NOAA Has #PrideInTheOcean

By Rachel Plunkett

Photo: Chuck Graham/GIYS Photo Contest 2020

June 2021

Here at NOAA, we believe that a diverse workforce strengthens our innovation and performance. Join us in celebrating #PrideInTheOcean and the importance of celebrating and striving towards increased diversity in ocean careers. Below you will hear from a few experts from various NOAA offices and partner organizations that work in areas ranging from public outreach to scientific research and resource management. We all come from different backgrounds, but we share passion for our work and have #PrideInTheOcean.

#PrideInTheOcean and Pride Outside

Our ocean is for everyone! During the month of June, the National Marine Sanctuary System celebrates Ocean Month and LGBTQ+ Pride Month through the #PrideInTheOcean social media campaign. In partnership with Pride Outside, this campaign asks LGBTQ+ community members and allies to post an image of yourself in, on, or by the ocean with a caption explaining why and how you take pride in the ocean!

Karen Morrill-McClure (They/Them) - IT, Accessibility and Inclusion Lead, Washington Sea Grant

Karen Morrill-McClure

My path to Washington Sea Grant was winding, but one thing was a constant: my love for the ocean. I grew up in Southern California and then Carmel Valley with a mother who learned to scuba dive for fun. I went from swimming in the ocean whenever I could to acting as beach support for my mom when she dove, to scuba diving myself. I love anywhere the land touches water with a special place in my heart for tidepools and the creatures that live in them.

Professionally, I started out as an engineer working in the Space Shuttle program then became a web programmer in the early days of the World Wide Web. I switched to teaching before I washed up at Washington Sea Grant as their all-around IT person and webmaster. My experience as a queer person in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) led me to view my IT work through an equity lens, which led to the opportunity to co-chair the Washington Sea Grant Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Workgroup. I’m now the co-lead of the DEI Development Circle, where we make space for all staff to learn, share, and teach.

The ocean has always been that thing bigger than me that I turn to when I need comfort or healing or joy. I feel honored to work for and with other people who care for it as much as I do.

Adam Roser (He/Him) - Meteorologist, National Weather Service

Adam Roser

I have always loved the weather and the water! Growing up in Northeast Ohio brought a lot of fun trips exploring what Lake Erie had to offer. I started my NOAA career by volunteering at the National Weather Service (NWS) offices in Charleston, West Virginia, and Bismarck, North Dakota. As a full-time meteorologist at NWS San Diego, I feel a connection with the ocean and those who enjoy it's pristine features across Southern California. I have pride in the ocean by how I am able to provide weather forecasts and preparedness information to workers and the public. It is not only a place of pride at work, but also in daily life, where we are able to find peace in the ocean's beauty.

Robyn Walters (She/Her) - Program Assistant Volunteer/Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale NMS

Robyn Walters

Aloha mai. I'm Dr. Robyn Walters, an 84 year-old transgender volunteer (she/her) with Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and 2014 National Volunteer of the Year. Working with a diverse group of talented staff and volunteers, I am happiest when sharing with the public both science-based knowledge about our sea life and NOAA's involvement in protecting our ocean home for future generations.

Kenneth Walker (He/Him) - NOAA Pride Employee Resource Group Chair

Kenneth Walker

I’m Kenneth Walker and I have #PrideInTheOcean. As Chair of NOAA Pride, an Employee Resource Group formed in 2019 to focus on the needs of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, I lead NOAA’s efforts to recruit, retain, and advance members of the LGBTQ+ community. I work for the NOS Office for Coastal Management, and manage a portfolio of community resilience tools, case studies, and trainings available via NOAA’s Digital Coast.

While in my 20’s, I circumnavigated the North Atlantic while serving as first mate and cook on a 59-foot sailboat. Along the way, I visited many coastal communities – some well-planned, but most not, which piqued my interest in city planning and coastal management. After pursuing a bachelors and master’s degree in city planning, I started with NOAA in 1994. I enjoy developing NOAA products and services that are used by local planners and decision-makers to help make their coastal communities more resilient to hazards and climate change.

Laura Scott (She/Her) - Supervisor - Travel Department, NOAA Finance Office

Laura Scott

I joined the NOAA Finance Office in July of 2010. At the time of the interview, we lived in Indiana and my girlfriend was being transferred to Maryland. I could have done a phone interview, but I chose to do it in person. The main reason was to get a feel of the environment and see if they were “gay friendly.” I figured I would know pretty quickly in the interview as they would ask me why I was moving (which they did). I told them my significant other was transferring with her job, and did not receive one look of surprise or hesitation. I already knew I wanted to work for NOAA, as I love their mission, however I would not have worked for them if there had been any indication in the interview that I would not be welcome. I was offered the position one month later and have moved forward ever since. I am currently a member of the NOAA Pride Employee Resource Group!

Allen Tom (He/Him) - Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale NMS Superintendent

Allen Tom

Aloha, my name is Allen Tom, and I am the superintendent of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. I am so proud to work to protect our marine ocean environment for future generations to enjoy and cherish. I was a graduate student at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, when I first learned about NOAA. I had some vague idea about what NOAA was (they do weather, right?), but it was not until I went to work at the Hawai'i Sea Grant program as an extension agent that I would come to understand the full magnitude of what NOAA has to offer. Many of my fellow graduate students applied for a variety of NOAA fellowships including the NOAA Hollings Fellowship program and the Nancy Foster Scholarship program.

It would not be for another decade before NOAA and I would find each other again, but in that time I had the great fortune to work in the Hawai'i State Legislature, Bishop Museum, Hanauma Bay (to name a few). These different experiences not only prepared me for my current job as a superintendent, but helped me understand different ways of looking and dealing with issues. As a sanctuary superintendent, I am equally proud to have hired and to have supported staff and volunteers of all nationalities, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and gender identities. I am so fortunate that being out has never been an issue for me either in my community or at NOAA.

Terms and Definitions

Diversity is the mixture of the unique attributes that shape an individual’s identity which they bring into the workplace to help NOAA accomplish its goals. Diversity refers to demographic diversity (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation), experiential diversity (e.g., affinities, hobbies, and abilities), and cognitive diversity (e.g., sensory processing and problem solving). NOAA embraces individuals of all ages, races, ethnicities, national origins, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, cultures, religions, citizenship statuses, marital statuses, education levels, job classifications, veteran status, income, and socioeconomic statuses.

Inclusion is a culture that values the unique attributes of all team members. It is an environment which is respectful, collaborative, supportive, and one that allows for equal access. Inclusion requires active and intentional engagement on the part of everyone and provides a feeling of belonging. NOAA is committed to building inclusive programs that are shaped by and serve people with unique backgrounds, needs, and perspectives.

Rachel Plunkett is the writer/editor for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

LGBTQ Inclusion Outdoors Training

On Wednesday June 16th at 1:00 p.m. EDT, we are partnering with Pride Outside to host a #PrideInTheOcean LGBTQ+ Inclusion Outdoors training. Hannah Malvin, the founder and director of Pride Outside and Co-founder of the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit, will share about how to boost relevancy and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community outdoors. She will outline barriers to access, identify strategies to build inclusion into programming and outreach, highlight successful initiatives developing connections between the LGBTQ+ community and the outdoors, and share lessons learned from LGBTQ+ community building.

Contact us at with any questions.