Where are you from, and what do you do (the quintessential DC introduction)?
I’m from Charleston, SC (answers to common follow-up questions I get on being from SC: no I don’t have a southern accent, but I do say y’all and love grits). I work for the policy office in NOAA’s National Ocean Service, focusing on Arctic issues and National Ocean Policy implementation. I also track NOAA’s marine planning efforts going on in coastal regions around the country, and help NOS message its role in coastal resilience.
What were you doing before the fellowship?
Before the fellowship, I got a Masters of Marine Biology doing sea turtle research. Doing experiments on/playing with loggerhead hatchlings – most people are jealous, but I wouldn’t be – I watched over 1500 hours of video of the baby turtles swimming. My eyes (dry) and wrists (carpal tunnel) have never been the same. But anyway – when I started grad school, I thought I would do a PhD on sea turtle biology/conservation, but I changed my mind and wanted to do something completely different through this fellowship!
What inspired you to get into your field?
I’m weird and have wanted to do the same thing (Marine Biology) since I was about 7 years old. But I blame growing up on the beach :). Also, Duke’s amazing Marine Lab and faculty helped develop my interest in this field, especially realizing how you can bring science and policy together for better management/decision-making.
What do you wish you had known before the fellowship?
Hm. I’m gonna have to go with – I wish I had had a better understanding of how expensive this city is. I got some really good advice from a former Fellow early on that I’ll pass on here – do your research to how NOAA is structured. It helps if you have some feel for the diversity of the organization and what each part does. It’s hard to get a handle on it until you’re immersed in it, but it helped me pick offices to interview with!
What was your best free reception crashing experience?
The zoo association one. Awesome animals just hanging out in a House building. It was ridiculous. My favorite was the flamingo walking through the crowd unchaperoned.
What is your favorite DC hangout?
I love the Eastern Market/Capitol Hill neighborhood.
What is your favorite DC restaurant?
I don’t have a favorite yet. But I’m a bit of a francophile since living in Paris, so I love the french bakery Paul. And there’s a historic diner in Tenleytown that’s amazing – Steak n Egg.
What has your favorite experience been so far this year?
Professionally, I got to attend a briefing for Dr. Sullivan (current head of NOAA) on the Arctic. I put the presentation and talking points together, so that was pretty cool. Fun experiences – there have been a lot! But I’m really pumped for my upcoming trip to Alaska! A combination of work and fun – I will be giving a presentation at the U.S. Arctic Research Commission meeting, and hopefully doing some sightseeing as well.
Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Acting NOAA Administrator
Where do you see yourself going after the fellowship?
I’d like to stay in DC and work on climate/energy policy in some form or fashion. We’ll see how that works out.
If you could be any ocean creature, what would it be and why?
Mantis shrimp. They’re badass. Two words – cavitation bubble. (Also I think they’re pretty cute…)