Fellows to Follow: Kelsey Jacobsen, Legislative Fellow for California Congresswoman Lois Capps

Where are you from, and what do you do (the quintessential DC introduction)?


I was born and raised in a small island town in southeast Alaska, went to college in Connecticut, and did my graduate studies at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). As a Knauss Legislative Fellow, I’m working with Congresswoman Lois Capps, who represents the central coast of California.

What were you doing before the fellowship?
I studied Coastal Marine Resource Management at the Bren School, and my group thesis focused on modeling offshore salmon aquaculture farms in southern Chile. After graduation, I worked as a project manager for UCSB’s Sustainable Fisheries Group, which develops and implements innovative ways to improve fisheries around the world.

What has your favorite experience been so far this year?
Working for Congresswoman Capps has been such a rewarding and positive experience – I couldn’t be happier that the Placement Week Gods landed me in her office. Because the Congresswoman is genuinely interested in marine and other environmental issues, I’ve gotten the chance to work on a huge array of topics. Basically, I handle the Congresswoman’s portfolio of ocean-related issues, including (but not limited to!) fisheries, seafood fraud, climate change and coastal resilience, whale conservation, sharks, aquaculture, ocean acidification, ocean sensing, National Ocean Policy, and National Marine Sanctuaries. I do all this as part of a family of welcoming and down-to-earth staff; Congresswoman Capps has repeatedly been voted the “nicest Member of Congress,” and that attitude permeates our office culture. I’ve also really appreciated the willingness of others in my office to make time to mentor me through the steep learning curve that we science people face when stepping into the middle of the policy world. In addition, my office is very flexible when it comes to work-life balance, allowing me to take days off to attend conferences, professional development events, lectures, personal travel, etc. They’re even allowing me to go to the Canary Islands for a conference on aquaculture in November (during placement week, unfortunately)!


One of my favorite experiences so far was the district visit that an office colleague and I made early in my Fellowship year. On our tour of the central coast we saw elephant seals, explored the Los Padres Forest, visited the historical Piedras Blancas lighthouse, met with fishermen and other constituent groups, and even got a private boat ride out to the Channel Islands National Park. Even after living in Santa Barbara for 2 years, this was my first time to the Islands and they were spectacular. No complaints about business trips to CA-24!

Where do you see yourself going after the fellowship?
I would like to work for a non-governmental organization that takes a practical approach to ocean conservation and resource management. I’m particularly interested in crucial but still-developing practices such as marine spatial planning and offshore aquaculture.

If you could be any ocean creature, what would it be and why?Image

A leafy sea dragon.


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