USM graduate named Knauss fellow

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Apr 03,  2009

Pratt-Zossoungbo works with marine policy makers in Washington

A recent University of Southern Mississippi graduate, Melissa Pratt-Zossoungbo, has been awarded a Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship in Washington, D.C.  The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium endorsed her application for the fellowship, which is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program. During a competitive selection process at the national level, Pratt-Zossoungbo was selected as one of approximately 50 Knauss fellows for 2009.

She began her position in February and will work for one year as an ocean policy analyst for the NOAA National Ocean Service’s (NOS) Policy, Planning and Analysis Division in the Management and Budget Office.

“We staff and advise senior National Ocean Service and NOAA leadership on legislative, policy and budget issues affecting all of the NOS programs,” she said.

NOS is involved in many issues, such as coastal zone management, science on hypoxia and climate change, coral reef conservation and promoting safe marine transportation.

Pratt-Zossoungbo earned her master’s degree in coastal sciences with a marine botany concentration in December 2008. As a graduate student, her research focused on how mycorrhizal fungi affected salt-marsh plant growth. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., in 2003 and graduated from Holliston High School in Holliston, Mass., in 1999.

As a fellow, Pratt-Zossoungbo has written testimony for a hearing on the reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act, briefed NOS leaders on the agency’s role in mitigating impacts of climate change and sea-level rise and managed stimulus funds.

“I have been able to attend hearings on Capitol Hill, learn the inner-workings of the budgeting process and help advocate to Congress important marine conservation issues,” she said. “Marine policy interests me because it affects anything and everything concerning the marine environment. From non-profit conservation to scientific research, activities are governed by laws and regulations. Having an understanding of these laws and being able to know why they exist will provide me a greater understanding of how I can have an impact on the oceans and wetlands in the future.”

The Knauss fellowship program is named in honor of John A. Knauss, a former NOAA administrator and a founder of the Sea Grant program. Sea Grant is national network of more than 30 programs that provide support, leadership and expertise for university-based marine research, extension and education.


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