Nate Ilaoa

Nahtan Ilaoa
American Samoa Coastal Management Program
ASCMP Manager
High School Attended
Leone High School; Leone, American Samoa
College Attended
University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo (undergrad);
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (graduate)

Job Description:

Development, administration and management of federally approved programs, grants and evaluation reviews. I am responsible for the administration, policy & program development, facilitating coordination and partnering with local, regional and national entities, implementation of strategies and actions, staff training, grants management, and guidance to the Director and Deputy Director on long-range environmental policy analysis and resource protection of coastal & marine areas.

Interest in Field:

Growing up on an island, I have always been fascinated by the sea and the bounty of life that it contains and supports. I initially worked for the Environmental Protection Agency overseeing watershed management. It’s sad that many people are only recently realizing that our natural resources that we so often take for granted are in limited supply, and that we must safeguard them very stringently. In my current job, I can effectively do just that.

How did you get there?

I have always made it a point to be environmentally conscious. I have been active in community activities that promote environmental awareness or protection. This inevitably led me toward the field of resource management. Now that I am in a position to do more community outreach, I make it a priority for my staff to focus on public awareness and outreach projects.

Necessary Qualifications:

I think first and foremost a person that does my job has to genuinely care about the welfare of the environment. If your motives are anything other than that, this isn’t the line of work for you. Having a passion for science, and being committed to preserving life and natural resources is a must in this profession.

Rewards of Work:

The biggest reward for me is that I am on the frontline of the battle to save our planet. My wife and I had our first child in July 2009, and since then, the fight seems even more vital. We have a responsibility to consider the future generations. The work we do today will go a long way in determining what kind of world they live in, and how they view their own roles in safeguarding our environment.

Relevant Work Experience:

I taught high school and middle school science at a private school in American Samoa for five years. I then went to work for our local EPA before taking up the job of heading up the Coastal Management Program at the Department of Commerce.

Typical Day:

I spend a lot of my time at work meeting with the various division heads about on-going and upcoming projects. The teams that I work most closely with are Public Awareness Program, Coral Reef Advisory Group, Wetlands Section, and the Environmental Planning Division. Depending on the time of year, there is also a lot of Federal grant management that must be done. I also spend quite a bit of time with our GIS/IT Division, as they provide technical services to all the other teams. Although I miss being out in the field, I find the work I do immensely rewarding.

Words of Wisdom :

You wish you knew...:

I wish I would have focused more on environmental engineering. Often times I wish I had a firmer grasp of the technical side of many of the tasks our program undertakes. Hindsight is 20/20, but that is one thing I wish I had pursued as a student.

You wish you were told...:

With both the EPA job and my current work, I assumed a position that had been previously vacated. This meant that there wasn’t someone to help me learn the ropes. To me, this was a blessing in disguise. Having to learn on-the-job was invaluable, and it really put the onus of learning my daily responsibilities on me and me alone.

Final Comments / Advice:

You are choosing to work in the most needed field in the history of our planet, in my opinion. There has never been a greater urgency for skilled professionals than there is now to protect and recover our environment, and to make our society a Green one. Stay the course and the rewards will be infinite.