The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced key members of the agency’s leadership who will work to tackle climate change, promote equity throughout the agency, build up the coastal economy, develop a new generation of environmental satellites, manage ocean fisheries and endangered wildlife and improve public resilience to extreme weather and climate events.
“Extraordinary times call for exceptional people, and this team is who we need to advance climate science, grow the blue economy and build a climate-ready nation,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “This team knows how to combine their expertise in environmental science and policy with a commitment to scientific integrity, inclusion and equity as we work together to ensure science informs the important decisions being made from the individual to global level.”
NOAA’s political appointees to date are the most diverse in the agency’s history, with 50% identifying as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous or people of color) and 85% as women. The appointees are listed below in alphabetical order:
Lori Arguelles serves as the Director of Strategic Communications where she oversees external affairs, media relations, and strategic communication. She previously held this position for NOAA during the Clinton Administration from 1994 to 1999. Lori brings decades of nonprofit leadership experience to the team having served as Founding President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, President and CEO of the Alice Ferguson Foundation for Environmental Education, Director of Policy Engagement for COMPASS Science Communications, Director of Corporate Communications for Girl Scouts of the USA, and Director of Communications for Sojourners. She began her career as a radio journalist and also served as a press secretary on Capitol Hill. Lori earned her B.A. in broadcast journalism and political science from Northern Arizona University and her M.A. in public communication from American University.
Perry Finney Brody serves as a Senior Advisor to the NOAA Administrator, with a focus on satellites and space policy issues. Prior to joining NOAA, Perry worked on Capitol Hill for 26 years, serving as a Chief of Staff for almost two decades and handling national security, space and science portfolios. Most recently, she served as Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel to Congressman Filemon Vela, where she led his efforts to foster the growing commercial space industry in South Texas. Before those roles, Perry began her government service in legislative affairs at NOAA, focusing on the National Weather Service and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, as well as the Department of Commerce’s then Office of Space Commercialization. Perry is from Birmingham, Alabama, and earned both her J.D. and B.A. in Communications from Vanderbilt University.
Vankita Brown, Ph.D. joins the Office of the Under Secretary on a detail from the National Weather Service (NWS) and serves as a Senior Advisor for Equity. Vankita is responsible for providing strategic advice and direction to enable NOAA to align, integrate and extend its diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility efforts. Vankita was responsible for leading the societal impacts component of NWS Service Assessments, and providing advice on evaluation approaches and methods for NWS products and services. Her research focuses on risk communication to vulnerable populations, specifically examining cultural nuances that influence perception and behavioral response to weather events. She currently co-chairs the NOAA Diversity and Inclusion Management Advisory Council, and the Diversity and Professional Advancement Working Group. Vankita is a research fellow with the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama. She has a Ph.D. in Mass Communication and Media Studies from Howard University, an M.S. in Media Communication from Webster University and a B.S. in Mass Communication from Southern Illinois University.
Miro Korenha serves as a Senior Advisor and Speechwriter to the NOAA Administrator. She most recently served as the co-founder/publisher of the environmental media company Our Daily Planet, producing a daily morning email that was widely read by policymakers, NGO leaders and industry groups. Miro began her career working at the World Resources Institute’s corporate partnerships division, before joining the Pew Charitable Trusts’ newly formed Philanthropic Partnership Group. From there she worked at American Chemistry Council, where she helped shape the direction of their Value Chain Outreach division to better engage consumers and downstream partners on the sustainability benefits of chemistry. Miro received her bachelor’s degree in Economics from U.C. Santa Barbara.
Kelly Kryc, Ph.D. serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries and also as NOAA’s lead on Arctic policy. Kelly was most recently a senior fellow for energy and environment at the Center for American Progress and director of ocean policy at the New England Aquarium in Boston. Kelly has more than two decades of experience working at the interface of science and policy including former roles with the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of State, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Kelly holds a Ph.D. in earth science from Boston University, an M.S. in Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island and a B.S. in geology and as an independent scholar in marine science from Middlebury College.
Shali Mohleji, Ph.D. serves as a Senior Advisor to the NOAA Administrator, with a focus on the National Weather Service and disasters, including the climate resilience interagency working groups on drought, wildfire and extreme heat. Most recently, she served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy focusing on AI resources, climate services and the S&T workforce of the future. She served as a senior advisor under NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan during the Obama Administration and then went on to IBM where she led on AI and data sharing policy as well as tech responsibility. Shali holds a B.A. in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia, an M.S. degree in Atmospheric Sciences from Purdue University and a Ph.D. from the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado.
Makeda Okolo serves as the Director of the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs (OLIA). Makeda has previously served in senior positions in OLIA, NOAA’s National Ocean Service, NOAA’s Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Operations and most recently was on detail to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Before joining NOAA, she spent 11 years on Capitol Hill in the Office of Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen (VI). Makeda is from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands and holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from American University and a dual M.S./M.P.P. (in Conservation Biology/Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy) from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Zachary Penney, Ph.D. serves as a Senior Advisor to the NOAA Administrator, with a focus on NOAA Fisheries and tribal engagement. Zach joins NOAA from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in Portland, Oregon, where he served as Fishery Science Department Manager. Zach is Nimiipuu, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, and has devoted his professional career to supporting tribal fisheries and treaty rights in the Columbia River basin and elsewhere. Prior to Zach’s role at Commission, he served as a legislative fellow for Representative Jared Huffman (CA-2). Zach holds a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Idaho, an M.S. in Earth and Ocean Sciences from the University of Victoria and a B.S. in Fisheries from Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska.