Monday, December 17, 2012

Becoming a Knauss Fellow at Placement Week

Feel the force.

That was one of the key pieces of advice given to the incoming group of Knauss Marine Policy fellows during placement week earlier this month. For myself and the other executive branch fellows, the week was spent figuring out where we might fit among the dozens of positions that were being offered. It's not easy, given the range of great opportunities in host offices in a variety of federal agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Navy.

At the end of the week, all of the fellows had been placed in host offices; one of the great aspects of the Knauss fellowship program is there are more positions than fellows, so you are really in demand. I was thrilled to accept a position in the Office of Marine Conservation in the U.S. Department of State. It'll be an incredibly exciting opportunity to see how the office helps coordinate and sort out positions among its domestic stakeholders -- including various NOAA offices, industry groups and environmental NGOs -- and then engages in bilateral and multilateral negotiations with foreign counterparts on a range of issues involving living marine resources.

Heading into placement week, I was a little worried that my nontraditional background as a former newspaper reporter might create a disadvantage compared to fellows who have extensive natural science experiences. But the host offices really appreciated the interdisciplinary focus of the program at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, including the chance to participate in research and a team-based master's project.

My time at Michigan made me comfortable in talking with a wide variety of hosts and tailoring my experience to their offices. After we spent Sunday night at an orientation dinner and Monday receiving presentations on the fellowship positions, we signed up to interview for the positions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We were encouraged to interview for at least a dozen positions. I signed up for 16 and spent those days traveling among NOAA offices as well as to hosts in the Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of Energy and U.S. Navy.

The interviews were an amazing chance to talk with people who are doing incredible work and are excited and passionate to talk with you about what they are doing. Although the interviews could be exhausting by the end of the day, they provided a unique window into the ocean policy community in the DC area. It was also exciting to find many former Knauss fellows working in the host offices. In the evening, fellows had an opportunity to talk further with host offices in an informal, happy hour setting.

On Friday morning, we faced some tough decisions when the host offices' rankings of the fellows for each position were unveiled. But the Sea Grant staff who led the placement week process had created a really positive, friendly and supportive environment. I'm looking forward to getting to know my fellow fellows over the next year.

Knauss Marine Policy Fellow
(2/2013 – 2/2014)

Friday, December 14, 2012

A whirl wind tour....

As the blog posts from many of the past Fellows can attest, time flies when you're at the Great Lakes Commission. I am halfway through my fellowship, and in many ways it feels as though I've barely begun. But, looking back at the  places I've gone, people I've met, and all of my accomplishments I realized that the Fellowship has been a wonderful opportunity that has taught me more so much, and really given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of policy and communication. In this post I would like to share a handful of my most memorable experiences and a few of my favorite projects.

The Michigan Sea Grant Staff Retreat--Muskegon, MI

    The Michigan Sea Grant office was kind enough to invite me on their annual staff retreat. I not only got a good look at many of their on-going projects, but I also was invited to go fishing on Lake Michigan! This was an exciting new experience--can you believe that I had never been salmon fishing--that highlighted some of Bill Taylor’s recent work on the Catch and Cook program. The whole trip was a great way to learn about many of the programs going on in Michigan, and I feel that the connections I forged while at the meeting will serve me well as a Fellow and in the next stages of my career. Plus, look at all of those fish! 

Great Lakes Week--Cleveland, OH

In September I went down to Cleveland with many of the Commission staff to Great Lakes Week. Great Lakes Week is a recent effort to group the annual meetings of many Great Lakes organizations together to facilitate communication and networking. While mildly exhausting, I met many of our commissioners and people who are working hard to protect our valuable resources. 

The Great Lakes Wind Collaborative 

About half of my time goes to providing staff support to the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative--a multi-sector coalition of wind energy stakeholders working to facilitate the sustainable development of wind power in the bi-national Great Lakes region. Part of that work included attending their annual meeting in September. This meeting was a great opportunity to network and learn about sustainable alternative energy development in the Great Lakes. I have also written a blog post for the GLWC, check it out! And, one of my biggest projects over the last few months was the planning and implementation of a workshop aimed at investigating the potential impacts of offshore wind on the Great Lakes fishery and other aquatic resources. As part of this we worked to bring several speakers from Europe to Ann Arbor to provide a information and lessons learned from their operational wind farms. This was a great learning experience! As the Fellow I have had a lot of experience with planning meetings, logistics, and facilitating sessions. 

The Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative

     One of my favorite projects is the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative (GLPC)-- a regional partnership established to improve communication and collaboration and lead to more coordinated, efficient and strategic approaches to Phragmites management, restoration and research across the Great Lakes basin.  I've been really involved in launching this project and it has been a great way to use my knowledge of wetland plant ecology and invasive species in combination with the communication skills I've been learning at the Commission. Check out our webpage, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter

Amanda Sweetman
Great Lakes Commission Fellow
(6/2012 – 6/2013)

Friday, December 7, 2012

NOAA Coastal Management Fellow Placement

Wondering where fellows go on to work after their fellowship?
Want to know if Michigan Sea Grant has nominated a candidate that has gone on to be a fellow?
Wondering which states have hosted fellows in the past?

Check out this helpful infographic put together by NOAA to give a little insight on where fellows have been placed.

An Interview with two Knauss Fellows, Kyle and Eric.

Check out what two fellows hailing from Michigan State University have learned from their experiences in Washington D.C. through their Knauss Fellowship.

If you are unsure which branch of government you are interested in working in, read Kyle Molton's answers to gain insight on the legislative branch and Eric MacMillon's point of view from the executive branch.

The interview is on page 11 of this issue of Spotlight (a MSU graduate student outreach magazine).

                                   Kyle Molton
Eric MacMillon

Friday, November 30, 2012

Apply Now!

Michigan Sea Grant is currently recruiting applicants for several fellowship programs. We welcome applications from graduate and doctoral students in their final year of studies with a wide range of backgrounds (natural science, policy, law) and a strong interest in Great Lake, coastal or marine issues. Each program includes a decent salary, moving expenses, benefits, and enormous career building opportunities!

Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship.  This one-year program matches graduate students with hosts in the legislative or executive branches or other institutions in Washington, DC. Fellows focus on policy projects related to ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. LINK
Application deadline: February 15, 2013  Start date: February 2014

NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship.  Fellows work for two years with agency hosts around the U.S. in state coastal zone management programs. Projects will address coastal resource management issues such as climate change, coastal hazards, or land use planning.  LINK
Application deadline: January 25, 2013   Start date: August 2013

Great Lakes Commission–Sea Grant Fellowship. This one-year fellowship is based at the Great Lakes Commission, a binational, compact agency, in Ann Arbor. The Commission works to advance the environmental quality and sustainable economic development of the Great Lakes region. Fellows contribute to research coordination and policy analysis activities.  LINK
Application deadline: February 1, 2013  Start date: June 2013

We are switching to an online application process this year. Check back in late December on our website for the online application.

For more information, visit the Michigan Sea Grant website or contact Aly Andrews at

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Silver Spring and the Land of the Scots

I’m almost through the fourth month of my Knauss Fellowship working for NOAA’s Restoration Center (RC) in Silver Spring, Maryland.  The RC invests funding and technical expertise in habitat restoration projects throughout the country.  I have a fisheries management background but was drawn to the RC because the program produces tangible results, improving our coastal, marine, and Great Lakes habitats. 

Much of my work focuses on Great Lakes habitat restoration issues.  It may seem daunting to try and restore the Great Lakes given all of the problems Great Lakes ecosystems face, but the RC and their partners (e.g., non-profits, state and local agencies) are making great progress to remove fish passage barriers, construct in-stream fish habitat, and stabilize stream banks and coastlines.  In addition to my Great Lakes responsibilities, my role in the RC has recently expanded to include some time supporting the Community-based Restoration Program (CRP).  The CRP implements habitat restoration projects nationwide but much of my time has been spent working on salmon and trout issues in the Pacific Northwest, California, and Alaska.  The work is bringing me back to where I grew up and where I first got my feet wet working in the natural resources.  Throughout my time, I’ve gained a lot of insight into the federal grants process and also a great deal of experience working with our project partners. 

I’ve also been spending a bit of time learning a software package called IMPLAN.  Ever hear a politician say something like “this will create X number of jobs and have X impact on the local economy?”  Often times, those numbers come from analysis using IMPLAN.  We will be using the software to quantify the economic benefits of NOAA funded habitat restoration projects in the Great Lakes and across the country.  This type of information helps a lot when we are trying to justify funding for future restoration work whether we’re talking to NOAA leadership, Congress, or the public.  This is definitely one of those things I never thought I would be doing when I went to grad school for a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife, but it’s a good tool going forward. 

Now on to one of the best perks of the Knauss fellowship - the travel budget.  The month of May started with a trip to Ohio to visit some Great Lakes Restoration Initiative habitat restoration sites and meet with some of our project partners.  I then spent one night back in DC and it was off to Scotland!  I attended and presented my Master’s research at the World Fisheries Congress in Edinburgh.  This was something I had been looking forward to for some time and the Knauss fellowship made it happen.    The conference was a great experience and broadened my perspective on fisheries management and policy.  In addition to the conference I was also able to stand on the 18th hole bridge at St. Andrews, try much of the local food and drink, hang out with some Scottish Highland cattle, and visit with the chief of the MacMillan clan! That last one probably would not be too interesting to most but I was pretty excited about it.

I’m now settling back into things here in Silver Spring and I’m excited to see what lies ahead.  More to come later on. 

Eric MacMillan
2012 Knauss Fellow

Hello from Lansing!

Hello again from Lansing!

The past 8 months since I started my fellowship with the Coastal Management Program (CMP) and Michigan Sea Grant have been busy! I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to get involved in number of projects with both Sea Grant and CMP staff, attend conferences and workshops, and meet some great people. I am making good progress on my investigation of working waterfronts and am continuously learning. I have the benefit of great mentors and an insightful advisory committee who have really helped to shape my fellowship and this working waterfront project into something meaningful.

A few working waterfront project updates:

While I’ve wrapped up a lot of the data collection I was working on, I find that there is always more to dig up on some of the issues - such as ports, jobs, tourism, industry, dredging, and coastal planning – that relate to and define working waterfronts.

Port Huron Lightship

I’ve started working case studies of a handful of coastal communities to get a better understanding of maritime amenities, waterfront planning, land use, and the geographic distribution of both water and non-water dependent businesses and uses within the Coastal Zone Boundary. It is my hope that this research and my conversations with these communities will help us to better identify some common and unique challenges working waterfronts across the state face, as well as share best practices for working waterfront protection.  

My Sea Grant supervisor Mark Breederland and I continue to participate in the National Working Waterfront Network. Developing case studies and learning more about national trends, issues, and strategies for protecting working waterfronts has helped me to put my research here in Michigan’s in perspective. It’s also been a great learning experience.

Travel and professional development opportunities have been great!

• In March first and second year fellows returned to Charleston, SC for a week to share experiences, participate in professional development sessions, and visit a local preserve. The fellows’ conference was a great experience. I especially appreciated the opportunity to learn about the second year fellows’ experiences and hear how the other 5 fellows in my cohort were doing. I was also excited to see alligators.

• In April I went to the Land and Prosperity Summit held by Michigan State University’s Land Policy Institute. It was one of the best one-day conferences I’ve attended. There was a lot of focus on place making and sense of place, which closely tied to working waterfronts in coastal communities.

OGL staff at Oval Beach in Saugatuck

• In May, I joined the Office of the Great Lakes (OGL) for a day of In-Service Training in Saugatuck, MI. We toured the beautiful Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, a Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) project, enjoyed a walk on the beach, and listened to a pannel discussion on issues and opportunities related to tourism, infrastructure, and the harbor and waterways in Douglas and Saugatuck.

Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area

• Last week I was in Traverse City for a Port Collaborative and Lighthouse Conference. The conference was a great chance to have some face-to-face conversations, meet new partners, and learn from leaders about what’s going well and what needs improvement in their communities.

• In a couple days, the NOAA Coastal Management Fellows head to Miami for The Coastal Society Conference. First year fellows will be sharing our work during a poster session. I expect it will be a great conference.

It’s going to be a busy summer of site visits and I am looking forward to getting out and learning more about Michigan’s coastal communities!

Thanks for checking in,
Liz Durfee
NOAA Coastal Management Fellow
(8/2011 – 8/2013)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Decisions, decisions...

Just a quick musing on my future in this penultimate post as the 2011-2012 GLC fellow…

As I’ve started my final quarter and have begun to consider options for the next phase(s) of my life/career, I’ve found myself trying to decide whether policy or science is a better fit for me.  My time at the GLC has been my first formal exposure to policy work, and I have gained an incredible amount of information and experience thus far.   Moreover, I have been able to weave my knowledge of scientific processes, nuances, and argot into the work that I do here.  All in all, it has been a refreshing blend of the two realms.  However, the more thought and consideration I devote to the decision, the more I feel that science – or a position with a slightly heavier emphasis on research – is the right fit for me.  And, as one of my favorite aspects of being a biologist is finding opportunities for community outreach and education, my position at the GLC as only helped to further hone my skills in this regard!  In the last ten months, I have interacted with countless community members, stakeholders, researchers, natural resource managers, and politicians.  Each group has challenged me to exercise different muscles, to practice and perfect a different set of communication skills.  I now have a better understanding of how science is used to solve real-world problems, how to communicate technical information to policy makers and other stakeholders clearly, concisely, and effectively.  Perhaps most importantly – and what I’d really hoped to gain from this fellowship – I was able to see the bridge (or sometimes lack thereof) between the research and policy spheres from a new perspective.  There is a pipeline between research and policy that at times runs woefully dry.  Laws and regulations, subject to the surging tide of public and political will, may be passed into action with or without consideration of the best possible science.  Sure, environmental impact assessments and the like are mandated in the process of developing new regulations.  But what about the other research initiatives being conducted in the same field?  What do those objectives and methods reveal that can add to what we hope is an ever-growing knowledge base on all things Great Lakes?  My point is that in the sometimes hurried, compressed manner that politics operates, innovative and enlightening science may be easily overlooked.  The linkages among researchers, resource managers, facilitators, and policy makers are not always clear or even necessary.  It is impressive, however, how much progress stands to be made when we (<<puts on scientist hat>>) make the effort to partner with facilitating agencies like the Great Lakes Commission, that can quickly, effectively, and powerfully disseminate technical results with elevated relevance.

Sorry, did I say a quick musing?  I guess I meant a moderate rambling.  Take home message?  I have seen the gap from both sides now (cue Joni Mitchell…).  I have new knowledge and skills that will allow me to continue to work to keep the pipeline flowing between science and policy.  Research, in all its tantalizing muddiness, is certainly pulling me back in its direction.  But with my enhanced communication and facilitation skills gained at the GLC, who knows where I’ll end up? I can see this morphing into some personal musings about what I still keep on the table for what I want to be when I “grow up” (Broadway star, roadside veggie merchant in Tibet, dinosaur-specific children’s lit. illustrator, professional badminton player, etc.), but that could easily get out of hand.  Anyway, stay tuned for a final update at the end of May!

The cover illustration of the Book Le Vingtieme Siecle by Albert Robida, depicts futuristic means of transport flying above a city.
© Leonard de Selva / Corbis
Read more:
-Cassie Bradley
Great Lakes Commission Fellow
(6/2011 – 6/2012)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where the wild things are

Well, our internet access filter has a thing against blogs and is only giving me a few minutes to post this, so I'd better make it snappy!

I've definitely been getting my feet wet over here at the New York State Coastal Management Program. We're trying to come up with an offshore spatial plan for state and, to some extent, federal waters from Long Island out to the continental shelf. The idea is to plan for and anticipate competing uses, such as the siting of renewable energy and habitat protection. Part of the puzzle is figuring out where important biological, commercial, and recreational resources are located, so that development can proceed in a way that minimizes impact to them.

To that end, I've been doing some ecological modeling. The idea is to use
information about the relationship between a species and certain environmental factors (like
temperature and food) at locations where that species has been observed or sampled to predict where that species might be in areas we haven't surveyed. An important part of this work is quantifying and communicating the error associated with these predictions, so that managers can use the results in an informed way. It's like "filling in the gaps" in the data. It's also possible to interpolate between sampled locations without the information provided by environmental factors, but these predictions may have higher error. It's been tricky wrapping my head around the statistics involved but a great learning opportunity, and my former colleagues at the NOAA Biogeography Branch have been very helpful in this regard.

I've also been drafting descriptions of certain offshore habitats. These help to highlight the importance and uniqueness of many of New York's coastal resources. For example, I had no idea there were submarine canyons who size rivals those on land! They're home to all sorts of interesting creatures. It's been a good experience learning how to write in a way that honors the science but uses clear, everyday language. My supervisors Jeff and Greg have given me lots of helpful feedback.

More later,


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Apply Now for 2012 or 2013!

Attention All Graduate and Professional Students!

Are you interested in Great Lakes or marine issues? Are you looking for a career building opportunity? Do you want to apply your academic training in ecology, natural resources, policy, or law to real world issues? If so, consider one of Sea Grant’s paid fellowship programs for graduate students.

Here are a few resources to get you started:
Knauss Fellowship Website
Great Lakes Commission Fellowship Website
Coastal Management Fellowship Website

After reading this blog, consider contacting the current fellows. See: contact information.

For all three fellowships, application materials must be submitted to Michigan Sea Grant by the deadlines in late January or mid February. We just created a new webpage with application tips and answers to common questions. See: Application Guide.

Feel free to contact me with any questions!
- Lynn Vaccaro, Michigan Sea Grant