Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A great year as a Knauss Fellow

What a year it’s been!  With my fellowship coming to an end this month, I can say that the Knauss Fellowship exceeded all of my expectations.

It was a busy year getting to know the DC area and my fellow fellows, and getting immersed in the ocean community here.  I also got to meet an astronaut – Kathy Sullivan (see photo), who leads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and became the first American woman to walk in space.

And oh yes, there was also quite a bit of learning at work as well.  At the Office of Marine Conservation at the Department of State, I worked with a group of very smart, talented and committed colleagues.  They were terrific in involving me in the office’s day-to-day duties while also allowing me the opportunity and flexibility to pursue my own interests.

I got to work on projects to raise awareness of marine debris by involving U.S. embassies in beach cleanup activities, create a public-private partnership that will develop mobile phone applications to improve the sustainability of small-scale fisheries overseas, and plan a speakers’ panel for an international oceans conference.

I also had the chance to participate in U.S. delegations to international fisheries negotiations.  I participated in delegations to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Japan, the North Pacific Fisheries Commission in Taiwan, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas in South Africa, the Yukon River Panel in Canada, and the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO) in Ecuador.  Each negotiation was very different and a terrific learning experience.

At SPRFMO, which took place during the second-to-last week of my fellowship, I served as the sole State Department representative to the delegation, which also included NOAA representatives from headquarters and the Pacific.  Because SPRFMO is still a new organization, many of the discussions focused on developing measures to monitor the activities of fishing vessels, ensure compliance with conservation measures, and gather data about the resource.  It was an up close and personal view of how distant water and coastal fishing nations are responding to United Nations resolutions to improve their cooperation with respect to the conservation and management of marine resources in international waters.

I’m very thankful for the opportunity provided by the fellowship and the Office of Marine Conservation, which gave me a unique introduction to the international ‘fish world.’  I’ve loved it.  Not only does it involve iconic species like tuna and salmon, but it touches on international law, cutting-edge science, social and economic systems, and the individual choices of people in many nations.

I would strongly encourage students interested in marine policy and science to apply for the Knauss Fellowship.  The experience and the people you meet are fantastic.

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

Saturday, February 8, 2014

First week as a Knauss Fellow

Well, I'm all moved in and unpacked. I've already learned some valuable lessons about living in DC:
  • First, on-street parking requires permits- especially for big moving trucks. I tried to time my move so that I could show up in DC before rush hour and get a parking spot, but it didn't work out. The parking permit folks feel no sympathy for unaware out-of-towners, so I had to risk parking a 17ft moving truck without a parking permit (which requires 72hrs prior notice to get! How do you do that before you move here?). It all worked out and I made it through without a ticket!
  • Second, things labeled as "close to the metro" or "ample street parking" seem to be sales gimmicks used by folks posting housing ads on Craigslist (which, by the way, are mostly scams, so beware). I moved into the city and commute to NOAA in Silver Spring. My apartment seemed close to the metro on Google Maps, but it didn't turn out to be so true. Luckily the bus system here is excellent and I don't need to take the metro rail. I hop on a bus (half the price of the metro rail! Really adds up when you commute 5 days a week) and get to work in a half an hour.
  • Reddit has excellent information for those moving to the DC area, but I didn't find it until after I moved here. Here is the link, it also has lots of good information for once you're here:
Now, lets talk about my position...

Here's my office: DOC > NOAA > NMFS > Office of Management and Budget. Peg Brady, my boss, is the NOAA policy liaison to both the National Invasive Species Council and the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, in addition to many other duties. I'm working with her team on invasive species issues and am already loving my job. I've been reading like a madman to get caught up on their management plans, strategic plans, and cross-cut budgets. Meetings have been interesting so far, as everyone seems to talk a different language because of all the acronyms they use. I have a few papers pinned above my desk that spell out most of the acronyms they use, but it is going to take some time to figure it all out!

The resumes of the people I work with are impressive. The assistant administrator of NOAA was the first American woman to travel to space- try topping that! I'm looking forward to the next year, and am sure I'll have a lot more to report on next time!

Knauss Marine Policy Fellow
(2/2014 – 2/2015)