Carolyn Lindley ’02 and Lindsey Williams ’02, both staffers at the National Ocean Service.
Carolyn Lindley ’02 and Lindsey Williams ’02, both staffers at the National Ocean Service.

Carolyn Lindley ’02 and Lindsey Williams ’02 approached their careers from different angles: Lindley took the hard-science route, while Williams focused on policy. Yet both ended up working at the National Ocean Service, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lindley, an oceanographer who grew up on New York City’s West Side and played in the American Museum of Natural History’s whale room as a kid, works with water-level data, overseeing a team that maps tides. But don’t picture her on a ship in the middle of the ocean. “I actually get really seasick, which is ironic for an oceanographer,” said Lindley, who does her statistical analysis from the agency’s headquarters outside Washington, D.C.

In the same building is Williams. A policy advisor who specializes in coastal management and coastal science, Williams guides the agency’s leadership regarding legislative affairs. The day she was interviewed she was putting together a briefing for new members of Congress to acquaint them with the agency’s goals and priorities.

“When I was at Colby, I never would’ve been like, ‘I’m going to work at the federal government,’” said Williams, who grew up in Norwich, Vt. “It wasn’t on my radar. … But the interesting things you can work on in the federal government are worth exploring.” Even within NOAA, she said, there’s a huge range of careers, regardless of whether you have a background in hard science.

Williams majored in biology and minored in environmental studies at Colby; Lindley studied geology. Both earned advanced degrees from the University of Delaware at different times. Lindley earned her master’s in oceanography; Williams completed the marine policy program.

“The ocean in general has always been really fascinating to me,” said Williams, who fell in love with the marine world during a junior-year semester abroad in Turks and Caicos. “We need the ocean for resources it provides, but we also need to not damage it too much for it to provide those things.”

As if their careers haven’t mirrored each other enough, Lindley is now looking to integrate more policy into her work. She spent the last four years earning her law degree through an evening program at American University and was to graduate in May.

“Having the law degree will diversify whatever it is I could bring to [the table], rather than coming with an I-know-how-to-map-tides skill set,” said Lindley. “I’m interested in the policy side and the decision making behind what our water level is telling us.”

It’s an exciting time to work on these issues, Lindley said, to have a job that allows her to both “be a scientist and contribute to the world.”

—Alexis Grant ’03