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Knauss Fellow to Work on Ocean Policy

Julie Palakovich Carr doesn't walk the wilderness of northern Minnesota anymore. She's too busy navigating the concrete jungle of Washington, D.C. as Minnesota Sea Grant's newest Knauss Fellow. Julie conducted her Master of Science research on Canada lynx through the University of Minnesota Duluth's Department of Biology. Her thesis defense, wedding, and arrival on Capitol Hill made 2007 a truly eventful year. This year is ramping up to be equally remarkable for Julie as she participates in legislative activities associated with the prestigious marine policy fellowship.

Minnesota Sea Grant's research coordinator, Valerie Brady, had a chance to talk with Julie and her husband Eric at a restaurant in Silver Springs, Md. Here's an excerpt:

Who are you working for?

Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington State. She is on the Commerce Committee and chairs the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard. There are two former Knauss Fellows that Senator Cantwell has kept on, and perhaps 20 staffers in the office. Senator Cantwell has had Knauss Fellows for at least eight consecutive years and knows how to make good use of them.

What is your role?

My role is similar to that of a junior staffer. I find information about aquatic topics, attend budget and constituent meetings, answer constituent questions, and help draft bill language. Over the next year, Senator Cantwell will be working on the National Marine Fisheries Service orca recovery plan, the Coast Guard budget, ice breaker ships, ocean acidification, marine protected areas, and general issues relating to Puget Sound.

What are your goals for this year in Washington, D.C.?

I want to learn the nuances of how the legislative process works and to draft legislation. I hope to be able to help substantially on a bill. For now, I want to work on policy but eventually I might seek employment with an agency or an environmental firm.

What's the biggest difference between your life in D.C. and life in Duluth?

There are more cultural opportunities in Washington, D.C., but the traffic is really different. We use the subway as much as possible and avoid driving. The other thing is that "outside" here is not at all like being outside in the Duluth area. We miss the wild places.

What would you tell potential Knauss Fellowship applicants?

If you are awarded a legislative fellowship, you have this valuable way to broaden your understanding of marine policy and a great opportunity to get a foot in the door on the "Hill," which is quite difficult to do. You get a chance to do work that is much weightier than you would if you came onto the political scene without this fellowship. And the fellowships aren't always all about policy. Those placed with agencies conducting marine research also have amazing entry points there. Some of the Knauss Fellows at agencies, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, even get to go on research cruises. Agencies that executive fellows are placed with include branches of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Marine Mammal Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of the Interior.

The Knauss Fellowship, established in 1979, provides a unique educational experience to graduate students with an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in national policy decisions affecting those resources. The program matches highly qualified graduate students with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branch of government located in the Washington, D.C. area, for a one-year paid fellowship. The program is named in honor of one of Sea Grant's founders, former NOAA Administrator, John A. Knauss. Fellowship applications are typically due in February. Interested students should contact their local Sea Grant office for details.

Return to July 2008 Seiche

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