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Education continues beyond the classroom with marine management and policy fellowships

California Sea Grant State Fellowship Program

Education continues beyond the classroom with marine management and policy fellowships

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

By Caitlin Coomber, California Sea Grant


Joe Street spent the last ten years as a scientist. He studied paleoclimatology and earned a doctorate in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University.

“I grew up on the California coast, and part of the reason I got into science was that I’ve always been fascinated by the ‘interface’ between the land and the sea, and the ways the two are interconnected,” Street said.

2014 State Fellows Meghan Powers, Ryan Freedman and Jennifer Bigman enjoy a break during the California Sea Grant Extension and Fellow meeting in Sacramento. Credit: Caitlin Coomber, California Sea Grant

However, Street recently revisited his career path and pivoted to align more closely with his interests and concerns.

“As much as I loved doing research, there was a part of me that felt like I was just standing by while the environmental problems facing California, and the coast in particular, became more and more serious.”

He desired to apply his scientific training to real-world problems and looked for opportunities to gain experience with an agency that would let him do just that.

Street applied to the California Sea Grant State Fellows Program and spent the next year at the California Coastal Commission.

The program, which provides a unique educational opportunity for graduate students who are interested both in marine policy and resource management, was a springboard to a new career for Street and many others who have participated in the program.

“We match highly qualified graduate students with host agencies for a year-long paid fellowship,” said California Sea Grant Associate Director Shauna Oh. “The fellows acquire ‘on the job’ experience in the planning and implementation of marine and coastal resource policies and programs. It gives them a leg up when applying for a job and the agencies benefit from this pool of exceptional workers.”

State fellows work closely with mentors to advance the agency’s mission and supplement their training experience. This year, California Sea Grant announced its largest class of state fellows; sixteen graduate students and recent graduates were paired with state or federal agencies in California.

State Fellows explore the a tributary into the Russian River during a recent meeting. Credit: Marsha Gear

To address complex environmental challenges and manage policies, decision makers and government agencies need individuals with a wide breadth of education and experience. Fellows have included recent graduates with a master’s degree in public administration and law school graduates with an interest in environmental policy. The fellowship can make graduates aware of opportunities outside of the academic track.

“The fellowship helped me to re-evaluate my career goals and my personal definition of ‘success,’” said Street. “Science offers our best hope of crafting effective policies to deal with environmental change, and this reality requires a type of scientist who can not only generate new data but also translate, synthesize and apply existing research to emerging problems.”

To learn more about the California Sea Grant State Fellows program, watch the Thank You Ocean podcast titled “California’s 'Next Generation' of Ocean Leaders” and visit the California Sea Grant website.

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