Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Updates from a 2010 Knauss Fellow

I started the Knauss fellowship last February, and six months have never gone by so fast. I’ve been working in the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) Office of Science and Technology, focusing on habitat science.

It’s a bit staggering to sum up even six months of experiences in such a fast-paced environment, but suffice it to say that they’ve been diverse, challenging, and exciting. A freshwater ecologist by training, albeit with an interest in habitat, I was nervous that my background may not translate well to the marine environment. My first few weeks were slow, as I was getting up to speed with projects and acronyms. Feeling like I needed a chance to jump into something and contribute, I volunteered late one Friday afternoon to put together an abstract for an upcoming conference. I was in the office well after everyone else left that day, working with a leading habitat scientist in La Jolla, CA on the abstract, and we ended up getting it accepted. Lesson learned: there's plenty of work here that needs to be done and the experience is here for the taking. It seems like since that day, I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath in the office. It's definitely been transition from the academic and field environment to the office, but the last six months have flown by as I’ve contributed to a number of major efforts in our office.

I’ve worked on three major assignments in our office thus far: the National Habitat Assessment Workshop (NHAW), the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP) Coastal Assessment, and the NMFS Science Board. The NHAW was held jointly with a stock assessment workshop in an effort to improve communication, science, and management with regard to habitat. The ~200 person workshop was in St. Petersburg, FL, and I was part of a small team in charge of planning, executing, and following through with recommendations generated at the workshop. I’ve also been fortunate to participate in some research, through the NFHAP coastal assessment. NFHAP is a network of habitat partnerships across the country, and they have requested a national assessment of the nation’s coastal waters. My experience with GIS and habitat science as well as connections I made at SNRE have allowed me to step immediately into the research team as a peer amongst some of NMFS’ best scientists. It’s been exciting to contribute to the assessment, an effort that featured travel to Boulder, CO and potentially to Galveston, TX and Pittsburgh, PA. Finally, a coworker and I have served as the Executive Secretaries for the NMFS Science Board. While planning, executing, and following through on actions from these quarterly meetings, I’ve had the opportunity to witness and sometimes contribute to very high-level science. Probably the most interesting experience on the Science Board was watching discussions during the May 4-6 meeting, which occurred in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
While the work has been great, I've also enjoyed the travel and life in DC. I've already been to St. Petersburg, FL and Boulder, CO for work and expect to go to La Jolla, CA, Seattle, WA and Galveston, TX along with two other work trips. The young and vibrant atmosphere in DC has been entertaining when I do actually have a chance to relax- there's plenty of music, sports leagues, and I was surprised to find a number of nearby parks for outdoors activities. Another highlight has been the friends I've made within the fellowship class, many of whom I expect to keep in touch with long after my time here is through. In sum, the fellowship has been a blur thus far, but between the chance to put my education to work and the experiences I've gained, I've definitely enjoyed being where the action is.
- Maggie, Knauss 2010