NOAA Fisheries hires first female leader for regional office • St Pete Catalyst
Kim Amendola, a St. Petersburg resident and community leader, recently made history as the first woman to be appointed Deputy Regional Administrator at the Southeast Regional Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Fisheries Administration (NOAA).
The Regional Fisheries Office, located in the St. Pete Innovation District, is responsible for protecting and maintaining ocean resources and marine habitats on more than 20,000 nautical miles of coastline across the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. This includes the eight coastal states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Amendola said she was surprised to learn that she was the first woman to hold a senior position in the regional office. She brings to her new role a unique skill set that combines hands-on experience with a background in marine biology and mass communication.
“So it’s an honor, and I’m honored,” she said. “It’s a nice feeling.”
Growing up on Barnegat Bay in Tom’s River, New Jersey, Amendola quickly developed an affinity for swimming, sailing, fishing and crabbing. A family vacation to Marco Island introduced her to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and she attended Eckerd College, where she earned a degree in biology. She then earned her master’s degree in public relations from the University of South Florida.
While most of Amendola’s classes have taken place on the Tampa campus, NOAA’s regional office is near USFSP’s College of Marine Science and the future location of the $80 million interdisciplinary center of excellence. dollars in environmental and oceanographic sciences (EOS). Amendola has close ties to Eckerd and USF, and she hopes her new administrative role will inspire female students.
“I think the important thing – and the message for women – is to seize the opportunities that come your way,” she said. “Volunteer for anything you can volunteer for because you never know where it’s going to take you.
“Have faith in yourself and know you can do it.”
Amendola said she embraced her opportunities, starting with joining Eckerd’s search and rescue team. She described this experience as one of many when she entered a male-dominated space fearlessly. Although she said the team had female leadership, and still does, the students entering the program were mostly male.
After graduating from Eckerd in 1992, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hired Amendola as a biologist. The FWC research institute is also in the same Innovation District area as NOAA, the USFSP College of Marine Sciences, and the US Coast Guard station. She has spent hundreds of hours on the water doing field work for the FWC – catching fish and aging species and providing the data to fisheries managers.
Amendola said she learned a lot from the best commercial and recreational anglers in the area and called the fieldwork hard but fun.
“You never knew what you were going to find,” she says. “It really made me who I am today and gave me a better understanding of our constituents and where they come from when we speak with them.”
After about a decade of field work for the FWC, Amendola said she realized her passion for educating the public about marine science, fishing and the science behind fishing regulations. She then earned her graduate degree in public relations from USF and joined NOAA in 2005 as a communications specialist.
Amendola also dove into community outreach. She is a founding member of the St. Petersburg Science Festival and the St. Petersburg Ocean Team. Amendola also sits on the board of the St. Petersburg Innovation District and the board of Eckerd College Friends of the Waterfront. She said her biggest concern with fishing is helping people become aware of the myriad ecological impacts and how they are linked.
“Whether it’s human impacts, natural impacts – hurricanes, storms and the like,” she said. “It’s just about getting people to understand the big picture of everything that affects our natural resources, from the single fish someone catches to climate change.”
As NOAA’s deputy regional administrator, Amendola is now second in charge of the broad jurisdiction of the Southeast regional office. She said she looked forward to working with employees at a different level to meet operational and mission needs.
Amendola said it was an honor to help Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg become a mecca for marine science. She said she moved to the area to go to college with no idea that St. Petersburg would become her home and where she had built a successful career. Additionally, she said she hadn’t realized the wealth of resources and expertise emanating from the region and was grateful to have learned from some of the best mentors in the field – from Eckerd and USF to his state and federal career.
“So just being able to marry all my passions — between marine science, the ocean, and public relations — and being where I am today is like a dream come true,” Amendola said. “Honestly, I never would have thought that’s what would come out of my move here to go to Eckerd.”