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2011 Knauss Fellows Go to Washington

January 24, 2011

U.S. Capitol Building

Virginia Marine Resource Bulletin
Volume 43, Number 1, Winter 2011

Five Virginia graduate students have received their placements in the U.S. government for their 2011 Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships.

Anna (Huntley) Coffey of Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), Abigail Graefe of James Madison University, Heidi Geisz of VIMS, Kimberly Holzer of University of Virginia, and Staci (Hudy) Rijal of Virginia Tech will begin their one-year long Fellowship working with hosts in Washington, DC on February 1, 2011.

Established by the National Sea Grant College Program in 1979, the Dean John A. Knauss Fellowship matches outstanding graduate students from around the nation with hosts in legislative or executive offices in Washington, DC, for a year of immersion in marine policy. The program provides a unique educational experience for those who have completed graduate level study and have interest in policy decisions affecting ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources.

“This is a highly competitive national program,” said Susan Park, Assistant Director of Research with Virginia Sea Grant, which administers the Knauss Fellowship application process for Virginia’s students. Virginia’s applicants secured more than 10 percent of the nationally available Fellowships, said Park, “No other state had more successful applicants; that says a lot about the qualifications of these students.”

Anna (Huntley) Coffey, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
During her Knauss experience, Anna (Huntley) Coffey will work as Policy Specialist for the Department of Energy’s Water Power Program. Coffey researched population dynamics and disease in blue crab as a Masters student in Marine Science at VIMS, part of the College of William and Mary. Coffey said she originally decided to study sciences because she wanted to contribute to solving large-scale problems. As a Policy Specialist, she believes she’ll do just that.

“I am looking forward to working with [the Department of Energy] and learning more about and helping to break down some of the barriers facing the progress and implementation of renewable wave and ocean thermal technologies,” Coffey said.

Through her Knauss Fellowship, Coffey hopes to gain a better understanding of environmental policy, “which will help me to eventually produce research with greater potential to have a positive impact.”

Abigail Graefe, James Madison University
Abigail Graefe will spend her Knauss Fellowship as a Policy Liaison to the Oceanographer of the Navy. As a Masters student of Sustainable Environmental Resource Management, Graefe split her time between James Madison University and the University of Malta. Graefe says she has been interested in environmental sustainability since she was a high schooler heading the sustainable seafood table at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and is looking forward to her placement with the Navy. The position will offer exposure to international issues, something Graefe has experienced through her graduate training and is looking forward to continuing in her career.

“There are plenty of opportunities to get exposed to a lot of issues, while focusing on something that I find particularly interesting,” said Graefe.

After her Knauss experience Graefe hopes to pursue a career in international science education and outreach.

Heidi Geisz, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Heidi Geisz secured one of only 10 Knauss opportunities working with the legislative branch. She’ll work with the House Committee on Natural Resources under the ranking minority leader, Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts. As a doctoral student in Marine Science at VIMS, Geisz studied how pollution in glacial ice affects Antarctic seabirds. While with the House Committee, Geisz is looking forward to helping prepare for all subcommittee and full committee hearings and markups of relevant legislation, and to drafting analyses of legislation.

“I am excited about this placement,” said Geisz. “[Congressman Markey] is highly supportive of environmental issues, particularly climate change, and is adamant that science back up policy decisions.”

After her Knauss Fellowship, Geisz hopes to continue using her scientific knowledge in a career in science policy.

Kimberly Holzer, University of Virginia
Kimberly Holzer will work as a Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during her Knauss experience. Holzer has a doctoral degree in Environmental Sciences from University of Virginia, a Masters in teaching, and multiple teaching experiences including at Princeton, Duke, and UVA, as well as abroad in Bermuda. As Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Holzer will work on invasive species, educating groups about different invasives and organizing partners in invasive species control in the U.S. and abroad.

Holzer says she’s excited to work at the intersection of policy and science and is looking forward to working in the field on freshwater and saltwater invasive species. “[I’m a] marine ecologist by training,” she said. “I’m excited to learn more about freshwater ecosystems and species linkages across the landscape.”

Holzer plans to pursue a career in scientific research after her Knauss Fellowship.

Staci (Hudy) Rijal, Virginia Tech
Staci (Hudy) Rijal will join the Office of International Affairs with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Department of Commerce. Rijal attended Virginia Tech for both her undergraduate and Masters work Wildlife Science. Yet she had always had an interest in policy. When it came time to apply for graduate school, she chose to continue in wildlife science because she decided “the best natural resource policies are based on the best science.”

With the Office of International Affairs, Rijal expects that she’ll start out working on international fishing issues, such as illegal, unregulated, or unreported fishing and sustainable fishing practices. “I’m very excited about the opportunity to learn more about how marine resource policy and diplomacy work at the international level,” Rijal said.

Rijal hopes to pursue a career in science policy after her Knauss Fellowship.

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