Thursday, January 6, 2011

Looking Back on 2010

As I welcome in the New Year I can’t help but look back at the blur that was 2010 with a little amazement. Since my last post I’ve gotten to travel to Pittsburgh, Seattle, San Diego, Virginia Beach, and Galveston on work trips. In retrospect a frequent flier program might have been a good idea. While in Galveston I was able to arrange a visit to NOAA's "turtle barn," which houses a sea turtle hatchery for recovering Gulf sea turtles. The picture here is me with a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle, the most endangered sea turtle in the world.

My office has obviously been excellent in terms of travel, but the important thing is that I’ve truly contributed to our efforts and am building experiences and connections for myself. I attended the American Fisheries Society and Restore America’s Estuaries Conferences this fall, presenting the results of the 2010 National Fish Habitat Action Plan Coastal Assessment that my coworkers and I produced. While I do a number of things in my office, my goal was to produce at least one big project that I could really hang my hat on, and the Coastal Assessment was just that. The experience has kept me connected to habitat science and built connections amongst NOAA, Fish and Wildlife, and multiple DNR agencies. We’re expecting to publish these results, and hope for one or potentially two publications in addition to the stakeholder-focused National Fish Habitat Assessment and an agency/science focused technical memoranda.

While on travel to Seattle I met with members of the NFHAP team, was able to get some first-hand fieldwork in the region’s estuaries, and even caught a wild, native steelhead on the Methow River.
One of my goals coming to DC was to build program management and budget planning experience. I’ve gotten plenty of that, as I’ve been putting together budget initiatives for NMFS’ newly expanding habitat science program. We’ve put forward a request for $3 M per year dedicated to improving habitat science in support of fisheries management, and it seems that despite budgetary constraints there may be funding for this effort. The legwork and experience putting an initiative like this together have given me confidence and valuable insight into how to successfully navigate the budget process in government.

I’ve been fortunate in that it my office has offered me a position to continue my current work as a contractor when my fellowship ends. My role will be to continue with the projects I've worked during my fellowship: Habitat Science, NFHAP, and NMFS Science Board. I’ve loved the people that I work with, the job that I’m doing, and the friends that I’ve made throughout DC. The experiences I’ve had and the doors that introducing yourself as a Knauss fellow open in DC have made me very glad to have participated in the fellowship. I’d highly recommend the fellowship for anyone wanting to build skills in the science/management/policy arena or relationships in DC. FYI not all fellows work for NOAA, there are Knauss fellows in EPA, Navy, Department of Transportation, BOEMRE and NSF too (those were just a few from my class).    -  Joe, Knauss 2010