Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Margolis, NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology

February 19, 2019

Sarah Margolis
Degree: M.S., Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, 2018
Hometown: Yardley, PA
High School: Pennsbury High School

Sarah Margolis posing outside on a balcony of her office building

In the very same semester that LSU alumna Sarah Margolis was graduated from the College of the Coast & Environment, or CC&E, she began working in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, Fisheries’ Office of Science and Technology with a prestigious Knauss Fellowship. Just a short distance away from Washington D.C., Margolis works at the Silver Spring, Maryland headquarters as the advanced sampling technology coordinator.

After she received her bachelor’s degree in marine science, she became interested not only in fisheries but also in science policy, ultimately deciding that the best place to gain that knowledge was at LSU.

“I wanted my next move to be where my undergraduate program would go towards science management. Looking at grad schools online, I found Dr. Jim Cowan's lab did a lot of red snapper work and that’s such a hot topic in the Gulf. A lot of data goes into stock assessment and management and that was very attractive to me because I wanted to be a part of that process somehow,” Margolis said.

Currently, Margolis is applying her experience working with large data sets in Cowan’s lab to her work with NOAA. She coordinated efforts and was lead author of an inter- and intra-agency NOAA Technical Memorandum titled, “Accessibility of Big Data Imagery for Next Generation Computer Vision Applications.” This report addresses the challenge of accessibility of NMFS imagery and the need for more standardized data management methods to utilize available analytical tools. NOAA Fisheries collects large data sets by capturing photos and video of diverse underwater marine environments. This footage is used to survey fish and other living resource stocks, estimate the abundance of the fish in a given environment, and determine the best fisheries management practices for that area. It takes video processors hours upon hours of image processing to review all the footage and attempt to identify the types and amounts of the various fish species. To save time and money, NOAA’s data collectors and processors are investigating machine learning tools that will curate their data in an organized, standard way that will provide the training sets for machine learning programs.

Of her time at the college, she said, “In Dr. Cowan’s lab I got to spend a lot of time out in the field gathering data and I really liked that. He really allowed us to be very hands-on and work independently. That gave me a lot of confidence when I started my position at NOAA because there were a lot of things I had to do on my own that were quite scary, but I felt that I had a lot of prior experience with working independently and following my own thoughts and my own questions.”

Margolis also cites her involvement in student organizations, faculty networking, and support from Chris D’Elia, professor and dean of CC&E, as just a few of the reasons for her personal development and professional success.

D’Elia had this to say: “One of the great pleasures of my job is seeing the incredible careers that our talented students achieve. Our graduates work in exciting places all over the world to research and provide solutions for some of today’s most pressing coastal and environmental issues. Sarah is a great example of CC&E alumni who are making waves in the workforce.”

*Update as of August 2019

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