Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Great Lakes Day in Washington, DC, 2013

As you can see from the grin on my face, there's nothing like a little good weather and a trip to the Capitol to instill a sense of civic pride. It helps that just prior to snapping this picture I had been in meetings with Congressional staffers discussing the merits of our region, advocating for the continuation of certain programs (e.g., the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative), and talking about regional priorities and the need for support on various legislation. All in all, I felt a connection to the political process that I had never experienced before. I've been to DC before, and I dutifully vote in the majority of elections. However, the experience I had during the 2013 Great Lakes Day in Washington is one that will stick with me in ways that those other experiences have not.

So what is Great Lakes Day and why did it leave such a lasting impression?  The official answer as found on the Great Lakes Commission website: "Great Lakes Day is an annual event hosted by the Great Lakes Commission and the Northeast-Midwest Institute to convey a unified message to Congress expressing the Great Lakes region's priorities for legislation and appropriations to protect our environment and support our economy." Don't get me wrong, Great Lakes Day is all of these things. But, it is also a chance to explore the city, attend a reception at the Canadian embassy, help with a congressional breakfast at which you meet Sen. Levin(!), highlight the results of all of the hard work the organization has been doing to generate regional consensus among a broad array of stakeholders, and show off some of the products that you (the Fellow) have been working on so diligently (example: http://www.glc.org/restore/glrimap/). My week in DC will be one of the brightest moments of my fellowship, and is yet another reason to be incredibly grateful to my mentors and friends at both the Commission and at Sea Grant.

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

Sunday, May 26, 2013

NOAA Matching, Pineapples, and Road Trips

I’m ecstatic to be part of the 2013-2015 class of NOAA Coastal Management Fellows! I returned from the Matching Workshop a couple weeks ago—an exhausting but equally rewarding 5-day event. The 11 fellowship candidates spent the week in Charleston, SC getting to know each other, the State representatives, and the NOAA staff that administer the program.

What an incredible bunch of individuals! Six state coastal programs were seeking fellows to work on specific projects. Each State representative described the project they were promoting, after which, the fellow candidates gave personal presentations about their experiences. We spent the next couple days interviewing with the states whose projects most interested us. And finally came the matching process: six candidates were paired with the six states. At first, I thought the whole process would be a bit like a reality TV show, but the NOAA Coastal Services Center did a fantastic job making the week enjoyable and valuable for everyone. We all made some great friends, and I learned a lot about the different coastal challenges facing different parts of the country. In addition to the presenting and interviewing, we ate great food, hung out at the beach, and explored the wonders of downtown Charleston. If you’re unfamiliar with the origins of pineapple upside down cake, you can take a tour of the city to find out!

I begin working with the New Hampshire Coastal Program in Portsmouth, NH in August 2013, where I’ll help establish a GIS-based decision-support framework to improve spatial planning for New Hampshire’s estuaries and use the Natural Capital Project’s InVEST models to inform priority restoration and management issues in the Great Bay Estuary. I’m pretty excited.

But before I get started in NH, I have another adventure ahead of me. Along with a fellow recent University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment alumna, Allie Goldstein, I am embarking on a 3-month road trip around the U.S. to find and share stories about small towns and cities implementing technologies that help them adapt to the impacts of climate change. It’s going to be a really incredible journey, and I hope that you will follow along virtually! You can watch our launch video and read our stories at www.adaptationstories.com. Be sure to ‘follow the trip via email’ to learn about new stories. And follow us on twitter @kirstenandallie.


Kirsten Howard
NOAA Coastal Management Fellow
(8/2013 – 8/2015)