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Steven Murphey

June 13, 2018

Roman philosopher Seneca’s quote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” has guided Steven Murphey ’84 throughout his career. Murphey’s drive to learn and grow has opened doors to leadership positions within the NC Department of Environmental Quality.

“I’ve always kept that quote in mind; the more well-rounded I can be, the more successful I can be,” said Murphey, director of the NC Division of Marine Fisheries. “The nice thing about this division is there are so many things you can be involved in and a wide variety of subject material.”

Murphey joined the division in 1987 as a biologist and took over the role of director in January 2018. He oversees 10 sections within the Division of Marine Fisheries and approximately 320 employees. The division is responsible for a wide range of activities including fisheries management, data collection, public health and habitat enhancement. The division works closely with the UNCW Center for Marine Science’s shellfish hatchery. 

“We coordinate with UNCW a lot on marine agriculture because the research Ami Wilbur is doing is key for developing lines of oysters and other shellfish that can be grown in North Carolina,” he said.

Murphey’s fascination with marine biology began as a teenager. He was a huge fan of ocean explorer and researcher Jacques Cousteau. When considering college to pursue marine biology, Murphey said UNCW was the perfect fit for him because of its size and curriculum.

“What I like about UNCW is that it’s big enough to have a lot of opportunity, but small enough to know your professors,” he said. “The coursework gave me a good, broad knowledge of marine science that I have been able to build upon over my career.”

During his time at UNCW, Murphey was also a photographer for The Seahawk, the student newspaper. “It paid $15 a week,” he recalled. “That was useful money at the time.”

Murphey encourages future marine scientists to have a strong background in liberal arts, history, political science and economics.

“It is important to me to have staff who can think outside of the box, who can put things into perspective and can look at economic and social effects,” he explained. “While the science drives us, all the other things are the threads that tie what we do to the rest of the world. We manage fish for a reason, not just for science.”

-- Venita Jenkins