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Fight or Flight

Overcoming Self-Doubt to Join an Unforgettable Journey at Sea

By: Shellby Johnson,
Knauss Fellow, 
Special Assistant to the Assistant Administrator, 
NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research


The human fight or flight reaction is commonly used to describe the physiological reaction our body makes in response to danger. I’m not just talking about typical dangers such as swerving to avoid an obstacle in the road or deciding to investigate a strange noise in the darkness. I’m talking about danger from good ol’ fashioned stress as well. When I received an unexpected invitation during my Knauss Fellowship to join an ocean exploration transit across the North Atlantic, stress definitely entered the room, but I chose to fight, and it was one of the best professional and personal experiences of my life. Learn about my experience in this interactive feature.


Five months into my fellowship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research as the Special Assistant to the Assistant Administrator, the invite in question came from a former Knauss Fellow, Mattie Rodrigue, who served in my position three years before me. Now the Science Lead for OceanX, a non-profit ocean exploration organization and NOAA partner, Mattie reached out to gauge my interest and willingness to help stand up a pilot OceanX Young Explorers Program and also participate as science faculty to teach and mentor students while aboard OceanX’s scientific research and media vessel, OceanXplorer. At first glance, my response was of course, “Heck yeah! How could I say no to an opportunity like this?” As the reality of both what I had to do and how quickly it would happen began to sink in, that “heck yeah” quickly turned into an “oh no” and I wanted to hit the “flight” button.


Continue reading Shellby’s story in this interactive feature from USC Sea Grant


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