Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce  series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.
Guest blog by Timi Vann, Western Regional Collaboration Coordinator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
I serve as one of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) eight regional coordinators. In this capacity, I am responsible for coordinating the collaborative activities of a 17-member team of scientists, engineers and program managers representing NOAA’s four service branches (Weather, Fisheries, Environmental Satellite, Data and information, and Ocean Services) and Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research in the eleven state region of the Western United States. This team works together to exchange information, leverage resources, and collaborate to address priority regional issues and deliver improved science and services to regional stakeholders.
I was born and raised in Seattle, Wash., and I am Cherokee Indian, as is my husband. After undergraduate studies at The Evergreen State College and graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma, I completed further coursework in satellite remote sensing, image processing, and physics from the University of New Orleans. After college, I worked with the US Army at Fort Lewis as a cultural resources specialist working to support the military training mission through effective and efficient environmental compliance as it pertained to historic buildings and landscapes, historic and prehistoric archeological sites, traditional cultural properties, and tribal government relations. I then went on to a successful career at NASA working to develop "real world" applications of NASA's satellite data for environmental health tracking and disease surveillance. These experiences enabled me to successfully take on many new challenges at NOAA.
I am honored to be a public servant and take this responsibility very seriously and know its importance to a safe and healthy environment. I like helping people, and I know the work we do is important to this country. We don’t always think about our economy being dependent on science or our environment, but it very much is. I feel very fortunate to work for a science-based organization whose reach extends from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean. I believe a healthy and sustainable environment is a key element of a healthy and sustainable United States of America. There is only one planet we know of that can sustain our life–and we’re on it. As evidenced by recent disasters – from devastating fires and drought, to extreme weather events like Sandy, it is critically important that we characterize, understand, predict and effectively adapt to changes in our environment. NOAA provides both foundational knowledge and forecasting capability. This knowledge enables us to be flexible and innovative in developing short and longer-term adaptive strategies. We are a great nation of people who have demonstrated time and again the power of applying knowledge and invention to solve pressing problems.
Our family observes Native American Heritage month because it is a heritage that is part of who we are, every day. In fact, we don’t celebrate a “Month” so much as we celebrate our Native American heritage daily in the simple pleasures of being with others in the Indian community. We try to break down bad Indian stereotypes through healthy living, creating a solid foundation for our children to grow and flourish, being kind and by giving back and sharing our many gifts with others. This is what being Indian means to us. That is why I would strongly encourage any American Indians interested in science, engineering and environmental management to consider a job in public service to America.