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NOAA Corps

BOTC 138

Basic Officer Training Class 138
(L-R) Top row: ENS Michael Doneghey
2nd row down: ENS Forrest Foxen, ENS Carrington Conerly
3rd row down: ENS Daniel Stofka, ENS Anna Gaskill
4th row down: ENS Mikal Montgomery, ENS Justin Weeks, ENS Desda Sisson, ENS Bonnie Vierra
5th row down: ENS Gemma Venuti, ENS Heather Gaughan
6th row down: LT Michael Ball, CDR Chris Skapin, LT Chris Gallagher
November 8, 2021

Ensign Carrington Conerly

Ensign Conerly is originally from Washington D.C., but during 2009-2013, he lived in Doha, Qatar where his passion for the environment started. He worked closely with local citizen science groups studying flamingo populations and the habitat quality of the saltwater mangroves along Qatar’s northern shore. He had the opportunity to study whale shark migration patterns in the Maldives and how rising sea levels are affecting the Maldivian way of life. Ensign Conerly returned to the United States for college and graduated from the Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science with a specialization in Water Science. He was the president of the Gamma Chapter of Sigma Phi Beta National Fraternity Incorporated, where he built a foundation for other LGBTQ students on OSU’s campus. His undergraduate research involved studying yellow perch and the effects of meythl-testosterone on juveniles. Prior to joining the NOAA Corps, he worked as the laboratory manager for OSU’s Introductory Biology Program. He decided to continue his schooling, receiving his Master’s in Public Administration from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. His goal in joining NOAA Corps is to combine his scientific background with his knowledge of public administration to further the NOAA Corps mission of science, service, and stewardship 


Ensign Michael Doneghey

Ensign Doneghey graduated from Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) with a bachelor’s degree in Marine Safety and Environmental Protection. While studying at MMA, he had the opportunity to gain valuable experience at sea and abroad. As a freshman, he participated in a two-month sea term and had the chance to visit ports in Cartagena, Curacao, Barbados, and Miami. In 2016, Ensign Doneghey worked with other MMA cadets on the island of Ile a Vache, Haiti, performing environmental testing and analysis on the local drinking water and coordinating the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the island’s orphanage and schools. He also had the opportunity to participate in the exchange program between MMA and Shanghai Maritime University (SMU), studying abroad at SMU his spring semester of junior year. After graduating from MMA in 2017, Ensign Doneghey continued his education at SMU and in 2019 he received a master’s degree in international business from Shanghai Maritime University. He focused his master’s thesis on the economic impacts of transitioning from fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy on a national and international scale. 

After receiving his master’s degree, Ensign Doneghey worked as a consultant for a geo-environmental engineering consulting company in Boston, MA. Outside of work, he served on the board of directors for Massachusetts Oyster Project, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the coastal environment through the restoration of native shellfish populations to local beaches and estuaries. Ensign Doneghey is excited and honored to begin his career as an officer in the NOAA Corps. 


Ensign Justin Weeks 

Ensign Weeks graduated from the University of South Carolina (UofSC) in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Sciences. During his time at UofSC, Ensign Weeks participated in research on age estimation of red snapper using FT-NIR spectroscopy and research on the dietary differences between the scalloped and Carolina hammerhead shark species. He was a U.S. Department of State Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar and studied abroad at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa during the spring of 2020. He received his PADI Advanced Open Water certification in 2016. In his free time, he enjoys portrait and wildlife photography, hiking, SCUBA diving, and exploring new cities. Ensign Weeks is excited to serve the United States and the planet in the NOAA Commissioned Corps. 


Ensign Forrest Foxen

Ensign Forrest Foxen graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) in 2021 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy, and a minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). While in school, he worked as a project manager, and more recently, as a GIS technician for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). It was during this time at the USGS that Ensign Foxen developed an interest in bathymetric surveys and using NOAA produced nautical charts for GIS applications. 

Prior to USF, Ensign Foxen spent 6 years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear trained electrician’s mate. After completion of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, he spent 4 years aboard the fast attack submarine, USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705), where he advanced to the rank of First Class Petty Officer. Ensign Foxen’s accomplishments include the completion of two Western Pacific deployments, a Eastern Pacific deployment, and Scuba school at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center. He is a certified rescue diver with Professional Association of Diving Instructors and International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers. 


Ensign Anna Gaskill

Ensign Gaskill graduated from Wellesley College in 2019 with a major in Environmental Science and a minor in Studio Art. She conducted her undergraduate research on the impacts of invasive species on an ecological niche. During her studies, she had the opportunity to spend a semester with the Sea Education Association, conducting oceanographic research in the South Pacific aboard the tall ship Robert C. Seamans. Following graduation, Ensign Gaskill worked in Washington as an educator with the Salish Sea Sciences summer school and as an instructor aboard the Carlyn with Salish Sea Expeditions, a sailboat-based marine science program. In 2020, she began working as a fisheries observer in Massachusetts for the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program, where she collected data from commercial fishing vessels.

Ensign Gaskill’s combined passion for science, public service, and the ocean lead her to the NOAA Corps. She is looking forward to her first sea assignment and is honored to join the fleet.


ENS Heather Gaughan

ENS Gaughan graduated from Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) in June 2021 with a B.S. in Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection (MSSEP), with a minor in Marine Biology and a concentration in Shipboard Environmental Health and Safety. 

Prior to joining the NOAA Corps, Ensign Gaughan’s experience included multiple internships and projects pertaining to NOAA’s missions. In the summer of 2020, Ensign Gaughan interned with the NOAA Office of Education as part of the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program. She worked primarily with the communication and outreach team to develop the “Fisheries and Seafood” online resource collection. In the summer of 2019, Ensign Gaughan served as an intern for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program and the Buzzards Bay Coalition on their Long-Term Salt Marsh Vegetation and Elevation Monitoring Project. 

Ensign Gaughan was actively involved in various projects at MMA’s Marine Science and Aquaculture Laboratory. In the fall of 2019, she was responsible for culturing algae for NOAA Milford Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s study on ocean acidification’s effects on sea scallops. Ensign Gaughan also assisted in long-term research projects for Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries involving the monitoring and tagging of fin fish and American lobsters suffering from lobster shell disease, and for the Buzzards Bay Coalition involving water quality monitoring, benthic research, and underwater video mapping. 

Ensign Gaughan held multiple roles in MMA’s Regiment of Cadets, and was the “Follow the Voyage” blogger for two MMA sea terms. She also served as the MSSEP Training Rate, mentoring underclassmen within the major, and was the MMA Student Government Association Class Vice President. ENS Gaughan is looking forward to embarking on a NOAA career which combines her dual passions of marine science and service to her country.


Ensign Mikal Montgomery

Prior to joining the NOAA corps, Ensign Montgomery was the Lead Meteorologist for the U.S. Air Force’s U-2 aircraft program at Beale AFB in California. He also spent time working for the Department of Justice as a records examiner from 2017-2018 and was active duty Air Force from 2011-2017. His past experience includes working with various stakeholders to improve stratospheric turbulence forecasting models for Air Force weather, as well as analyzing and evaluating the impacts of ionizing radiation on high altitude manned aircraft. Ensign Montgomery graduated from Columbia Southern University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management and from Virginia Tech in 2017 with a master’s degree in Natural Resources.

Ensign Montgomery is proud to serve in the NOAA Corps. He had envisioned joining the NOAA Corps since he was a teenager and is ecstatic to use his education and career experiences to contribute to NOAA’s missions.


Ensign Desda Sisson

Prior to joining the NOAA Corps, Ensign Sisson was the Scientific Diving and Boating Safety Officer for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. As a licensed captain, tech diver and dive instructor, she oversaw all operations pertaining to collections, research, and training. Nominated for the zookeeper appreciation spotlight, Sisson facilitated collaborations with research labs including California State University Long Beach’s Shark Lab, on giant sea bass and white shark projects. Ensign Sisson received her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology with a minor in Scientific Diving from Humboldt State University. 

Ensign Sisson is a member of the board of directors for the nonprofit Catalina Marine Society, which promotes, facilitates and distributes studies and insights into the physical and biological dynamics of the Southern California Bight. She has volunteered her time as a dive instructor for The University of Southern California and Humboldt State University’s scientific dive programs. Ensign Sisson is looking forward to being a part of NOAA as a corps officer to support education, diversity and to further NOAA’s programs and its scientific missions.


Ensign Bonnie Vierra

Prior to joining the NOAA Corps, Ensign Vierra served 10 years in the Navy as an operations specialist. Her first assignment was on the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), where she deployed multiple times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and numerous humanitarian, support, and exercise missions. While attached to CVN-76, she worked as a sea combat air controller and tactical data link coordinator. Ensign Vierra was then stationed at Naval Base San Diego’s Emergency Operations Center and Port Operations where she worked as a battle watch supervisor and emergency management training team leader. Ensign Vierra then received orders to the U.S. Commander, Third Fleet where she served as the current operations leading Chief Petty Officer and Fleet Watch Officer. 

After the Navy, Ensign Vierra attended San Diego State University (SDSU) where she studied geological sciences. Her undergraduate research and master’s thesis culminated in a provenance study that analyzed the geochemical, petrological, and clay mineralogic make up of pleistocene debris flows along the San Jacinto fault zone, which resulted in determining paleoclimatic signatures and fault structure of the region. During her time at SDSU, she went abroad to study faults and historical earthquakes in Lisbon, Portugal and volcanoes in the Azores. After graduating in 2020, she became a National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) certified Geologist in Training (GIT) for the state of California. Additionally, Ensign Vierra holds certifications as a Geospatial Technology Technician, National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) Rescue Diver, American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) Scientific Diver, and has approximately 36 flight hours towards her private pilot license. She loves to be outdoors and likes to travel, hike, and spend time with her dogs. 

Ensign Vierra is excited for the opportunity to continue to serve her country in a uniformed service, while also serving in a more scientific capacity. She is looking forward to the exploration and varied missions  that the NOAA Corps has to offer. 


Ensign Daniel Stofka

Prior to joining the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, Ensign Stofka served in the United States Marine Corps for nearly fifteen years. While on active duty, Ensign Stofka applied for the Marine Corps’ Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Degree Completion Program, receiving his Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Science from Oregon State University in 2017. It was during his studies at Oregon State’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR that he realized his desire to become a NOAA Corps commissioned officer.

Ensign Stofka has worked on several coastal lagoon and estuary research projects throughout the California coast. Much of his work has been centered around the revitalization of bar-built estuaries to bolster native endangered fish species like the tidewater goby and the distinct population segment, Southern steelhead. Ensign Stofka is looking forward to an exciting new career at his first NOAA Corps assignment in San Diego, CA aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker. 


Ensign Gemma Venuti

Ensign Venuti grew up in New York City and during summers attended camp in the Poconos. While at camp, Venuti discovered a love for the outdoors and science. This led to volunteering with the American Conservation Experience, building tails and campsites in the backcountry of California and learning how to live outdoors. After this, she applied to College of the Atlantic in Maine where she studied geobiology and geographic information systems. As an undergraduate she conducted research on nesting seabird colonies and the paleoecology of Great Duck Island which became the basis of her senior thesis. While at College of the Atlantic she also worked as a teacher's assistant for many science classes and interned with Acadia National Park, working with the invasive plant management team. 

Venuti greatly enjoyed environmental science and wanted to find a way to combine it with being of service to others. The NOAA Corps offered the perfect opportunity to do this.  Venuti is excited to join NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown for her first assignment. Being the fleet’s sole global class vessel, this ship’s mission greatly appeals to her as a person who has a passion to explore the world.


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Reviewed: November 10, 2021. Contact us with page issues.

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