Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Time flies when you are having fun!

February and March were cold months in Silver Spring. Coming from Michigan, I figured that the winter weather wouldn't phase me, but Silver Spring winds definitely rival those of southeastern Michigan. Burr! There were also some icy days that left me chuckling as I skated in my sneakers down the sidewalk.  

 Slippery sidewalks!

Snow on the hand statue in front of Building 3 of NOAA's Silver Spring campus.

On the fellowship front, things have been much warmer. I am into the third month and loving it. Apart from writing the Great Lakes report section of the Comprehensive Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research Plan and Action Strategy (a report mandated by the 2014 reauthorization of the HABHRCA or Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act), I have been helping to put on a HABHRCA webinar series to reach out to stakeholders for their input on needs relating to HABs and hypoxia. An additional stakeholder forum was held in person at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

I also participated in Great Lakes Day in Washington DC, at which the Great Lakes Commission, Healthy Waters Coalition, government employees, and others gathered to meet with legislators on the Hill about topics near and dear to those who care about the Great Lakes, including nutrient pollution and Asian carp.

As part of my fellowship, I have had the opportunity to spend some time at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is a fun place, with hallways and conference rooms named after places in the Great Lakes, including the St. Clair River and the Lake Superior conference room. The people are warm and welcoming.

During one of my visits to Michigan, I took a side trip to the Lake Michigan Field Station in Muskegon, Michigan.  Marine Superintendent, Dennis Donahue, gave me a tour of the station and vessels. Though the station doesn’t appear to be large, it houses a number of small and mid-sized boats that are used by federal agencies and universities for research and outreach purposes. I was impressed to find out that the station was partially powered by solar panels and wind turbines, and that the entire fleet runs on biodiesel! The engineers at LMFS are masters at stripping down vessels and building them back up with updated hardware to suit the science needs of the NOAA researchers. My favorite vessel was the 41-year-old SRV (small research vessel) Laurentian, a boat I had heard about from my mentors at the University of Michigan, but had never seen in person until now.
 SRV Laurentian - laden with science equipment, ready for the field season.
 SRV Laurentian
 SRV Laurentian - the bench where samples are processed.
SRV Laurentian

We also had a Knauss event that included Knauss Alumni and Sea Grant staff at the National Botanic Garden. We had the entire gardens to ourselves and ample opportunity to catch up with fellows from placement week and to meet new people. Its warmth and greenery was a nice reprieve from the cold, windy world outside. I connected with some people whose names I had been seeing while I did the information searches for the HABHRCA report.

 Orchids at the United States Botanic Garden
Orchids at the United States Botanic Garden
The Botanic Garden was lit up at night for the Knauss Alumni event

Another exciting aspect of the fellowship is the professional development activities. One notable event was the DC Science Writers Association Professional Development Day. I am not a science writer per say, but since I have a general interest in science writing and communications, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the workshops were useful for someone at my level, who doesn’t yet have formal science writing experience. We talked about good versus bad story pitches and what it meant to be a good editor.

Looking forward to more fun as the fellowship continues!