Nancy Thompson

Location of Interview
Collection Name

Voices from the Science Centers


Voices from the Science Centers is an oral history initiative dedicated to documenting the institutional knowledge of fisheries scientists and administrators in the labs of NOAA’s Fisheries Science Centers.

Collection doi
Date of Interview
Biographical Sketch

Dr. Nancy Thompson was born in September 1949 in Newark, New Jersey. She earned her PhD from the University of Rhode Island. Dr. Thompson worked for NOAA from 1980-2011, serving as the Director at both the Southeast and Northeast Fisheries Science Centers during her career. At the time of this interview in 2016, she was working at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science.

Interview contains discussion of: Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, sea turtles, female scientists, sea turtle management, Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina, relationships between scientists and stakeholders, red snapper, Magnuson Stevens Act, aquaculture, Endangered Species Act, fishing communities, sustainability of commercial fishing, modeling in fisheries science and the future of NOAA.

Nancy Thompson’s interview details her history working for NOAA from 1980-2014. She describes many of the projects she worked on, primarily with sea turtles. She discusses her view of the importance of positive relationships between fisheries scientists and the local fishing communities and how she encouraged such interaction while in her leadership roles. She feels the human dimensions both internally and externally are important to the role of NOAA Fisheries.

Dr. Thompson discusses her experience as a mother working in science in the 1980's and the support she received from NOAA and her colleagues. During her time in the Southeast, she experienced multiple hurricanes, each of which impacted her staff personally as well as professionally. She discusses how she handled each storm and the overall impact on her.

Additionally, she compares the differences in how science is viewed by stakeholders in the Southeast versus the Northeast and how politics came into play. She ends her interview by sharing her hopes and concerns for the future of NOAA.

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