Thursday, August 17, 2017

Chelsea Berg

Program Analyst

NOAA National Sea Grant College Program

Interviewed by Lesa Jeanpierre, NOAA

Chelsea Berg in her native habitat.

Chelsea Berg wears three symbolic hats daily:  program officer, program manager, and education coordinator. As the fedora-sporting program manager, she answers the Knauss applicants’ questions, oversees the consequent selection panel and placement week, and consults with the current class to ensure a year of valuable enrichment.  When she dons her program officer visor, paperwork for California and University of Southern California Sea Grant programs gets done, grant questions are answered, and salient guidance is dispensed.  Chelsea, as beret-wearing education coordinator, links Sea Grant state educators and NOAA education counsel together in their quest to send a unified message without any duplicated efforts.  What motivates her to carry on this figurative fashion show? Chelsea puts it this way: “I love the National Sea Grant college program.  I think that it’s a fantastic program and I’m really committed to the overall messaging of the program:  the research, the extension and the education, the “boots on the ground” and getting the message out to constituents and working with communities.”

Chelsea hails from northern Michigan, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Chemistry at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, MI and a master’s degree in Biological Science with a Freshwater Ecology emphasis from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Milwaukee, WI. She began her career studying cyanobacteria present in freshwater and their links to herbicide phosphorus, but her fellowship was within the now-defunct NOAA Office of Ecosystem Research, during the transitional time when the former Under Secretary of Commerce, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, arrived and instituted the Strategy Execution and Evaluation Process (SEE).  While the office was later disbanded, the invaluable opportunities offered via the Fellowship:  coursework in communicating science concepts to non-scientists, workplace communication amid conflict, hands-on planning, implementation, and reporting of organizational synergy, coupled with Chelsea’s hard science background proved to be vital assets in moving her career forward.

Chelsea recommends Knauss applicants to excel academically, take advantage of specialized training offered by their degree programs and to work in their respective communities—as the selection panel will “look at volunteer opportunities and look at extracurricular things that potential applicants are doing outside of their graduate degrees.  They look for relevant work experiences, so I would say get out there and make opportunities for yourself, call a nonprofit and see if you can intern for them for the summer—you can make it work.  The more you have on your resume, the stronger the applicant you’re going to be.

In her personal life, Chelsea still wears a variety of hats:  she wears a hardhat with her husband as they consult the worldwide web for diagnostic, conceptual and instructional actions about their house renovation. Her favorite movie, Jodie Foster’s Contact, which explores the ethics of scientific inquisitiveness and indulging a singular quest for knowledge inspires her to put on her thinking cap.   In her early years, Chelsea’s pint-sized Deerstalker cap was put to good use and fond memories of the Nancy Drew stories resonate strongly in present-day quests to find answers, observe, and note details.  No matter what hat she sports, Chelsea’s  satisfaction comes in loving what she does, getting to know the rising scientists of the future and the self-knowledge that her path will eventually lead back to the scientist’s realm.

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