Thursday, December 22, 2011

We will conserve only what we love

In the end, we will conserve only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught.
-Baba Dioum, Senegalese poet

Through my fellowship, I recently attended a meeting in East Lansing that was hosted by the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. The conference brought together educators and outreach coordinators from across the Great Lakes region and focused on one key theme: Place-based education. Now, I had had an abstract, opaque definition of this term floating around my head for some time, but had not yet gained a firm grip on it. Truth be told, I had not made much of an effort to understand how place-based education differed from typical, run-of-the-mill education, or why it was important. That is, until I moved back to the Great Lakes area after spending a few years on the east coast…but I’ll get to this shortly.

So, what is place-based education (PBE)? PBE “focuses learning within the local community of a student. It provides learners with a path for becoming active citizens and stewards of the environment and place where they live” (Antioch University, Center for Place-based Education). Okay, this makes sense. What may be more of a challenge, and what is embedded in the definition and philosophy of place-based education is this: a sense of place. This is a key element of environmental stewardship and of PBE. By sitting in on talks and exercises with the rest of the meeting participants, I learned that a sense of place stems from ‘place attachment,’ which stems from both ‘place dependence’ and ‘place identity.’ Think of place dependence and place identity as our functional and emotional connections, respectively, to an area where we reside. I also learned that building a sense of place is less often the direct focus of environmental and place-based education than issues like service-learning and community engagement. Now, these surely are important components of an educational model. But, if we (teachers, informal educators, scientists, etc.) can enhance our focus on helping a student to discover his or her own sense of place, we likely will continue to count stewardship among the outcomes in addition to community service and academic excellence. Now we’re on to something!

All of this has me wondering: what are our functional and emotional connections to our places? How often do we take these for granted? And, following Baba Dioum’s conviction, how can we ensure that the youth of today gain a deep enough understanding of and appreciation for their local environment that they will be moved to protect it? These are questions that I have neither all of the answers to, nor the time or space to fully address. I will offer a few thoughts, however. Over the past several years I have had many opportunities to educate students and communities on different aspects of the environment. Much of this has taken place in lower Chesapeake Bay, where there are distinct and obvious connections to both the fresh- and saltwater habitats, as well as to the iconic species that define that region: the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus), saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), and others. These are ingrained in the ideals and lifestyles of local tidewater Virginians. As I observed these connections with an outside perspective, I found myself drawn to the bonds that those communities have with their ecosystem(s) and the layers of history that underlie those relationships. And, throughout this process, I was vaguely aware of a couple of things: 1) the people, landscapes, and ecosystems of tidewater Virginia and Chesapeake Bay were interesting and worthy of study and protection; 2) this was not my place.

Toward the end of my graduate degree in Virginia, I was consumed with thoughts of the Great Lakes – of home. As I mentioned, my return to the region ignited in me not only a desire to more fully grasp the concept of PBE, but also a strong awareness of my own sense of place and how this was instilled in me over time. So, what was it that drew me back? Why do I associate so greatly with these freshwater seas? Partly, it is because I want to study them. The Great Lakes basin is a rich, complex ecosystem that, until abandoning terrestrial ecology to delve into marine science out east, I thought little of exploring in much (professional) detail. Partly, it is because I was bred to love them. These coasts are where I swam for the first time, dug in the sand and mud, discovered my first bivalves, caught my first fish, and rolled down my first (seemingly endless and frighteningly steep) sand dune. It is also because I was taught to love them. I hiked the forests on school field trips, collected and examined countless jars of pond water, and pressed the leaves of native trees into art. We stand in the midst of one endless, freshwater science experiment; an open-ended ecological investigation; a living mural of some of the most picturesque places on the planet. I came back to the Great Lakes because I love them. I love them because I understand them. I understand them because their importance was both educationally and emotionally reinforced.

Living in Michigan for 23 years before moving away, my awareness for my own sense of place was buried, so much a part of me that I did not know how strong the connection was. However, my sense of stewardship for my place is sentient and energetic – a creature of its own. With or without an awareness of why, this has never wavered. Periodically, I question whether or not kids today have a solid appreciation for the lakes, rivers, and forests of this region. Is their sense of place at risk of being underdeveloped or overlooked? I think not. At the PBE Conference, aside from two refreshing days of ‘sharing’ games and arts and crafts, I gained two days worth of perspective on just what it takes – and what our formal and informal educators are doing – to implant in today’s youth the knowledge that this is their place. This is our place. If we stay on the path being paved by my fellow meeting attendees and those who came before them, I happily predict that the youth of today and tomorrow will come to love, understand, connect with – and fight to protect – the Great Lakes ecosystem well into the future.

Happy holidays (wherever your place may be)!
GLC Sea Grant fellow, 2011-2012

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wacky Week! Receiving a Knauss placement in DC.

As mentioned in the previous post, Eric MacMillan and I participated in placement week for the 2012 class of Knauss Marine Policy fellows back in November. It was a hectic but exciting experience and we met tons of great folks associated with the program including past and current fellows. We were so busy that Eric and I only spoke for about 15 minutes the whole time we were in DC!

Being a legislative fellow, the week started Monday with workshops by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) at the Library of Congress. The workshops covered the process of developing legislation, how bills are introduced and voted on, and how the CRS could help us research important topics for our positions. We also had the opportunity to meet with the current class of legislative fellows to learn about their offices and experiences. On Tuesday, each host office gave a presentation to help us better understand the role fellows would have in their office and what we could expect to gain from our experience there. Several of the members of Congress even came and met with us themselves! Positions were available in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, with either member offices or committees within Congress, and varied geographically from Florida to Washington and from Maine to Guam.

On Wednesday the interviews began, and with 14 positions available in 13 offices there were tons of interviews to cram into two days. Some offices also invited fellows back after the initial interview to meet the Congressman or Congresswoman from that office or to attend events with the office staff. By Friday morning I’d been to 22 interview related activities and had the opportunity to chat with a handful of members of Congress! There were many fantastic offices with a lot to offer so making a choice was difficult for almost everyone. There was much discussion at the social event the last night about the impressions everyone had felt from each office.

Friday afternoon the legislative placement process ended with everyone being placed in an office. I was very pleased to receive a placement in the office of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree from the 1st district of Maine. Future updates are in the works!

Kyle, 2012 Knauss Marine Policy Fellow

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Whirlwind of a Week

This past November, I along with the rest of the 2012 class of Knauss Marine Policy fellows, traveled to Washington DC for a week of interviews, happy hours, and tough decisions. The goal of placement week was for each fellow to be matched with a host office, an office in either the executive or legislative branch of the federal government, which he or she would work for during the fellowship year. At the end of placement week, everyone was matched with a host office and we all left with a better idea of how we would be spending the next year.

As an executive fellow, my week began Monday morning with a series of presentations by representatives of each potential executive branch host office (44 to be exact…). The presentations described each office’s responsibilities and gave us an idea of what it would be like to work with them. A broad range of offices were represented ranging from various positions within NOAA, the US Coast Guard, the Navy, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of State. The day was a bit draining but it was very exciting to consider the potential experiences each office could offer.

The next three days consisted of interviews (I signed up for 14, but others signed up for as many as 18!), happy hours, and getting to know the DC area. Interviews were a chance for the fellows to understand what it would be like to work in an office and for the representatives of the host office to get to know the fellows beyond a paper application. In the evening, we were off to happy hour which allowed a bit of relaxation but also presented an opportunity to interact with staff from the host offices on a more personal level. Days were jam-packed but it was a great opportunity to improve interview skills, begin to understand the diverse group of federal agencies responsible for managing our marine and Great Lakes resources, and figure out where each of us might fit in as a fellow. It was also nice to see that many former Knauss fellows have become permanent employees in these offices. Most of my interviews were in Silver Spring, Maryland at NOAA and it seemed the “NOAA Mafia” (Knauss alumni) was well represented in each office.

For the executive fellows, the placement process concluded Friday morning when we all found out where we would be working over the next year. I accepted a position with NOAA Fisheries Service in the Office of Habitat Conservation. Though I will be based in the DC area, much of my work will bring me back to Michigan where I will be working on Great Lakes habitat restoration issues. More to come later!

-Eric, 2012 Knauss Fellow

Monday, November 28, 2011

What IS a Working Waterfront?

Welcome to my first post as a NOAA Coastal Management Fellow! Over the next two years I will periodically post updates, info and anecdotes to give you a taste of my experience as a Coastal Management Fellow.

For those that may not be familiar with this fellowship, the Coastal Management Fellow is a two year fellowship that is funded through NOAA and coastal states. Since 1996, the fellowship has provided fellow candidates and six states with the opportunity to compete for a fellow-state match. I am extremely grateful to have been selected as the fellow for Michigan and to work along side the Michigan Coastal Management Program (CMP) and Michigan Sea Grant.

While attending the fellowship matching workshop last April, one thing I heard over and over was the fellowship’s emphasis on the job learning, professional development, and mentoring. On this note, I am happy to report that already the fellowship has met and even exceeded my expectations. I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t learned something new about the organizations I work with, myself, or the issues I am engaged in. In the three months since I started the fellowship, I’ve had the opportunity to attend numerous conferences and prepare a poster for the recent Port Collaborative Summit. I now participate in the Michigan Climate Coalition and the National Working Waterfront and Waterways Coalition. My mentors/supervisors Emily Finnell (Office of the Great Lakes) and Mark Breederland (Sea Grant) and their colleagues have created a wonderful mentoring environment for me to develop skills, learn about their career paths, as well as build my understanding of the processes and programs within their organizations. We’ve also established an advisory committee of professionals with various areas of expertise to help shape, define, and ensure the value of the fellowship.

Currently, I sit in the Coastal Management Program, which is Office of the Great Lakes and within the Department of Environmental Quality. This means that I work in Constitutional Hall, immersed in the political environment of a capital city. It also means that I have exposure to other programs within the Office of the Great Lakes, as well as other divisions of DEQ. This is something I value more and more. I look forward to working with Mark up in Traverse City next year, where I’ll have the opportunity to work more directly for Sea Grant.

I’d like to move on and share a little about the issues I’ll be working on as a fellow. While much of this work is related, I find it’s easier to explain by breaking it down into a few components:

A) Defining, valuing, and identifying working waterfronts and their vulnerability, B) Implementing and evaluating the Waterfront Smart Growth Readiness Assessment Tool, C) Creating an economic and policy tool kit to help reduce the vulnerability of working waterfronts, and
D) Conducting a business census in a handful of coastal communities.

Overall, these pieces fit together to contribute to what we’ve identified as overall goals of the project, which generally include identifying hot spots (especially vulnerable working waterfronts) that resource managers should target and enabling communities to make informed land use decisions.
So, what is a working waterfront? It’s no accident that I’ve held off answering this question. It is in fact, a big question that I’ll be addressing and readdressing over the next two years. Based on the range of ‘definitions’ for working waterfront that various coastal states have adopted, I like to think of working waterfronts as zones that support water-dependent uses, while also providing for a mix of support industries and other uses that benefit from the presence of the waterfront. These areas have cultural and economic value and are an essential element one of Michigan’s greatest assets, its lakefront. Essentially, we seek to grasp a better understanding of value of working waterfronts in Michigan as well as the loss of these areas. An important component of this is understanding the rate of conversion from water-dependent to non water-dependent uses and activity. Note that in order to do this, terms such as water-dependent, non water-dependent, and water-enhanced need to be first clarified here in Michigan.

To understand the value of working waterfronts, I am collecting social, economic, and environmental information in communities and counties across the state to tease out trends in communities with or without a working waterfront. Later, I will be investigating a sample of communities at much greater detail by examining parcel data, looking at the spatial distribution of businesses that rely on access or adjacency to the coast, and visiting communities to learn more about their working waterfronts. I am currently in the data collection phase and look forward to sharing my findings.

With that, I think I’ll stop for today and invite you back to learn more about working waterfront trends and the Waterfront Smart Growth Readiness Assessment Tool next time!
Until next time,

Liz, NOAA Fellow 2011 - 2013 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Fast Eight Months With The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Eight months into my Knauss Fellowship and the time has flown by! I accepted a position with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) Division of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Conservation at the national office in Ballston Virginia. I work on the National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP) and the National Fish Passage Program (NFPP), which focus on the restoration of aquatic habitat across the nation. I have learned a lot from both programs as they approach restoration from different angles.

The NFPP provides financial resources to the USFWS regions to identify and implement fish barrier removals, primarily dams and undersized or misplaced culverts. At the national office we work to coordinate the regional programs, collect and maintain data on accomplishments and outcomes of the program, gain congressional support for the program, and develop outreach campaigns and materials to build awareness of the problems facing fish in our nation. The NFPP is a top-down approach to restoring America’s rivers. In contrast, NFHP takes a different, bottom-up approach to restoring aquatic habitat. Fish Habitat Partnerships comprised of federal, state, tribal, NGOs and private organizations have formed across the nation either focused on a species or geographic area to restore. These partnerships rely on local knowledge and expertise to coordinate and prioritize restoration efforts. At the national office we coordinate the activities of the USFWS regional staff and oversee the distribution of restoration project funds. We also work with the Board of Directors and its subcommittees, providing support to their efforts to manage the Fish Habitat Partnerships.

One of the greatest parts about the past eight months has been the variety of activities I’ve been able to engage in and the incredible access I’ve had to experienced natural resources professionals and upper leadership throughout the USFWS. I’m currently part of a core team revising the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, the guiding document of the NFHP. This has been a great opportunity to work with well-respected leaders from state and federal agencies, as well as NGOs and academia to influence the strategy of fish habitat restoration across the nation for the next five years. I’ve briefed the highest levels of USFWS management as well as congressional offices on NFHP and NFPP, demonstrating the value and accomplishments of both programs. I was also offered the opportunity to go on a one month detail to the regional office in Portland to gain a better understanding of what the USFWS is doing in the field. While there I traveled all over Oregon and Washington performing fish surveys, reviewing a Bull Trout reintroduction monitoring program, and developing a roll-out strategy for a new web-based decision support system being created to help target aquatic habitat restoration efforts.

I’ve truly enjoyed being a Knauss Fellow. The network of fellows here in the DC area is extensive, strong and well recognized by environmental professionals throughout the nation. We are everywhere, which should help as I look towards finding a full-time job in the next few months. I highly recommend becoming a Knauss Fellow. The experience you gain and the people you meet are invaluable. I’m sure the next few months will fly by too quickly!

- Colin
2011 Knauss Fellow

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gone with the Wind...

It’s hard to believe that the first quarter of my fellowship with the Great Lakes Commission is already behind me! I’ve spent the past three months settling into a groove at the Commission and getting to know all of my coworkers, and am happy to report that GLC staff welcomed me with open arms in June. Aside from quickly acquainting myself with new colleagues and the city of Ann Arbor, I managed to hit the ground running with the fellowship itself. Coming into this position after several years in the scientific/academic world has definitely been challenging. However, I am learning to see the world through a policy lens, and I could not ask for a better opportunity to gain this professional perspective.

It didn’t take long to become immersed in several of the many ongoing projects at the Commission. [A quick aside: I continue to be amazed at the number of interesting and work-intensive projects that GLC staff members take on. Their tireless commitment to creating high-quality products and to strengthening the environmental and economic integrity of the Great Lakes region is truly admirable.] I think it may be less overwhelming for all of us if I stick to one focus area per blog post, so I’ll just give you an extremely hurried and generalized idea of the types of projects I’ve been working on. Here are some of the heavy-hitters:

- Updating the Great Lakes Commission’s online database of legislative priorities (and other odds and ends in the realms of policy and advocacy)
- In partnership with the Michigan Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality, writing and revising a strategic framework for the management and control of invasive Phragmites sp. for the state of Michigan
- Extensive work in the final stages of Phase I – and the initial stages of the Phase II proposal – of the Great Lakes Energy-Water Nexus Initiative. Check it out, it’s pretty cool!

And now for a little more detail…

A large portion of my work during this first quarter has been driven by the ongoing efforts of the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative (GLWC), an organization housed at the Great Lakes Commission. The GLWC is a multi-sector coalition of wind energy stakeholders working to facilitate the sustainable development of wind power in the binational Great Lakes region. I’ve been involved in every GLWC workgroup in some respect (e.g., Economic Development, Offshore Wind, Siting; Permitting, etc.), allowing me to familiarize myself with the many complexities of the broad field that is wind energy. It’s always interesting to study new topics, especially for life-long learners like myself, but let’s get real for a minute –the jargon was slightly irritating. Megawatts, shadow-flicker, JEDI analysis (alright, that one sounds pretty awesome), and on, and on, and on. It became clear to me in my first few days of working with the GLWC that I would potentially spend more fellowship hours with a dictionary and a copy of Wind Power for Dummies than I would spend making any sort of meaningful contribution to the Collaborative over the next year. But, as anyone could have predicted, I had no choice but to catch on – and fast – so I did. In fact, faster than I could have believed, the nuts and bolts of wind energy started to make sense, and soon I was approaching a level of professional comfort. It also doesn’t hurt to have a little fun on the job…

Perhaps the most fun – and most helpful – aspect of my early work with the GLWC was my participation in a public perception survey in partnership with Grand Valley State University. For this project, I traveled with several GLC colleagues to maritime festivals throughout southeast Michigan, where we talked with coastal communities about offshore wind energy development in the Great Lakes. Local participants were asked to examine several photo-simulations of offshore wind farms, and to express, via the ever popular throw-marble-in-bowl technique, their approval, disapproval, or uncertainty about the hypothetical development based on their visual assessment. We wanted to get a general sense of how the average person – that is, the portion of the public with neither a strong commitment to nor repugnance for offshore wind energy – would receive such a project if it was given legs. The results were interesting (a healthy majority in favor of wind energy development regardless of the distance offshore, in case you were wondering), but what was more interesting was the dialogue we were able to foster with the local communities.

Through these interactions, I spoke with people of varying levels of education and experience, and responses were all over the map: concern, anger, benign interest, enthusiastic support, aggression, trepidation, etc. You name it, we talked with someone who felt it. The entire experience was fun, informative, and eye-opening. I realized that a lot of people in Michigan and in the Great Lakes Basin in general, regardless of what side of the fence they happen to be on, want to talk about offshore wind energy. They care. They are informed. If they are not informed, they want to be informed. I believe that public buy-in is an integral factor in the process of offshore wind power getting off the ground in the Great Lakes. There are sizable knowledge gaps that may hinder our ability to take advantage of the tremendous wind resources in this region (and to move toward a more sustainable energy future) if they remain unfilled. The better informed we all are, the better equipped we will be to make smart decisions for our environment and our economy. This particular project may be at a close, but the issue certainly is not. Let’s keep the dialogue going. Ask questions; feed your mind. Get out there and talk wind, people!

Stay tuned for what’s in store for my second quarter as a Sea Grant Fellow!
-Cassie B.
GLC Fellow, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Five New Fellows in 2011!!

Michigan Sea Grant helped five graduate students secure fellowships this year - a record number! This post will provide a brief introduction to each of the new fellows.  Hopefully you will hear from them directly in the coming months.

Michigan native, Cassie Bradley, received the Great Lakes Commission - Sea Grant FellowshipCassie is a graduate of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science where she studied how shoreline development, like rip rap and bulkheads, affect marine life.  During the fellowship, which began in June 2011, Cassie will work on projects related to wind energy, invasive species and water management in the Great Lakes region.  We're excited that this fellowship was able to bring Cassie, and her ecological and wave energy modeling know-how, back to the Great Lakes region.

Liz Durfee and Zach Hecht-Leavitt, both graduates of the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources, were awarded NOAA Coastal Management Fellowships. During this two year fellowship, Liz will be working with Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan’s Coastal Management Program on working waterfronts. Her mission is to use her planning background to study waterfront privatization and help ensure coastal access for a variety of uses, including shipping, commercial fishing and recreation. 

Zach's fellowship assignment is based in Albany, New York where he will use his GIS expertise to support marine spatial planning.  Marine spatial planning is essentially a way of thoughtfully divvying up coastal and offshore areas for fishing, oil and gas production, wildlife sanctuaries and other uses. You can read one of Zach's earlier posts below. Although we will probably see more of Liz during the next two years, we are excited to learn from both NOAA fellows about these hot topics.

Kyle Molton and Eric MacMillan were selected for the Knauss Fellowship and will move to Washington, D.C. in January 2012. Both Kyle and Eric recently completed MS degrees in Michigan State University’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department where they researched Great Lakes fisheries issues. Kyle and Eric have already gotten some press attention!  See: State News and MSU News

Neither will know their exact assignment until after a weeklong interview process in November. Kyle expects to work in a congressional office researching issues, communicating with constituents and helping legislators address marine and Great Lakes concerns. Eric hopes focus on fisheries management and work in a federal agency like the National Marine Fisheries Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Four of the five new fellows joined Michigan Sea Grant for our annual staff retreat in Port Huron.  They successfully survived long discussions about program planning and a fun night of Great Lakes perch and Michigan beer.  We all hope the fellows will stay in touch.

These paid, full-time fellowship positions should help launch each recent graduate into exciting careers as natural resource professionals. We are excited to hear the stories! Stay tuned.

- Lynn, Michigan Sea Grant Fellowship Coordinator

Monday, May 16, 2011

Invasive Phragmites: Wicked

My, how time flies! There are only a few weeks remaining in my fellowship at the Great Lakes Commission, and I’m busy trying to finish up my work in between traveling. Given all the interesting experiences I’ve had since my last post – including the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill to advocate for Great Lakes priorities in February, and planning and conducting a workshop on the Ecological Effects of Wind Energy in Indianapolis in March – it’s hard to select just one topic to write about. But I think I’ll focus on the project that I’ve had the most involvement in during my time here: a partnership with the Michigan DNR, DEQ and other groups to build capacity for the management and control of invasive phragmites.

Non-native phragmites is a tall, aggressive wetland grass that has invaded many coastal areas in the Great Lakes region. This invasive species seriously impacts native biodiversity, habitat quality and human uses such as recreational access and lake views. In response to this issue, the Commission worked with various partners to plan and convene Phragmites Invasions in Michigan: A Symposium to Build Capacity for Management, held March 28-30, 2011. The symposium was attended by over 120 stakeholders representing diverse sectors. I was fortunate to be involved in every stage of planning this event, and was asked to present on the results of a state wide questionnaire we conducted on invasive phragmites management and control.

What really struck me at the symposium was the level of local engagement and commitment to combating invasive phragmites. Ordinary citizens across the state, with day jobs unrelated to natural resources management, are turning their concern about this invasive species into decisive action. These “local champions” are giving countless hours to galvanize their communities, educate their neighbors, and seek resources to control phragmites along their shorelines.

In my Environmental Policy class at graduate school, we learned about “wicked problems” in which stakeholders disagree on the definition of the problem, values are in conflict, and a large community will be required to resolve the issue. I never truly understood the nature of a wicked problem until I became involved in invasive phragmites management in the Great Lakes region. Although most who attended the symposium shared a desire to eradicate invasive phragmites, I was surprised at how frequently participants’ values differed. Some felt strongly that herbicide use was damaging the ecosystem, and that phragmites should not be treated without a clear plan for ecosystem restoration and a strong likelihood of success. Others felt that eradicating invasive phragmites was always justified, even if other invasive plants moved in after treatment. Although most symposium attendees spoke of private landowners willing to cooperate to control phragmites, I was amazed to hear that some landowners want to keep infestations on their property to serve as privacy screens.

There is no simple answer to the invasive phragmites problem, but what I have taken away from this experience is this: The 120 participants at the symposium were not daunted by the immense challenge of invasive phragmites. I believe the commitment and strength of local communities, combined with the resources and knowledge of environmental professionals, can overcome just about any wicked problem.
- Julie, GLC Fellow 2010

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Coastal Management Fellowship matching workshop

It was a busy and occasionally stressful week, but a productive and ultimately successful one. Finalists from across the country came to Charleston, SC to participate in the 2011 NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship matching workshop. In this process, 6 of the 11 finalists were placed with 6 different state coastal management agencies through a partnership between the state and the NOAA Coastal Services Center. Our backgrounds were as varied as the projects themselves, which ranged from climate change policy and adaptation to development of a coastal erosion index.

Zach and his new mentor from NY.

During the first day of the workshop, representatives from each state office presented their project and talked a bit about the pros of living in their particular city. States from colder climes endured some good-natured jabs from South Carolina regarding its superior weather. As if to underscore that point, it was beautiful that week in Charleston. It's a charming town.

During the second day, the tables turned and the finalists gave presentations on their backgrounds. This was the most nerve-wracking part of the process for me. Some of us tailored our presentations to certain projects we knew we were interested in, while others gave a more general overview. I spoke to my background in GIS and coastal mapping, as I thought I'd be a good fit with the two marine spatial planning projects. Hearing about the accomplishments and skills of the other candidates was a humbling experience, and all of us felt honored to be among the group of finalists.

During the third and fourth days we interviewed with our potential hosts to determine if the fit was mutual. Most nights saw the finalists going out to dinner and/or bars as group. Despite the fact that we were "competing", the group bonded quickly and developed a real sense of camaraderie in the face of the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the week. The Coastal Services Center, which acted as a sort of intermediary between the state hosts and finalists, also helped allay our nerves and ensure a smooth process. In the end, I was matched with the state of New York's Division of Coastal Resources. I'll be helping with their offshore spatial planning efforts, and my two-year fellowship will being sometime in August. I think it will be a great fit with a great group of people. Stay tuned for details on that front.  - Zach, CMF 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Year at the U.S. State Department’s Office of Marine Conservation

It is hard to believe that my Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship at the Office of Marine Conservation has already ended. It was a great year in which my knowledge of international fisheries has grown beyond my expectations. Since my last post I have traveled around the world to numerous conferences and meetings as a representative of the U.S. Government. In June I attended a meeting on tuna by-catch in Brisbane, Australia. At this meeting I worked with representatives of Australia to help write the official report of the meeting. In September I traveled to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia to participate in the negotiations for a new Regional Fisheries Management Organization in the North Pacific. At this meeting I not only worked as part of the U.S. delegation but I also worked for the Interim Secretariat documenting the meeting, writing the report and tracking the agreed changes to the draft Convention text.

In October I traveled to Pohnpei, Micronesia to participate in the Technical and Compliance Committee meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. For this meeting I led the U.S. efforts to review applications for cooperating non-member status to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. As lead on this effort I worked with multiple bureaus within the Department of State to analyze and formulate positions on applications before then working to incorporate the thoughts and concerns of other federal agencies as well as stakeholders. I was then able to speak on behalf of the U.S. delegation in relation to the review of these applications at the meeting in Pohnpei. In November I traveled to London, UK as the sole U.S. representative to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission.

In my year at the State Department I not only learned the specific complexities associated with international fisheries but I also learned how policy is developed and implemented at the national and international level. I attained the invaluable skills associated with working as a professional in the international policy field. I am now finding these skills and experiences are giving me new perspective as I move forward to complete my PhD at Michigan State University.  - Maggie, Knauss 2010

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