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#SeaGrant50: By The Numbers - Four Decades of Knauss Fellows
By Paul F on Apr 26, 2018 at 10:04 AM

NOTE: Some of this content was last revised in mid-October 2018

Washington, DC, Friday, April 29, 2016 - In addition to the National Sea Grant College Program celebrating five decades of "Science Serving America's Coasts," this year is also when the Sea Grant's Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program is being recognized for its 40 years of success.

This fellowship provides a unique educational and professional experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. These highly qualified students are matched with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branch of government located in the Washington, D.C. area, for a one year paid fellowship.

As cited in a previous NYSG blog entry, "#SeaGrant50: Remembering John A. Knauss," the fellowship is named after the former NOAA Administrator of the same name, who also happens to be one of Sea Grant's founders.

Here are some highlights of the Knauss fellowship program:

  • For more than 40 years, The John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships have been building coastal leaders who make a difference.

  • These Fellowships forge skills needed to become successful in marine policy and related fields.

  • Each year, this highly selective program places nearly 50 young professionals from Sea Grant programs around the country in executive and legislative offices in Washington, D.C.

  • Over 1,100 fellows have participated in Sea Grant’s John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program since 1979.

  • Sea Grant fellowship programs provide unique opportunities for young professionals to gain experience in fields related to marine policy, fisheries, and coastal management.

  • Using the Knauss Fellowship as a model, many Sea Grant programs offer similar prestigious fellowship opportunities within their state.


Where Are They Now?: Current and Previous Knauss Fellows Check In

New York Sea Grant's latest Knauss fellow, Erin Eastwood, is currently working in NOAA's Climate Program Office (See "NYSG's Knauss Fellow Spreads Ocean Optimism Internationally").

Recently, our program coordinators also caught up with a few of our Knauss alumni, whose answers to a few quick questions can be found below.

For responses from other former fellows from throughout the nation, check out the National Sea Grant College Program's (NSGCP) Web feature, "Knauss Alumni - Where Are They Now?" Also, check out the "John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship" section of NSGCP's Web site.

Erin Eastwood

What fellowship did you partake in and what was your assignment?

2016 John A. Knauss International Partnerships Fellow for NOAA’s Climate Program Office

How did your fellowship help you on your career path?

I haven’t yet finished the fellowship, but so far I’ve had the opportunity to do numerous career-related trainings and professional development opportunities, and attend several amazing international marine conservation conferences and meetings. The fellowship has also opened doors for me with respects to meeting and interacting with people I admire and hope to emulate, and with building strong working relationships that I plan to maintain throughout the rest of my career.

What is your favorite memory of your fellowship?

Presenting on behalf of NOAA and the U.S. government on blue carbon at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, and seeing language I helped draft in the final U.S. Mid-Century Strategy for Achieving Deep Decarbonization, which was released at the COP22 in Marrakech and submitted to the UNFCCC under the Paris Agreement.

Dan Sousa

What fellowship did you partake in and what was your assignment?

I was a Legislative fellow in the office of Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05).

What is your favorite memory of your fellowship?

Helping work on the Water Resources bill that became law that year.

How did your fellowship help you on your career path?

Substantially enhanced appreciation for federal funding for science.

Are fellowships such as yours valuable and, if so, in what ways?

Extremely valuable to gain perspective on how science is perceived by policymakers.

What is your current position?

PhD student in Earth Science at Columbia University.

Zachary Schulman

(2013 Knauss Executive Fellow)

Fellowship Assignment

Executive Assistant to the Director of Marine Transportation Systems at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters.

Current Position

My current position is as the Liaison from the Coast Guard to the Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D.C.

How did your fellowship help you in the career?

My fellowship absolutely helped me by exposing me to so many areas of the agency that I was able to legitimately say I had experience working in a very esoteric field (CG Bridge Administration), in addition to making innumerable connections and friendships that still help me today.

What is your favorite memory of your fellowship?

My favorite memory of my fellowship was walking on sea ice in the Arctic Ocean while on a science cruise on the USCGC Healy. I stood in a place on earth that no one had ever stood before, and very likely no one will ever be again. My fellowship travel stipend enabled me to pay for my transportation up to Barrow, AK, where I joined the crew as part of the NOAA contingent on this particular science mission.


Jillian Cohen

(2012 Knauss Legislative Fellow)

Fellowship Assignment

House Committee on Natural Resources

Current Position

Presidential Management Fellow, US Fish and Wildlife Service

How did your fellowship help you in your career?

The two main things I gained from my fellowship were professional connections, which helped me land the position I have today and which continue to enrich my professional (and personal life) and mastering the skill of working under tight deadlines.

What is your favorite memory of your fellowship?

I helped author an amendment to a bill that made its way to the floor. The amendment took a stand for using “best available science” when making decisions about using water in the San Joaquin River Valley.

And for more from Jillian, check out NYSG's stories written during her 2012 fellowship, "Doctoral student Serves on US House Natural Resources Committee" and "Graduate Students - The Foundation of Cornell's Future."


Emily Cloyd

(2006 Knauss Executive Fellow)

Fellowship Assignment

NOAA National Ocean Service Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research

Current Position

Engagement and Outreach Lead, US Global Change Research Program

How did your fellowship help you in your career?

It provided me with real-world experience at the science-policy nexus and challenged me to grow my leadership skills.

What is your favorite memory of your fellowship?

Meeting and working with a wonderful group of Fellows - some of whom I still work with, more that I keep in touch with, and an even larger network of friends and colleagues wherever I go.

Laura Oremland

(Knauss Executive Fellow)

Fellowship Assignment

NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology

Current Position

My official title is "marine biologist" but that really doesn't capture what I do.  I would say "Education Program Manager/Coordinator and/or Science Communications Liaison" is more accurate. I'm in the same office where I did my fellowship.

How did your fellowship help you in your career?

Exposed me to new job opportunities and a career path I never would have considered otherwise.  It also helped connect me to a wonderful network of mentors and colleagues.

What is your favorite memory of your fellowship?

Tagging horseshoe crabs as part of a camping trip to Cape Henlopen (Delaware) with a group of other fellows.  A unique and wonderful experience I don't think I would have done otherwise! 

Where Are They Now?: Other Fellows

As mentioned in the highlights portion at the beginning of this post, the Knauss fellowship is often seen as the model by which other prestigious fellowship opportunities are offered by the various Sea Grant programs.

The National Marine Fisheries Service-Sea Grant Fellowships in Population Dynamics is for students interested in careers related to the development and implementation of quantitative methods for assessing the economics of the conservation and management of living marine resources.

Katherine Kaplan

What fellowship did you partake in and what was your assignment?

I am a NOAA Sea Grant population dynamics fellow and my project is Evaluating the impact of dredging on Atlantic sea scallop habitat on Georges Bank.

What is your favorite memory of your fellowship?

My favorite memory was observing whales on the NOAA scallop survey research cruise this past summer.

How did your fellowship help you in the career?

This fellowship helped me form a connection with a mentor at NOAA and get an inside look into government work in managing marine resources. I also formed connections with other NOAA staff and it provided me with the resources to conduct my dissertation work. Without this fellowship, my disserta- tion would not have been possible to complete. It set me up with a project that was of importance to marine managers and provided me with the means to conduct that research.

Are fellowships such as yours valuable and, if so, in what ways?

Yes, this fellowship was extremely valuable in funding my dissertation work. These fellowships are valuable in advancing the science of natural resource management. My project has contributed to our understanding of environmental variables affecting the habitat of a valuable commercial fishery. This has value for management of the resource, which is of economic importance to the New England region. Understanding the ecology of the resources is essential to better management strate- gies and ensuring resource sustainability.

What is your current position?

I am finishing my dissertation and will be moving on to a postdoc working on California's marine protected areas soon--which is also a position situ- ation with Academic and government collaborators. I would like to continue at this intersection advancing management strategies through science and bridging the gap between Academia and government.

The Coastal Management Fellowship is a two-year opportunity wherein postgraduate students are matched with state coastal resource agencies to work on coastal projects. One of New York Sea Grant's previous fellows checked in with us recently to let us know where she's been since her time in the program:

Cynthia Decker

(1992 Coastal Management Fellow)

Fellowship Assignment

Office of Naval Research (ONR)

Current Position

Executive Director, NOAA Science Advisory Board

How did your fellowship help you in the career?

It gave me experience in scientific program management that was invaluable for getting other similar jobs. It also allowed me to develop a network of colleagues in ocean science programs throughout the government and in the academic community.

What is your favorite memory of your fellowship?

It’s really hard to choose! I went to the Navy shipyard in Norfolk, VA to visit an aircraft carrier in drydock as part of the program on Environmentally-Sound Ships to talk with the person who was making the decision about when to replace the bottom paint. Standing under an aircraft carrier that was balanced upright only along its keel on huge wooden wedges was awe-inspiring and a bit frightening at the same time.

I got to visit oceanographic institutions in the UK and Italy to present the program in Marine Environmental Quality that I was developing for ONR. It was amazing to see those facilities and meet with so many scientists from those countries.

That Was Then: Stories about NYSG's fellows—Knauss and otherwise—while on the job

2019: In Program’s 40th Year, Two from New York Named Knauss Finalists

2018: In Photos: Two from New York Named 2018 Knauss Fellowship Finalists

2017: Through a Sea Grant Fellowship, Shark-Obsessed Teen Becomes the Expert

- New York Sea Grant’s Knauss Fellow Spreads Ocean Optimism Internationally
- Two from New York Become Coastal Storms Research Fellows

2014: Lang Selected for Knauss Fellowship Class of 2014

2013: Off to Washington for Two New York Knauss Fellows

- Doctoral student Serves on US House Natural Resources Committee
- Graduate Students - The Foundation of Cornell's Future
- Four Decades Supporting Scholars, Fellows, Stewards and Youth

- NYSG Knauss Fellow Recounts Lift-off of NOAA's New Satellite
- These Scholars Follow the Fish (pdf)

2008: Scholar Di Liberto Wins Mattice Travel Award (pdf)

2006: NYSG Fellow is Recognized with Award (pdf)

2005: Knauss Fellows go to Washington (Knauss Fellows '05-'06) (pdf)

2004: Two if by Sea Grant (Knauss Fellows '04-'05) (pdf)

2001: Training Tomorrow's Scientists (pdf)

2000: Sea Grant Fellows: From NY to the Nation's Capital (pdf)


More Info: #SeaGrant50 and

#SeaGrant50 ...

More information on the 50th anniversary campaign via the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP), which includes a "50th Stories" sub-page. The NSGCP will gather and share related content from the individual 33 Sea Grant programs on social media via its social media channels using the hashtag #SeaGrant50:


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