Meet ORAU employee Jessica Tolan. Jessica is an ORAU contractor working under the National Student Services Contract (NSSC) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As an Ecosystem Dynamics Research Associate, Jessica provides support to the Office of Research and Development Center of Environmental Measurement and Modeling team and the Gulf Ecosystem Measurement and Modeling Division located in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
Jessica works with ORD’s Gulf Ecosystem Measurement and Modeling team to conduct ecosystem modeling in a Florida estuary studying the behavioral movement of aquatic mobile organisms during hypoxia events. She finds this research interesting because it allows her to use non-invasive methods of studying organism movement without impacting the environment. It also incorporates high-performance computing to create an extensive amount of data points in a short amount of time. She is making an impact by using non-invasive ecosystem research techniques to provide stakeholders with management strategies that protect our watersheds and estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico. “This research matters because it allows us to safely monitor the human-environment relationship so that we can protect not only ourselves but the organisms that reside here,” Jessica said.
Jessica is a graduate of Texas A&M - Corpus Christi where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology. She continued her education and obtained a master’s degree in Oceanography and Coastal Services from Louisiana State University. She discovered her passion for the ocean and environment after completing an ocean class in 6th grade. She loves teaching people about the environment.
Jessica’s biggest accomplishment so far is successfully defending her master’s thesis and finding a position that allows her to do what she loves each day. Her thesis was cited in a published scientific journal. Her future goal is to be the author of a published research paper she is currently working to complete.