Three graduate students from Mississippi and Alabama have been selected for the 2014 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, a Sea Grant program that places highly qualified graduate students in the executive and legislative branches of government in Washington, D.C., to work as scientific advisers. The paid year-long program begins in February. Jennifer Sloan Zeigler, Tony Marshak and Elizabeth Bevan competed with applicants from across the nation to get one of the coveted positions.
Zeigler, a doctoral candidate at the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University, will advise members of Congress on marine policy by serving as a legislative fellow to Marla Cantwell of Washington. She looks forward to being able to represent the Gulf Coast by providing the kind of expertise needed to craft effective laws to protect and sustain the environment.
“There’s a lot of environmental legislation written by people who are not experts on the subject and the technology required,” she said. “That disconnect leads to policies that can be difficult for engineers and scientists to adhere to.”
Marshak, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of South Alabama conducting research at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, will work in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service’s Office of Science and Technology. A fisheries expert, Marshak has conducted a wide variety of research on commercially important species and their habitats that will be beneficial in creating regulations based on tested scientific principles.
“Under the executive option of the Knauss fellowship, I hope to continue research that works to improve ecosystem-based management and that strongly influences marine policy and conservation of marine resources,” Marshak said.
The third fellow, Bevan, a graduate student in biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will be working in the National Sea Grant Office. Bevan’s research to this point has focused on the biology and protection of the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.
“I aspire to lead the everyday person in society to greater marine awareness and give them the knowledge and power to protect their environment,” she said. “That’s the kind of conservationist I want to be, and I believe this fellowship will help me along that road.”
2013 Knauss fellows Cliff Hutt and Courtney Smith have accepted contract positions with NOAA.
Hutt accepted a position with the National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Science and Technology, an opportunity he feels is a direct result of his internship. He will work collect economic data on bait and tackle stores that are supported by marine recreational anglers.
Smith will join NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources as a senior analyst consulting on Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act compliance with regards to scientific research planning.
*Tara Skelton is a freelance writer in Ocean Springs, Miss.*