Heather Kerkering Receives National Recognition for Climate Science Work

Heather Kerkering proudly holds up a framed awardHeather Kerkering, Assistant Regional Administrator for the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center (PI-CASC), received national recognition for her work in climate science. The Pinnacle Award for Federal Employee of the Year – Professional, Administrative, Technical is a prestigious honor from the Honolulu-Pacific Federal Executive Board (FEB), recognizing exceptional contributions to federal service. The FEB supports over 85% of federal employees nationwide and is in place to link and streamline federal government functions between Washington, D.C., and local communities. Heather was presented with this award at the 68th Annual Excellence in Federal Government Awards Program on May 10, 2024.

Heather stands with a group at the Conference on Island Sustainability.
Kirsten Oleson, Ecological Economist, UH Mānoa, Surangel S. Whipps, Jr., President of the Republic of Palau, Heather Kerkering, Assistant Regional Administrator, PI-CASC, and Jessica Wong, Communications Fellow, PI-CASC at the 2024 Conference on Island Sustainability in Guam.

Heather, a pivotal member of the PI-CASC team since 2018, has been instrumental in expanding climate adaptation work in the Pacific region. Her keen eye for identifying critical resource and science gaps and her dedication to fostering partnerships have significantly advanced our mission. Moreover, she has been a strong advocate for environmental justice and equity, serving on multiple diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility teams and leading hiring initiatives for a diverse workforce.

Some of Heather’s notable achievements include addressing the threat of invasive species as part of the Pacific Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change (RISCC) Network and addressing resource challenges faced by Pacific Island communities.

She also drew on her networks from past positions to create a new collaboration for PI-CASC with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) co-hosting the EARTH teacher workshops (Education and Research: Testing Hypotheses), which created career growth opportunities for teachers from Hawaiʻi and American Samoa, emphasizing the perspectives of Pacific Islanders and training teachers in integrating science and traditional knowledge.

“I feel lucky to be able to work in such an important field, especially in the Pacific where climate impacts are happening now,” said Heather. “It’s a great opportunity to work with people to really build our climate resilience and enjoy the opportunities we have, from the administrative solicitation efforts that we do, but also getting to be in the field to help with restoration projects or engage with communities. So, I think it’s a lucky position to be in.”




As a team, we are immensely proud to have Heather as a part of our organization. Her recognition with the Pinnacle Award for Federal Employee of the Year is a testament to her hard work, dedication, and the impact she has made in the field of climate science. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to her on this well-deserved accomplishment! 


Summer Sylva, Heather Kerkering, and Mari-Vaughn Johnson at Heʻeia Ahupuaʻa
Summer Sylva, Heather Kerkering, and Mari-Vaughn Johnson at Heʻeia ahupuaʻa

“Our region, PI-CASC, and I are beyond thankful for the diligent, inspired, caring, and consistent work that Heather tirelessly puts into the job. She is committed to connecting with this shared place we call home. She builds relationships. She builds friendships. She listens. She hears the places where she can make a difference. Then, the real magic of Heather is that she does not just share her ideas and vision; she goes that extra step. She envisions how to get it done and gets it done.”

– Mari-Vaughn Johnson, PI-CASC Regional Administrator, US Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey


“Heather’s experience with university and government has made her particularly adept at navigating institutional challenges that inevitably arise in both realms, to effectively disburse funds to support our PI-CASC researchers and innovative climate adaptation science to meet our regional needs.”

– Bradley Romine, PI-CASC Consortium Deputy Director


“Heather’s work with Pacific RISCC has positively impacted climate adaptation for invasive species management across the US Pacific through increased knowledge exchange and improved communication on climate change and invasive species, which has also helped to uncover critical research gaps and needs. The network is now ~500 strong and growing.”

– Elliott Parsons, Pacific RISCC, PI-CASC


“It is clear from my years of working with Heather that she cares deeply about exploring creative, culturally relevant ways to better connect the work we do with the communities we work in. She is patient, personable, a joy to work with, and an incredible asset to PI-CASC!”

– Patrick Hart, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Biology, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo


“Heather thoughtfully asks the right questions, always advocating for the best for the communities she works with. She always wants to make sure she understands any issue thoroughly before addressing it and is one of the brightest, sharpest, and most fun people I know.”

– Vanitha Sivarajan, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs


“Heather always ensured that everyone was on their toes for the implementation of projects.  Even though some work may delay, especially when implementing activities in remote sites, she remained helpful and supportive of the project and the implementing staff.”

– Dolores deBrum-Kattil, Executive Director Marshall Islands Conservation Society