DOINews: BOEM Employee Spotlight: Wildlife Biologist Greg Sanders

Last edited 09/05/2019

BOEM's Greg Sanders wearing a hard hat.
Greg Sanders is a wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Photo by Tony Orr, NOAA.
A California sea lion takes in the warm rays of the sun while hauled out to an oil-and-gas platform offshore Southern California. Photo by Greg Sanders, BOEM. See more of Sanders' photos here.
BOEM's Greg Sanders holding a sea otter.
Wildlife biologist Greg Sanders holds a fur seal/sea lion hybrid pup he found while tagging sea lions with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service in 2014. Photo Jeff Harris, NOAA.

My dive buddy and I were on our own for the first time. While our dive instructors were on deck enjoying a cup of hot coffee, we were bouncing around the bottom of the seafloor. The water was cold and a murky when a dark shape started moving around us at the very edge of our visibility. We backed up against a rock and contemplated our escape to the surface. The theme song for “Jaws” was playing in our heads, and our hearts raced. Before we could decide on fight or flight, the beast came at us. ...

Hi, I'm Greg Sanders, and I am a wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. In other words, I study marine mammals and sea turtles and the potential effects offshore energy-related activities may have on these creatures.

In grade school, I confidently declared that I wanted to be a “deep-sea diver” when I grew up. A passion for diving has been a common thread in my career choices ever since. I was certified as a diver in high school, studied aquatic biology in college, worked as a dive instructor and harvested shellfish under offshore platforms before starting on a federal career with the Department of the Interior. In fact, I've been fortunate to have worked for several DOI bureaus prior to my current position with the BOEM. In addition to BOEM, I've enjoyed positions with the Minerals Management Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

My workdays are typically dominated by reviewing project proposals, writing environmental review documents, managing contracts and agreements, and attending meetings, briefings and training sessions. However throughout my career, interspersed with the more mundane tasks, I've been given opportunities to contribute on a scale far exceeding the dream job I first imagined when I was a second-grader.

Offshore California's Channel Islands National Park, I've captured video to share with park visitors eager to catch a glimpse of the underwater world. At the remote South Pacific Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge of Rose Atoll, I participated in a multi-disciplinary natural resources damage assessment that inadvertently led to the discovery of a new species of fish. On the outer continental shelf, I've documented phenomenal marine ecosystems associated with oil and gas platforms. Across the north Pacific, I've worked with the U.S. Geological Survey to capture sea otters for studies that shed light on the biology and ecology of this charismatic marine mammal.

Currently, I am coordinating the environmental review for the WindFloat Pacific Project, a floating offshore wind demonstration project proposed 16 miles offshore Coos Bay, Ore.

For all of these projects, my greatest reward has been working with skilled, talented and dedicated people from all corners of the Department of the Interior and beyond. The success of every project comes down to the people involved and their ability to work together toward a common goal. The BOEM plays a significant role in ocean science, and I am fortunate to be a part of this team!

Oh, about that first dive … the ominous shape in the distance turned out to be a curious and very friendly harbor seal. Check out this short video clip to see how “scary” these guys can really be. Interested in what else you can see offshore California? Here is a link to a recent video I shot with some of my underwater friends. See if you can imagine having to hold your breath as long as the harbor seal's cousin featured at the end of the video. Have fun and dive safe!

Submitted by: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Feb. 19, 2015

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