOAA Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration Team. She also will work with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) to implement a social marketing plan with the help of Master Gardeners about residential fertilizer application practices.

“I am looking forward to bringing these two groups of people together to accomplish a practical, on-the-ground project involving local citizens,” she said.

Along with the GOMA Nutrients Team, she will help develop an exchange program involving NOAA constituents in the Corn Belt states. 

Ray has a master’s degree in environmental studies from the College of Charleston and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. She also served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Morokwaneng, South Africa.

Hinesley to focus on communication
Hinesley was hired as a communications specialist to establish a regional engagement working group to develop an engagement strategic plan for the Gulf of Mexico that integrates and utilizes existing NOAA EOE programs and personnel.  

The EOE program is partnering with GulfQuest (the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico) because it has some of the same objectives: to enhance public awareness and understanding of ocean, coastal and atmospheric science and stewardship, Hinesley said.

Hinesley has a master’s degree in public and private management from Birmingham Southern College and is the former communications director for the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce.

The NOAA EOE program is a cooperative agreement between the NOAA Office of Education, GulfQuest, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the NOAA Regional Collaboration Team. The EOE pilot program has $500,000 in Congressional funding for its first year of operations and intends to seek continued funding through NOAA to in subsequent years.


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