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Pathways to marine policy: Knauss Fellows build on past experiences with NOAA

Originally posted by NOAA Education


In February 2021, the 42nd class of the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship will begin fellowships across NOAA and other federal agencies to make their mark on national ocean and coastal policy and administration. While the experiences and backgrounds of each class are quite diverse, many selected fellows build on educational experiences offered by NOAA earlier in their careers.


Thirty-two of the 74 finalists for the 2021 class of the Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship previously completed other NOAA educational experiences. (Sea Grant)

The John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship is a competitive fellowship that places Ph.D., master’s, and J.D. students and recent graduates in executive and legislative offices in Washington, D.C. Knauss fellows apply their knowledge of marine, coastal, and Great Lakes science to developing, implementing, and reshaping our nation’s marine policy. 


For NOAA, the Knauss fellowship is the top rung in a suite of educational and career development opportunities. In the 2021 Knauss class, 32 finalists have previously taken advantage of NOAA educational opportunities to expand their knowledge and experiences. Meet nine Knauss finalists whose past experiences with NOAA set them on a path to marine policy.


Sea Grant internships and research experiences


Jashira M. Torres Pabón, a 2021 Knauss Finalist, in Puerto Rico after a Sea Grant outreach event. (Courtesy of Jashira M. Torres Pabón)

“My work with Puerto Rico Sea Grant was not only an enlightening experience but also the door that led me to choose my professional path. I had the chance to take part in outreach events that allowed me to participate in community educational activities, where issues like overfishing, coral bleaching, and coastal development hazards were discussed. After that, I came to the mainland where I had the chance to intern with both the American Sportfishing Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, where I had my first hands-on experience working with fisheries management.”

—Jashira M. Torres Pabón, 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalist, North Carolina Sea Grant, North Carolina State University


Kenneth Erickson climbs out of the engine room of a commercial fishing vessel in Louisiana during the Louisiana Sea Grant Graduate Research Scholar’s trip in December of 2018. (Courtesy of Kenneth Erickson)

“In 2016, I received NOAA’s Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship and in 2017 completed my internship at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Hollings Scholarship was fundamental in my transition to a Louisiana Sea Grant-funded, stakeholder-involved, master’s thesis studying southern flounder biology at Louisiana State University. These experiences solidified my goal to contribute to federal marine policy decisions, which inspired me to pursue the 2021 Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship.” 

—Kenneth Erickson, 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalist, Louisiana Sea Grant, Louisiana State University


Marina Cucuzza presents her research at a conference. (Courtesy of Marina Cucuzza)

“I was a Maine Sea Grant scholarship recipient as an undergraduate student at College of the Atlantic in 2015 and as a graduate student at the University of Maine in 2019. As a dual degree master’s student in marine biology and marine policy, my interdisciplinary research focused on building capacity among fishermen, resource managers, and coastal community members in Maine to adapt to environmental and socioeconomic changes. My work at the nexus of people, policy, and the environment inspired me to pursue the Knauss Fellowship to engage in coastal sustainability and stewardship at the federal level.”

—Marina Cucuzza, 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalist, Maine Sea Grant, University of Maine


José E. Serrano Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions


Kayelyn Simmons, a 2021 Knauss Finalist, is conducting habitat photogrammetry mapping while scuba diving. (Courtesy of Kayelyn Simmons)

“As an undergraduate at Hampton University, I was funded by the NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center, which provided me with several summer research experiences for undergraduates, research assistantships, and conference presentation opportunities. More recently, I was awarded the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program Grant in 2018, which supports my dissertation research at North Carolina State University on coral reef soundscapes and habitat complexity in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.”

—Kayelyn Simmons, 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalist, North Carolina Sea Grant, North Carolina State University


Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program


Willem Klajbor stands in front of Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska. Will spent time working in the Coastal Ecology Fisheries Lab at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, during his Hollings scholar experience. (Courtesy of Willem Klajbor)

“My work during Hollings and subsequent graduate studies have inspired me to take a transdisciplinary approach to ocean science, and the Knauss Fellowship is the natural next step for someone like myself who is looking to apply a background in science and research to effective policy and management. I couldn't be more excited about my next chapter as a Knauss Fellow!”

—Will Klajbor, 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalist, Oregon State University, Oregon Sea Grant


Lucila Bloemendaal, a 2021 Knauss Finalist, in the field at Yellowstone National Park. (Courtesy of Lucila Bloemendaal)

“I was always interested in geology and the ocean, but my NOAA Hollings mentor and experience as a Hollings scholar truly solidified that path for me and showed me that it is possible to help communities address coastal resiliency problems by doing community and policy-relevant research. Having grown up in coastal communities and experienced flooding and hurricanes, it was an incredible experience working in a NOAA office and seeing how the science gets translated to working with communities like my own.”

—Lucila Bloemendaal, 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalist, MIT Sea Grant, Boston University


National Estuarine Research Reserve System student experiences


Lu Wang participates in “Meet a Scientist” outreach event. (Courtesy of Lu Wang)

“I am currently working with the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve to identify water quality factors associated with recent eelgrass declines. This experience has been enjoyable and rewarding because of the amount of teamwork and expertise involved, the amount of data that we have access to, and the potential management applications of our results.”

—Lu Wang, 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalist, Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon State University


Office of National Marine Sanctuaries student experiences


Anita Harrington is an avid surfer, and when she is not in the lab, you can find her exploring new surf breaks around Oahu. (Courtesy of Anita Harrington)

“I was fortunate enough to intern at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary after receiving the Hollings Scholarship in 2015. At the sanctuary, I participated in exciting ongoing research and discussions regarding the status of the sanctuary. The inspiring mentors and colleagues I met at the sanctuary helped shape my future career goals and ultimately led me to find and apply for the Knauss Fellowship.”

—Anita Harrington, 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalist, Hawaii Sea Grant, Hawaii Pacific University


Laura Ingulsrud coordinates a shoreline cleanup on Santa Cruz Island as part of her internship with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. (Courtesy of Laura Ingulsrud)

“I spent last summer as a Resource Protection Intern at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in Santa Barbara, California. My experience with NOAA led me to understand the importance of approaching marine policy issues from a variety of perspectives and methods in order to create lasting management strategies, and how the federal government is uniquely positioned to do so. The Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship is the perfect opportunity for me to directly participate in and contribute to national policy processes around important multidisciplinary decisions affecting our marine and coastal resources, and I’m excited and honored to be a 2021 Knauss Finalist.”

—Laura Ingulsrud, 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalist, USC Sea Grant, University of California Santa Barbara


The 32 Knauss finalists who had previously completed other NOAA educational experiences hailed from these 20 state Sea Grant programs. (Sea Grant, copyright:

Opportunities featured in this story



Learn more about student experiences offered by NOAA programs on NOAA Education's student opportunities page. 


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