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My Knauss Story: A day in the life of a Congressional staffer

Published on Thursday, May 2, 2019

My Knauss Story: A day in the life of a Congressional staffer

By: Michelle Chow
Knauss Fellow (Washington Sea Grant)
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources 
Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife


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.

NBC News caught my laugh as Respresentative Cunningham (D-SC) blew an airhorn during a hearing

If you told me two years ago that I would be working for the U.S. House of Representatives, listening to representatives blasting air horns or to an all-female panel (#WomenWOW) talk about how climate change is already impacting lives, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was in the middle of my graduate work studying the impacts of stormwater pollution on Pacific salmon and I couldn’t imagine doing anything that wasn’t science.

This time last year I was working on my graduate research that investigated the effect of stormwater pollution on Pacific Salmon

Yet here I am, in my Knauss fellowship, no longer doing the science, but using science every single day to help inform federal policy decisions. Each day on the committee looks a little different. Some days I meet with stakeholders and prepare statements, other days I am shoulder-deep in scientific literature trying to understand some of the intricacies of a certain topic.

As a Congressional staffer for the Committee on Natural Resources, I often attend hearings

Working as a Congressional staffer for the Committee on Natural Resources has given me the opportunity to expand my expertise and work on a wider range of topic areas than I did before. So far I’ve learned about the impacts of climate change on regional fisheries management, the complexities and importance of the Endangered Species Act, and how federal legislation truly impacts communities on the ground.


I don’t know if I’ll end up staying on the Hill, but so far it’s been an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.


Watch me laughing at our hearing and learn more about the endangered North Atlantic right whales

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