State Fellow spotlight: Noelle Helder

Jesse Gordon contributed to this story.

This past summer, Noelle Helder was selected as an Alaska Sea Grant State Fellow and matched with the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. ACEP is a research group that uses applied research to address statewide energy challenges.

photo of Noelle Helder
Courtesy of Noelle Helder

Noelle is using her geospatial skills to map the Alaska coastline and site locations for Alaska’s developing coastal alternative energy infrastructure. She is using tools and data, including drone mapping, ship-based sonars, and satellite data, to map the coastline and nearshore waters across spatial scales. “This work will allow us to explore new methods, technologies and tools to map Alaska’s massive coastline more efficiently and at a higher resolution,” Noelle said.

Noelle earned a B.S. in marine science from the University of South Florida. While there, she conducted field research in the Caribbean, diving coral reefs to inform tropical ecosystem management practices. After graduating, Noelle worked with several labs in the Caribbean conducting research on fisheries management and the impacts of climate change and habitat loss on coral reefs. She also worked as a naturalist and tour guide with Alaska Wildland Adventures in remote sites throughout the Kenai Peninsula. More recently, Noelle completed a Master of Science degree in ecology from the University of Alberta, Edmonton. As a graduate student, she continued tropical ecosystem research, where she used new technologies to map coral reefs to help inform restoration efforts.

The Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship with ACEP appealed to Noelle because of the opportunity to use her knowledge of geospatial technologies at the scale of Alaska’s coastline. “I got really into mapping data as a graduate student, and wanted to take my geospatial and remote sensing skills to another level. Technologies are continuously improving, so I was excited about the opportunity to work on these skills and learn directly from people who have the experience and big ideas to move this work forward.”

Noelle shared that she is benefiting from the chance to work with scientists from different disciplines. “I’m an ecologist and I’m working with engineers, so it’s been valuable to work on a truly interdisciplinary team, use each other’s strengths to address complex problems, and build collaborations with other groups and agencies within the state.”