Where in the World is Bianca Prohaska? Life as an International Activities Fellow
By Bianca Prohaska,
Sea Grant Knauss Fellow,
Oceanic and Atmospheric Research,
Going into my fellowship position, I knew I would travel a lot, lead our collaborations with India, and provide support for our work with China. What I didn’t realize is how quickly I would get to start my work and get traveling!
Beginning on my first day at Oceanic and Atmospheric Research’s International Activities Office, I was thrown into helping plan a bilateral meeting between NOAA scientists and our Chinese colleagues in Seattle, WA. The catch was the meeting was occurring two weeks from my start date, and little had been done planning-wise. Though it was a rushed effort, I was actually very excited to be working on this as I really enjoy a fast paced work environment!
India: New Delhi, Hyderabad and Agra
Not long after my whirlwind trip to Seattle, I was asked to attend a meeting in India...again with only two weeks notice. My coworker and I traveled to New Delhi for a short meeting with our counterparts at the Ministry of Earth Sciences, and then attended an Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission meeting in Hyderabad. The focus of this meeting was on coastal vulnerability assessment, monitoring sea level rise, and storm surge inundation. While in India we were lucky enough to have a day off, during which we visited the Taj Mahal.
Bianca visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
Upon return from India, I was given the amazing opportunity to join the U.S. delegation as an observer at the Intergovernmental Oceanic Commission general assembly in Paris, France. The meeting itself lasted two weeks, and was such an eye opening experience both culturally and diplomatically. It was fascinating to witness delegates from 150 countries discussing ocean science and policy. The process of translating live comments into six or more languages alone was amazing. I also took a couple personal days at the end of this work trip to tour Paris, and got to see the U.S. women’s national soccer team beat France in the quarterfinals of the World Cup!
Bianca pictured at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, with current Knauss Fellow Tyler Rohr (DOE), and 2017 International Activities Knauss Fellow, Katie Geddes.
Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo
My next fellowship-related travel was to Malaysia for the International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB). As fellows, we are encouraged to participate in different types of professional development activities such as attending conferences that relate to our interests. My background is in shark biology, and I have always had a strong interest in conservation and management, so I thought attending the ICCB would be a great fit. Luckily, another fellow also registered and attended the conference, and the two of us spent an extra week in Asia traveling and eating our way through different cities in mainland Malaysia, Singapore, and Borneo.
Bianca presenting part of her dissertation research on the Endangered smalltooth sawfish at the International Congress for Conservation Biology in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Once back from Malaysia I thought my travel would be over, or at least slow down for a while, but within a day of being back I was chosen, along with another fellow, to attend the All-Atlantic Ocean Youth Ambassador Programme in Galway, Ireland. This was an amazing opportunity aimed at bringing together youth dedicated to promoting sustainable development and stewardship of the Atlantic Ocean. While I didn’t spend any extra days in Ireland, I was able to visit the Cliffs of Moher, and the views were absolutely breathtaking.
Sea Grant Knauss Fellows Bianca Prohaska and Alicia Wilson participating as All-Atlantic Ocean Youth Ambassadors in Galway, Ireland, and photographed with members of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.
Upon returning from Ireland, I definitely thought my travel for the year was over, but after a half week back I was asked to attend OceanObs’19 (OO19) in Honolulu, HI the following week! While at this meeting I helped facilitate various side meetings between NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research scientists and our Chinese counterparts. I also tried to get in a breathtaking hike or a surf session every morning before attending the conference. Almost 20 fellows also attended OO19, and as a group we were able to visit and tour the He’eia National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology lab.
Bianca attending the OceanObs’19 Luau in Honolulu, Hawai’i, with two other Sea Grant Knauss Fellows, Dan Takaki (NESDIS STAR), and Genie Bey (NOAA Office of Education).
Homebase: Washington, D.C.
While I think I will be staying put in DC for at least the next month or so, you never know what meeting or event might come up out of the blue. I’ve certainly learned a lesson in being able to adapt to changing situations. My remaining travel will primarily be within the U.S. to support NOAA’s efforts in spreading the word about the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science at various meetings and conferences occurring this fall and winter. Even though I have been traveling almost back-to-back since May, I wouldn’t trade in this experience for anything!
The application for the 2021 Knauss Fellowship is open.
Learn more about the fellowship here.