IAP NOAA Employee Earns Distinguished Award
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) selected IAP Fisheries Scientist Kelli O’Donnell as the 2015 National Marine Fisheries Service Team Member of the Year. Team Member of the Year Awards are presented to non-NOAA Federal employees for their contributions to the Nation towards the stewardship of living marine resources as recognized by their NOAA Fisheries peers.
An IAP contracted field/port agent sampler in Key West since 2012, O’Donnell independently intercepts and collects finfish and invertebrate samples/data from commercial fishermen/vessels and headboat vessels. She provides assistance to dealers with state and federal reporting requirements for fisheries, as well as with compliance issues, fish identification, and entering data in the Florida Trip Ticket System.
In her award nomination NOAA Fisheries Biologist Heather Balchowsky explains that errors in dealers’ reports and missing/late reports can appreciatively affect NOAA’s calculations of total landings. “We appreciate any assistance from fieldagents who notify dealers when reports have not been received or to follow up on dealer errors,” she says. “Increased accuracy in our reports allows timely actions for protecting these fisheries and determining whether to keep them open or promptly close them.”
Balchowsky notes that O’Donnell has shown great initiative in routinely requesting lists of dealers who should be providing reports in her area prior to fishing seasons. She also has communicated the names of dealers that are processing seafood who are not on NOAA’s radar.
“Kelli O’Donnell is dogmatic in following up on requests we have made for clarifications in dealer reports and always gets back to our group in an impressively short period of time,” says Balchowsky.
https://www.iapws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/kellysnapper.jpg“She has been instrumental in educating dealers in the Keys area to the new electronic reporting requirements that went into effect early August 2014, asked pertinent questions regarding the information we need, and offered her services to help install trip ticket reporting programs on dealers’ computers as well as training them in using the programs. She encourages complete, accurate, and timely reporting allowing us to confidently provide landings to the Regional Office, aiding in prompt closures or preventing an inappropriate closure of a fishery resource.”
Rick Nohmer, IAP VP of Operations added that “Kelli O’Donnell epitomizes Ingenuity and Purpose! Her attention to detail and commitment to the program speak volumes about her passion, and this recognition by our important customer, NOAA, shows the level of importance they place on her work…National Marine Fisheries Service Team Member of the Year, wow, fantastic!”
One example of how O’Donnell’s initiative and persistence have eliminated problems and incomplete data is with regard to the Spiny Lobster fishery landings which were being incorrectly converted due to incomplete dealer reports resulting in landings elevated by over 2 million pounds. O’Donnell’s persistence in education and customer service helped resolve incorrect reporting for 95% of these landings.Unaddressed, this could have forced an early closure resulting in all dealers and fishermen in this fishery to stop their processes.
“In the past I oftentimes dealt with hostile dealers who objected to change but over time I’ve earned a really good working relationship with all my dealers,” says O’Donnell. “They are comfortable asking me questions, making changes I request and informing me of things they see going on in the field. It’s rewarding to be there for dealers and fishermen to explain things in a way they understand to make them more agreeable to changes in rules and regulations. My relationship with the fishermen and dealers made it really easy to catch the mistake that almost led to the overage of the annual catch limit of lobster. Knowing I had a part in something that benefitted everyone so much was really satisfying.”
A Marine Biology graduate of Florida Institute of Technology, O’Donnell is currently enrolled in University of Florida’s distance student Master’s program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. She also is an instructor for University of Florida’s Master Naturalist Program in which she instructs students on the protection and conservation of Florida’s flora and fauna and ways they can protect and conserve it. “My class and I were able to rescue a green sea turtle with fibropapilloma tumors covering its eyes that is now recovering at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL.,” she reported.
O’Donnell volunteers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission assisting with sea turtle nesting and shorebird rooftop nesting success surveys. She is a board member of the Save-A-Turtle non-profit in the Florida Keys, the South Florida Association of Environmental Professionals, and the Monroe County Extension Marine Advisory Board. She volunteers with Mote Marine lab in their In-situ Coral Nursery where she designed a field-oriented research coral growth monitoring project for her Masters work. She also was recently chosen to participate in an educator/outreach workshop on the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and its fish and coral inhabitants.