Ohio Sea Grant Announces 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalists | Ohio Sea Grant

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Ohio Sea Grant Announces 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalists

11:37 am, Tue July 21, 2020 – The Knauss Fellowship places highly qualified graduate students in host offices in the legislative and executive branches of U.S. government

Columbus, Ohio Ohio Sea Grant is proud to announce that five Ohio finalists have been selected as part of the 42nd class of the prestigious John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, a year-long program that places highly qualified graduate students in host offices in the legislative and executive branches of U.S. government.

“We are proud to once again send an accomplished group of Ohio finalists to Washington, DC,” said Dr. Christopher Winslow, director of Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory at The Ohio State University. “This group of five outstanding candidates is one of the largest Ohio has sent as part of the Knauss Fellowship program, and each of them will be assets to any federal offices they decide to join.”

Margaret Beetstra from Little Rock, Ark. is a doctoral candidate in the School of Environment & Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. Her dissertation focuses on the effects of financial and time stressors on farmer decision making related to conservation practices.

“I focused much of my time during my master’s degree on learning about the policy process, but learning about it in a classroom is very different from first-hand engagement,” Beetstra said in her fellowship application. “The chance to experience how science is packaged to inform policy and how science is understood and used by policymakers in real-time would increase my knowledge of the systems that influence how scientific research is used to address practical needs and issues.”

Kerri Dobson from Norwich, England is a PhD candidate in the School of Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University, focusing on the effects of climate change on coral physiology. She also spent time in the West Indies as a science officer for Coral Cay Conservation during the initiation of the Montserrat Ridge to Reef Conservation Project.

“Through my science training and experiences, I have developed the understanding that scientific research alone, whilst extremely important, is not enough to successfully conserve marine ecosystems,” Dobson said in her application. “It is effective science communication and well-structured policies, developed from evidence-based science, together with scientific research that is integral to the successful management and conservation of our marine natural resources. My future career goal is to work for an organization in which I can help inform science-based policy and management strategies to deliver successful conservation of tropical marine ecosystems.”

Michaela Margida is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Environmental Sciences at The University of Toledo. Her research focuses on mathematical modeling of coastal ecosystems and biogeochemical processes such as the ways in which microorganisms contribute to nutrient availability. She also consults with high school teachers at the Aerospace and Natural Science Academy of Toledo to increase student engagement in scientific research.

“As I begin my career, I am focused on learning more about the role scientists play in policy development,” Margida said in her fellowship application. “I want to refine my leadership, communication, and outreach skills so I can help inform decisions affecting ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources.”

Helena Pound from Knoxville, Tenn. is a doctoral candidate in microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where her research focuses on harmful algal blooms and the viruses that can infect these algae. She has completed research trips to China, Lake Erie and the Pacific Ocean, and plans to combine that scientific training with management courses as she completes her PhD.

“My years spent in research has provided me with the knowledge required to discuss complex systems with policy makers and managers who can enable change. Academic research alone does not satisfy my passion to elicit change nor does it satisfy the public need for information,” Pound said in her application. “The monumental task of interpretation and implementation falls largely on the shoulders of managers and policy makers. Unfortunately, most academic researchers I know shy from policy, and those interested in policy feel uncomfortable with academic literature. This is the gap I hope to fill.”

James Price from Suwanee, Ga. is a PhD candidate in the School of Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University, focusing on the impacts of climate change on microbial communities in coral reefs. In addition to organizing an international workshop on coral reef health, he is active in science education and outreach programs for local schools, from hands-on classroom demonstrations to connecting with future scientists via a pen pal program.

“When I began volunteering with a loggerhead sea turtle monitoring group at the age of 15, I envisioned a career at the intersection of bold research and conservation initiatives. Yet, I sometimes struggle to find avenues where my research can be applied to policy and management, or where my research could initiate changes in how vulnerable marine habitats are protected,” Price wrote in his application. “I believe that the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship is an opportunity for me to define the trajectory of my career, blending my experience as a marine scientist with my drive to actively conserve the productivity, function, and intrinsic beauty of the oceans.”

The five finalists join a group of 74 graduate students recommended to the National Sea Grant office from 27 Sea Grant programs across the country. Finalists will meet virtually in late 2020 for placement interviews with potential host offices, which can include executive branch appointments in offices like NOAA, the Department of the Interior and the National Science Foundation, as well as legislative placements on Senate and House committees and in legislative offices. More information about the program is available at

The Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 34 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For more information, visit

ARTICLE TITLE: Ohio Sea Grant Announces 2021 Knauss Fellowship Finalists PUBLISHED: 11:37 am, Tue July 21, 2020
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Christina Dierkes
Outreach Specialist, Ohio Sea Grant College Program

As Ohio Sea Grant’s science writer, Christina covers research, education and outreach projects in the Great Lakes for a wide range of audiences. She also helps manage online events like Stone Lab’s Guest Lecture Series.