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September 23, 2004

Profile: Deborah Mercy, Marine Advisory Program


My job allows me to challenge all my abilities and interests.

Anchorage, Alaska—In 1976, Deborah Mercy came to Anchorage during a two week spring break from art studies at the University of Washington, her imagination stoked by family tales of Alaska. When she finally saw a bit of it she was hooked.

She returned later that summer to Southeast Alaska as a greenhorn on a salmon purse seiner. Within two weeks she was one of only two women in Southeast holding the coveted job of skiff operator, even though she had never before operated a boat. She grew into the job, adapted to the environment, and loved working outdoors.

Deborah was successful at fishing, but held to her goal of becoming an artist. She finished a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing. She then chose to learn a more marketable skill to pay the rent, and studied commercial photography. By the winter of 1979, she was back in Anchorage searching for a job to generate enough cash to finish school. She never left.

The job market in Anchorage was good, and within weeks she found short-term jobs and freelance photography assignments. Eventually, she was hired by the local NBC television network affiliate. Six months later she was a television journalist. Thanks to talented and creative co-workers, she learned the trade and was able to effectively tell a story in only a minute with moving pictures and words. Later, after moving to a different local station as the producer of a statewide magazine program, she appreciated the longer time format. She did that for three years, but missed the outdoor life and took a job on a gillnet boat in Bristol Bay.

Deborah returned to Anchorage at the end of the fishing season and produced videos for the Bering Sea Fishermen's Association and other clients before accepting her current position with the Marine Advisory Program. She continues to produce video programs, shoot still photography, draw illustrations, and produce printed publications.

When asked to describe her job, Deborah responded as follows:

"I find myself in the enviable position of working in a job that allows me to challenge all my abilities and interests. Video production remains my primary work. The combined elements of storytelling with moving pictures and sound, maintaining a close connection to the ocean and the fishing industry, and mastering the new art of motion graphics encompass activities that I continue to enjoy. The Marine Advisory Program allows me the flexibility to work with a wide variety of people and groups involved in marine activities, including the Observer Training Center. Together we attempt to create compelling stories for education, whether through informal training, the classroom, or for broadcast. Video is a powerful media. My goal is to relay good information in an interesting manner to the people of our state."

Reprinted with permission from OTC Quarterly, Observer Training Center, Summer 2004, vol. 9, issue 2.

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