Jennifer Costanza, Meredith Blaydes, and Bernice McLean — graduate students at the University of Delaware’s College of Marine Studies — are among an elite group of 33 students from across the nation to receive the 2004 Dean John A. Knauss Fellowship.
The year-long fellowship, which began on February 1, is sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Recipients of the fellowship are matched to a host agency in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government in Washington, DC, based upon their background and interests.
The fellowship program was established in 1979 to provide a unique educational experience to highly qualified graduate students. It was named in honor of former NOAA Administrator John A. Knauss, who was one of Sea Grant’s founders and the founding dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.
“The Knauss Fellows Program gives students unique opportunities to gain an understanding of the marine policy process at the federal level,” says Dr. Carolyn A. Thoroughgood, director of the University’s Sea Grant College Program and dean of the College of Marine Studies. “We are extremely pleased that three of our students have been selected to participate in this highly competitive program.”
Jennifer Costanza has been assigned to the Office of the Under Secretary of NOAA, which is responsible for all of NOAA’s activities — from budget formulation to coastal policy implementation. Costanza will assist the Under Secretary’s staff in gathering, analyzing, and disseminating information on priority issues concerning the ocean and atmosphere.
“My fellowship starts on the day that NOAA’s budget is released to Congress,” says Costanza. “So my first week will be spent in budget meetings, and I will get a crash course in everything related to that. It will be a great learning experience and will help me to understand pretty much everything I do after that. The budget of any large government organization controls much of what happens, so it is an important process to understand.”
As a master’s student in marine biology–biochemistry, Costanza is conducting research in marine chemical ecology with marine biologist Nancy Targett. They are working to develop an artificial bait to use in place of horseshoe crabs in the eel and whelk fisheries. This artificial bait will hopefully relieve pressure on the horseshoe crab, whose population has come under increasing pressure in recent years due to overfishing and deterioration of its spawning grounds.
“The Knauss Fellowship is an unparalleled experience for young marine scientists, and I am thrilled to have been chosen for this opportunity,” says Costanza. “My background is pretty heavy in science, so this gives me a chance to learn more about the policy side of marine science, which is exciting.”
In addition to conducting research on horseshoe crabs, Costanza was an education coordinator on the Extreme 2002: Mission to the Abyss research cruise, which explored hydrothermal vents over a mile deep on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Before enrolling at UD, Costanza completed her bachelor’s degree in marine science from Boston University in Massachusetts.
Meredith Blaydes will spend her year working in the Habitat Protection Division within NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Habitat Conservation. The division’s primary focus is to ensure that living marine resources have sufficient healthy habitats to sustain populations. As part of her job duties, Blaydes will assist division personnel in matters pertaining to the conservation and protection of these habitats.
“Healthy ecosystems lie at the foundation of healthy oceans and coasts and impact every living marine organism,” says Blaydes. “The chance to work with so many different habitats including coral reefs and wetlands and to gain experience in developing and implementing the strategies for their conservation is a fantastic opportunity.”
As a master’s candidate in marine policy, Blaydes is researching the safety aspects of recreational boating in coastal inlets under the guidance of Jeremy Firestone, assistant professor of marine policy, and Biliana Cicin-Sain, professor of marine policy and director of the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy. Using statistical analysis, she is determining the factors involved in the rates and severity of boating accidents, including the possible impact of jetties.
In addition to her graduate work, Blaydes was a research assistant at the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy, where she coordinated the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Policy Roundtable. The roundtable brings together senior leaders of DC-based organizations on a monthly basis to discuss coastal, marine, and ocean issues. Blaydes also provided major research support on projects ranging from offshore aquaculture to national ocean policy.
“I’m very excited to be selected as a Knauss fellow,” says Blaydes. “It’s truly an honor. I’m looking forward to the challenges and the responsibilities of the coming year.”
Blaydes has a bachelor’s degree in bioenvironmental science from Texas A&M University in College Station. Prior to enrolling at UD, she worked as an environmental consultant in Dallas, Texas.
Bernice McLean has been placed with NOAA’s Office of Global Programs, which sponsors scientific research aimed at understanding climate variability. During her year as a Knauss Fellow, she will help design and implement national and international research projects related to the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which was established by a presidential initiative.
“My placement with the Office of Global Programs will provide experience in the design and management of federal research activities, particularly within the context of a coordinated science program across multiple federal agencies,” says McLean. “I also will learn about the diverse suite of organizations that are involved in climate research and become familiar with the complex relationships between climate and human activity.”
As a doctoral candidate in marine policy, McLean has been working with her adviser, Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, to explore various options that can be used to better protect the marine and coastal resources of eastern and southern Africa. In particular, McLean is looking at how natural and social issues, which can impact coastal areas, can be integrated into management strategies to strengthen the governance of these areas.
McLean also worked as a research assistant at the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy. In that capacity, she served as a representative on numerous national and international committees and workshops on coastal management including the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. In addition, she assisted Cicin-Sain in the development of a collaborative program between UD and Brazil, which seeks to establish permanent cooperation between the two countries on issues of coastal management through the exchange of students and scientists as well as by conducting joint research projects.
“The Knauss Fellowship provides a unique opportunity to collaborate with dedicated and knowledgeable individuals working in the field of ocean governance,” says McLean. “Given the ongoing work of the U.S. Ocean Commission and the upcoming elections, the exposure provided through the fellowship during this formative time of U.S. ocean and coastal governance is unparalleled.”
A native of South Africa, McLean has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology and psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Prior to enrolling at UD, she worked as an environmental
specialist in South Africa.