Coast Survey spotlight: Meet Tim Wilkinson


Ever wonder what it’s like to be a member of the NOAA Coast Survey team? We use the Coast Survey spotlight blog series as a way to periodically share the experiences of Coast Survey employees as they discuss their work, background, and advice.


Tim Wilkinson, navigation response team member

“Our nation’s waterways are constantly changing and the technology we’re using to chart them is becoming increasingly more accurate. My position and my counterparts on the other teams are integral to developing accurate charts to ensure safer navigation. We also act as emergency responders to situations such as hurricanes and ship groundings.”

As a navigation response team member, Tim conducts hydrographic surveys on one of several small survey vessels to help make our coastlines safer for navigation. His normal area of operation is Washington and Oregon but will be called to assist with emergency response all across the country.
As a navigation response team member, Tim conducts hydrographic surveys on one of several small survey vessels to help make our coastlines safer for navigation. His normal area of operation is Washington and Oregon, but will be called to assist with emergency response across the country.

What is your job title, and how long have you worked for Coast Survey?

I’m a navigation response team (NRT) member, I’ve been with the Office of Coast Survey for just over a year now.

What were your experiences prior to working for Coast Survey?

Before this job I spent some time in the Navy overseas working on a naval minesweeper. That was my first job that really got me interested in being able to have a career on the water. I received my bachelor of arts in geography (geographic information systems) from Kent State University shortly after, and I worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a wildland firefighter directly before I started this job.

What is a day in your job like?

Work days for me can be totally different from one to the next. I could be out all day surveying on our boat, inside the office processing the data we’ve collected, or performing maintenance to ensure our equipment is up and operational.

Why is this work important?

Our nation’s waterways are constantly changing and the technology we’re using to chart them is becoming increasingly more accurate. My position and my counterparts on the other teams are integral to developing accurate charts to ensure safer navigation. We also act as emergency responders to situations such as hurricanes and ship groundings. We assess the area and provide the necessary data to identify underwater hazards.

What aspects of your job are most exciting or rewarding to you?

Certainly working outside and having a boat as an office is the most exciting part for me. The most rewarding part is knowing the work that we’re doing is very beneficial to many people and we’re making it safer to navigate our coastlines.

What advice would you give someone looking to pursue a career in your field?

It is beneficial to pursue courses or a field of study that utilizes the equipment and software we use in this field. There’s a fairly steep learning curve coming into it and the more experience you have will make you more valuable as an employee. Also must love being out on the water for long periods of time.

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