The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant) is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2024 class of the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program. The 85 early-career professionals selected will be placed in federal government offices throughout Washington, D.C., and join the over 1,600 individuals who have participated in the program since its inception in 1979.
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By: Spring Gaines. Recently, I had the unique opportunity to take a winding tour of one of the most symbolic sites in Washington, D.C.—The Capitol Dome. While climbing the almost 300 steps leading up to an eye-level view of Brumidi and Cox’s work with the Rotunda frieze, the Apotheosis of George Washington and beyond, I was reminded of something I told my best friend when she asked what it is like as a Gulf Coast girl walking around this city, “It’s not the distance; it’s the incline.”
By: Eleanor Pierel. Upon entering the Knauss Fellowship, I was not sure where I would fall on the optimism scale by the end. You see, as the Climate Policy Fellow, my days revolve around climate change policy and action from the local to international scale. Yet, many of the conversations, meetings and trips throughout my fellowship had a theme of optimism and motivation in the face of climate change…
By: Michelle Nguyen. I stand there in the Hawk’s Nest launch viewing area right outside of Vandenberg Space Force Base near Lompoc, CA, watching as NOAA’s JPSS-2 satellite, atop an Atlas V rocket, successfully joins its Joint Polar Satellite System comrades in orbit. While my eyes are trained on the ascending rocket, I can’t help but think “How did I, an invertebrate physiologist by training, end up at a satellite launch?!”
As part of the Knauss Fellowship, fellows have the opportunity to engage in professional development and travel related to their placements. This summer, a group of fellows traveled to Lisbon, Portugal, for the United Nations Ocean Conference. Continue reading to learn about their unique experiences.
By: Kate Shlepr. Change invites uncertainty and therefore risk. I feel the weight and exhilaration of this reality as I sit to reflect on events from the past six months, both in my personal life and in our world. For one, it strikes me that I am (now) an openly queer person writing from my desk in a Congressional office two generations after the Stonewall riots; if those aren’t evidence of change, what is?
By: Nicholas Anderson. I work at the NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation in support of one of the agency’s missions, to ensure our nation has sustainable fisheries and recover threatened and endangered species by promoting fish passage at hydropower dams. I visited two hydropower dams in May 2021 to see how at a local level our program provides guidance to the different parties involved in hydropower and fish passage planning.
By: Megan McKeown. Turn on any of today’s news outlets and it’s easy to believe bipartisanship is dead. But after almost a year of witnessing how the “sausage gets made” on Capitol Hill, I can tell you that there are pockets of Congress where bipartisanship is still alive.
By: Marina Cucuzza. In my work on climate and fisheries issues at the national scale as a Knauss fellow, I am often reminded of the lessons learned from years working with fishers and fishing communities in Maine and in other coastal places. During my Knauss fellowship, I have been able to see firsthand how public input is critical in shaping policy and decision-making.
By: Elle Wibisono. As an Indonesian fishery scientist, I had no previous knowledge of or experience with the inner workings of the U.S. Congress. Now, as a “leg” fellow, I’ve learned I need to be prepared to respond to virtually anything. Here is a glimpse of a calm day in the life of a legislative fellow.
By: Clea Harrelson. “Who is that?” was a constant refrain in my head for the first few months of my Knauss fellowship. The feeling of being overwhelmed that comes with the beginning of any new job is often described as a “crush”, but for me, it was more accurately a sensation of being untethered, floating in interagency space. Who are all these people, what do they do, and how do they relate to my work?
By: Jessie Straub. By applying my coastal resilience skills and knowledge during my Knauss Fellowship, I knew I could become a “force” for good. As part of an informal working group for 2020 Knauss fellows, FORCE (Fellows for Organized Coastal Efforts), I have the chance to do just that.
By: Victoria Luu. A quick Google search reveals no shortage of articles and blog posts describing 2020 as what, at the end of 2019, many hoped and believed would be a “Super Year” for the ocean. However, with the travel bans and limits on in-person gatherings imposed in the wake of COVID-19, most of the international meetings have been postponed. Where does that leave someone working in NOAA’s Office of International Affairs?
By: Grace Roskar. From a summer internship in North Carolina to policy work in D.C., graduate school in Florida, and a research cruise in the Southeast, the variety of experiences I had and the people I met over the years are what influenced my journey to the fellowship.
By: Meredith Richardson. Knauss Fellows have the unique opportunity to follow their own interests during their fellowship year, rather than exact roles laid out in a job description. It’s this flexibility that allows fellows to serve as connectors between departments and agencies, identifying areas for improvement and increasing efficiency.
By: Alexandra Skrivanek. NOAA’s mission of science, service and stewardship is vast in scope, spanning the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean. I can personally attest to this because, in the first 24 hours of traveling with RDML Gallaudet in HawaiÊ»i at the start of my fellowship year, we covered most of this breadth.
By: Kat Montgomery. Did you know that most of the salmon you see in grocery stores and restaurants comes from a fish farm? In fact, aquaculture, which is the farming of fish, shellfish and seaweed in fresh or saltwater, produces about half of the world’s seafood supply. I became interested in aquaculture sort of by accident, and that newfound interest led me to my current position as a Legislative Knauss Fellow.
By: Christine Bassett. Given my experience thinking about past climate and oceans, it might seem peculiar for me, a geoscientist, to spend my Knauss Fellowship year in the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Office of Observations. Read about how my work at the NWS gives me the opportunity to bring my focus on past human-climate interactions into the present and future.
By: Kirsten Rhude. Even though my work as a Knauss Fellow makes me feel connected to coastal communities, lately I’ve been missing my time spent in nature. While I may not have realized it initially, my sense of stewardship and love of the natural world, which made me so passionate about becoming a Knauss fellow, have deep connections to home and a sense of place. For me, home is the Great Lakes.
By: Amanda Dwyer. One of the Knauss Fellowship’s most exciting opportunities is to explore areas of marine science that are outside your academic field of expertise. With my placement at the NOAA Marine Debris Program, I am working to support NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) Zero Waste Initiative to promote zero waste efforts in the organization’s daily operations and events.
By: Connor Fagan. In August of 2005, the winds and waves of Hurricane Katrina smashed through the city of New Orleans. A middle-schooler at the time, my life, along with millions of others, as a New Orleanian would never be the same. Since then, I have directed my studies and career towards environmental policy as a result of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters in the Gulf of Mexico.
August 29th, 2005 is a day that I will never forget. My mother and I had evacuated our New Orleans home several days earlier, and we sat glued to the television, transfixed by the images of Hurricane Katrina inundating our city. In the months that followed, we scoured Google Maps, simply to see if our house still stood. When we finally returned home ten months later, I saw how easily entire ecosystems can be disrupted and destroyed by natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina left a legacy of destruction in its wake, but watching my city recover from the devastation gave me an intimate perspective on the issues associated with living in a coastal environment and compelled me to pursue a career in coastal resiliency.
By Bianca Prohaska. 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! Read about my experiences in India, Ireland, Hawai’i, France, Malaysia, and more!
By Madi Harris
Speed-walking down 5th Avenue in my suit while fighting early Manhattan summer humidity was not the morning I had planned for myself. Expecting the early Amtrak train from D.C. to New York to be on schedule may have been my own naivety, but I now found myself tempting a late arrival for my very first meeting at the United Nations (UN).
By Lisa Kim
I never expected my Knauss Fellowship to land me in South Korea. Yet, there I was, full of anxious excitement on a bumpy car ride in the narrow streets of the country I was born in. I looked in the rear view mirror to make sure my hair was neat and my button down shirt was straight. I got out of the car, and saw an old woman, tears in her eyes. “My grandbaby!” she cried. My grandmother stumbled over with her cane to hold me in a warm and familiar embrace. The last time I saw her, 26 years ago, she had black tightly permed hair and a little more fat on her skin.
My position as the Knauss Policy Fellow working on the GEO Blue Planet Initiative has required organization, flexibility, creativity, teamwork, and comfort with (lots) of learning on the job. The thing above all that has helped me to navigate these challenges is my role as a Dungeon Master (abbreviated as DM) in Dungeons and Dragons. I thought it would be fun to share with current and future fellows five different ways in which being a DM has helped me in my role as a Knauss Fellow and as a member of GEO Blue Planet.
By Roxanne J Carini
In graduate school, I would quip that I studied everything about the ocean, except what lived there! So, imagine my surprise when I wound up at the Marine Mammal Commission for my year-long Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship.
Falling in love with the world of marine mammals didn’t take long! But, not for the reasons you may think.
By: Alicia Wilson
While spending my first field season of graduate school on the coastal barrier islands of Georgia, I thought I was lucky to witness a record number of loggerhead sea turtle nests for the state. Three years later, as I watch from my fellowship in D.C., I am even more amazed. Loggerhead sea turtle ladies are kicking butt in Georgia. They are poised to break all nesting records in the state, with an anticipated final nest count of over 4,000! Just 15 years ago, the count hovered around 400 nests total for the entire state.
By Liz Berg
As a Congressional and Legislative Affairs Fellow with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), I act as a liaison between the FWS and Congress. One of the issue areas I work on is the conservation of pollinators, including the monarch butterfly. I have responded to inquiries from staff who work for Senators, House Representatives, and Congressional committees, including the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and House Natural Resources Committees. I have also prepared outreach materials, and helped coordinate a Congressional briefing – all concerning the monarch butterfly.
By: Andie Chan. I pressed my SCUBA mask to my face as I back rolled off a small catamaran into the warm tropical waters of the Florida Keys. It was my first time SCUBA diving for my Ph.D. research, and I was eager to prove myself. I was starting a project on increasing our understanding of the reproduction and population sizes of pillar corals using genetic techniques, so I needed to collect small pieces of tissue from multiple colonies to bring back to the lab at Penn State. Fortunately, pillar corals at this dive site in Key Largo were conspicuous and prevalent. I swam along a 60 meter stretch of upward-reaching colonies that looked almost furry with their tentacles moving in the current. With great care, I took a small amount of tissue from several colonies to minimize wounding these animals – many of which were likely hundreds of years old.
Growing up as an army kid, home was just wherever the military decided to stick my family, never a place I lived. But, as I was walking home from my third day as a Hollings Scholar at NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) in Pearl Harbor, HI, it hit me that this strange new place actually “felt” like home, it was something deep in my bones. Now, I am not typically one for signs from the heavens or one to put much stock in ‘feelings’, but I can tell you that this moment was life altering and set me on a path to one day make it back there.
For the past five years, my typical field day was spent waist deep in marsh mud wielding the tools I needed for success: sunscreen, bug spray (lots of it), and a GPS. My work day as an environmental scientist and salt marsh ecologist is a very different world from the one I recently jumped into as a Knauss Fellow in NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, the nation’s nautical chart makers.
As the air horn blew, I couldn’t help but laugh. Even NBC News caught me laughing. During a committee hearing, Representative Cunningham (D-SC) wanted to illustrate that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic ocean would be as loud and disruptive to the endangered North Atlantic right whale as his air horn blast was to the hearing.