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

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