Jason Didden, Letise Houser, Jonathan Lilley, and Thomas Street — graduate students at the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies — are among an elite group of 42 students from across the nation to receive the 2006 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.
Jason Didden has been assigned to the Office of Policy in NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. This office performs a mix of crisis management and long-term strategic planning of fishery-related issues. Didden will assist staff members in both the development and implementation of new policies as well as the analysis of existing policies. In addition, he will work to resolve controversial issues in collaboration with scientists and managers and other stakeholders.
“My career objective is to work in the areas of fishery and coastal resource management to improve marine resources,” says Didden. “The Knauss Fellowship gives me the opportunity to work in an office that will provide real-world, hands-on experiences, which are directly related to this field.”
As a doctoral candidate in marine policy, Didden is using a computer model to estimate the value, in dollars and cents, that improving the water quality in the Chesapeake and Delaware bays will have on recreational fishing. His work will be used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help evaluate water-quality policy for the Chesapeake Bay.
Didden’s research was inspired by work he did during a 2003 summer internship at the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics. During his internship, he conducted a review of literature related to restoration efforts of the Chesapeake Bay and discovered data that can be used to analyze the benefits of spending money to improve the water quality of the bay. Didden earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and political science from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and also holds a current Massachusetts teaching certificate.
Letise Houser will be working in the office of Congressman Sam Farr of California, who co-chairs the Ocean Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. Houser will assist both Farr’s office and the caucus in drafting legislation in response to the recommendations in the Pew Oceans Commission Report and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy Report — two major reports on the status of the oceans. She also will provide scientific input and prepare speeches on marine-related issues.
“I hope to get immersed in the legislative process and develop my understanding of the policies dealing with the oceans,” says Houser. “It would be great to have a tangible result of my involvement by the year’s end — for example, seeing a bill that I worked on pass.
“The Knauss fellowship is one of the most recognized, well-connected, and hands-on fellowships available,” Houser adds. “It should give me the experience I need to propel me forward as I pursue a career in the policy arena.”
Houser earned her doctorate in marine biology–biochemistry in fall 2005. Her research showed that there are “patches” of blue crab larvae that stay together for days. The formation and maintenance of these patches are thought to encourage the survival of larval crabs to adulthood.
While at the College of Marine Studies, Houser served as a student representative on the executive board of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography — the leading professional organization for researchers and educators in aquatic science. She also served as the shipboard education coordinator for the deep-sea expedition Extreme 2003: To the Depths of Discovery, sharing her firsthand experiences at sea with 600 middle- and high-school classrooms around the world.
Originally from Chicago, Houser earned a bachelor of science in aquatic biology and a bachelor of arts in English, with honors in creative writing, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. In November 2002, she published a book of poetry titled Mood Spectrum.
Jonathan Lilley received an appointment to NOAA’s Office of Education. This office provides advice and counsel to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere on educational matters. As an education program analyst, Lilley will help develop methods to improve the agency’s education programs, support ongoing education initiatives, and prepare responses to Congressional inquires. He also will represent the office at meetings and conferences.
“Ocean education is vitally important and much needs to be done in the formal K–12 school system as well as in more informal adult education programs,” says Lilley. “The Knauss Fellowship is a unique experience that is unavailable anywhere else. It gives me the opportunity to work in Washington, DC, in an area that I’m really excited about.”
As a doctoral candidate in marine policy, Lilley is investigating public attitudes toward the ocean. More specifically, he hopes to discover what the public “really thinks of the ocean” and unearth the beliefs and values that lay beneath these attitudes — an area that has received little attention to date. Lilley’s research will help decision makers and educators provide information about marine-related issues in a way that can be better understood by the public.
In addition to his graduate research, Lilley helps coordinate the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association, which oversees the design and operation of coastal observing systems from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. These systems provide data and information that will improve the efficiency and safety of marine operations, national security, and predictions of natural hazards and their effects, among other applications.
Lilley earned a master’s degree, with distinction, in coastal and marine resource management from the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. He also earned a bachelor’s degree, with honors, in geography from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.
Thomas Street will spend his year as a Knauss Fellow working for the Office of the Assistant Administrator in NOAA’s National Ocean Service. This office oversees all activities related to the ocean, coastal and marine resources of the United States. Street will help evaluate various proposals that have been made to ensure that the United States maintains its leadership role in ocean affairs.
“By working in the Office of the Assistant Administrator, I hope to learn more about ocean law and policy,” says Street. “This placement is directly related to my areas of interest and will allow me to gain some practical, on-the-job experience.”
As a doctoral candidate in marine policy, Street has been conducting research in the area of mari-time and admiralty law. More specifically, he is examining how U.S. policy on underwater cultural heritage sites, such as shipwrecks and submerged archeological sites, relates to initiatives at the international level. His ultimate goal is to make recommendations for better management of these sites.
Street earned a law degree from the Catholic University of America Law School in Washington, DC, and is licensed to practice in Florida, North Carolina, and the District of Colombia. He also earned a master’s degree in marine affairs and policy from the University of Miami in Florida and a bachelor’s degree, with departmental honors, in history from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Before attending graduate school, Street served as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Navy. As head of the Legal Assistance Department, he provided civil legal services to 15,000 service members, dependents, and retirees in and around the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition, he served as a defense attorney before becoming head of the Claims Department, where he handled all claims filed against the U.S. Government originating in the southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and in Central and South America.