By Mackenzie Nelson
Sea Grant Program fellowships give students the opportunity to apply the skills they developed during their graduate careers to solve real world problems with professionals in the marine science and policy fields. This year eight SMEA graduates were selected for the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, the Washington Sea Grant State Fellowship (formerly the Marc Hershman Fellowship), and the Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship.
Valerie Cleland, one of the 66 fellows selected from a nation-wide pool for the 2019 class of the Knauss Fellowship Program, will travel to Washington D.C. to work with Federal government offices. The WSG Fellows (Danielle Edelman, Henry Peterson, Brittany Flittner, and Julie Ann Koehlinger) and ASG Fellows (Nyssa Baechler, Diana Perry, and Kayla Schommer) will be placed with host offices around the states of Washington and Alaska to work with local agencies and community leaders to address marine and coastal issues in each state. SMEA students make up seven of the twelve State Fellowship spots between WSG and ASG. Each of these fellowships will take place over a one-year appointment where fellows have the opportunity to collaborate, network, and make a difference in their communities.
With such a large group representing SMEA, it is clear the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs does a spectacular job preparing students to take on the challenges presented by these fellowships. “I think SMEA’s major strength is its ability to teach you how to be adaptable,” says WSG State Fellow Danielle Edelman. “We learn about so many different subjects and frameworks, and we have to be able to change the way we think about a problem based on the context we’re given.”
How did SMEA prepare ASG State Fellow Nyssa Baechler? “During my time at SMEA, I felt like I was always encouraged to work on class projects that were not only relevant to the subject-matter, but timely and important to me,” she shares. “Because of this, I have been preparing for my dream job, building my resume, and bolstering my skillset for the last two years.”
This year’s cohort of fellows is just a continuation of the legacy SMEA has built. SMEA teaches students to be problem solvers. We learn to not just master one topic, but rather to develop a strong foundation of knowledge in a wide breadth of topics. We are challenged to open our minds to the human dimensions of marine science and policy. And because of this, eight outstanding individuals are presenting our department as Sea Grant Fellows. A huge congratulations to the fellows:
Valerie will be heading to Washington D.C. in January 2019 with the Knauss Fellowship to work on marine policy at the federal level.
“I’m really excited to work with the Makah Tribe because it’s such a unique opportunity to work with a sovereign nation. I enjoyed working and interacting with state and federal government agencies in my thesis research and NOAA internship, so I am definitely looking forward to learning about how environmental policy works in a new governance context.”
Henry is thrilled to work with the Washington Department of Health as a Washington Sea Grant State Fellow, where he will assess the Pollution, Identification and Correction (PIC) program to increase collaborations, capacity and implementation of projects, as well as integrate climate change resiliency.
“I will be working with the Department of Ecology Spills Program aiding in their development of a legislative report regarding spill prevention, preparedness, and response activities for the state of Washington. I am most excited to learn more about the work the Spills Program does. Most importantly, I cannot wait to get my feet wet by honing my policy analysis skills, and to start working in a field that I am so passionate about.”
“I’m entering a project (Ocean Acidification Sentinel Site Designation) that the OCNMS has wanted to see happen for a few years now. I’m excited to be arriving at the beginning of the project and seeing what we can accomplish over the next year. I’m also happy that I be able to draw on my oceanography background and some of the networking that happened while writing my thesis.”
“For those of you that don’t know me, I fiercely identify as an Alaskan, and there was no question about where I wanted to start my career post-grad school. The work that Alaska Sea Grant does is so important in such a dramatically changing climate, and I want to be a part of the research, discussion, and solution.”
“I am diving into a project where I have very little background and learning about weathervane scallops, the fishery, and previous attempts at culturing the species. I am building this project from the start and growing my confidence in my ability to create a long-running (at least 2-3 years) project that I can hand off at the end of my fellowship.”
“One of the hardest hurtles I experienced while at SMEA was the demand for every student to be extremely creative in choosing their thesis topics. It was very hard for me to pull an idea out of thin air and then figure out how to mold it into respectable research. I was of course supported throughout my entire journey but was also highly encouraged to find answers on my own and think outside of the box for solutions. These skills are what I believe will help me be most successful not only during my fellowship but during the rest of my career. I know I can tackle any issue and have the versatility, skills, and creativity to come to the solutions on my own.”