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Knauss Fellows


Four From Rutgers Named 2022 NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellows

CARISSA SESTITO / RUTGERS TODAY – Four Rutgers graduate students – the most of any institution of higher education in the United States – are among 74 finalists selected for the 2022 class of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program.

Named after oceanographer and meteorologist John A. Knauss, one of the founders of the Sea Grant and former NOAA administrator, the one-year paid fellowship has provided almost 1,500 students interested in how national policy decisions affect ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources the opportunity to work with either the legislative or executive branch of the government since the program was launched in 1979.

The four Rutgers graduate students who will become part of the 43rd class of the fellowship are:

Janine Barr is a second-year master’s student in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) pursuing a degree in oceanography under adviser Daphne Munroe. Barr worked as a research fellow in the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following her graduation from Gettysburg College in 2015 with bachelor’s degrees in biology and environmental studies. At the EPA, she conducted policy work and supported the Standards and Health Protection Division’s implementation of water quality standards to protect fresh and marine water quality consistent with state and federal regulations. At Rutgers, Barr is a Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) fellow and studies the coastal ecology of oyster farms. Through this work, she is quantifying the water quality benefits this form of aquaculture may provide and how climate change may impact this ecosystem service.

“I’m looking forward to expanding my understanding of how leaders at the federal level balance conservation and management of our nation’s marine resources in their daily work, as well as how stakeholders are meaningfully engaged in this decision-making process.”

Schuyler Nardelli is a Ph.D. candidate in oceanography with a bachelor’s degree in earth and oceanographic science and environmental studies. Nardelli’s background is in bio-optics and phytoplankton. After finishing her undergraduate studies, she spent a year as a research assistant in an ocean optics lab at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, Florida. Nardelli uses optics as tools for learning about both phytoplankton and physiology and ecology within the physical constraints of coastal ecosystems. She expands this knowledge by studying plankton ecological dynamics in response to climate change off the coast of the Western Antarctic Peninsula using both optical and acoustic techniques.

Through the fellowship, Nardelli hopes to step outside her comfort zone.

“I am looking forward to learning how scientific research is used to create policy, working with diverse stakeholders, and stepping outside my comfort zone,” she said.

Ashlyn Spector is a second-year master’s student in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at SEBS with a bachelor’s in geology from the University of Florida. She is a C2R2 fellow and a member of the Climate Resilience Corp of the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center housed at Rutgers. Spector’s research involves reconstructing sea level, sea surface temperatures and ice volume from the Miocene Climate Optium. Her research interests also include using drone technology for geoscience education purposes, as well as integrating science with policy action to better prepare communities for the increasing risks of climate change.

“I’m looking forward to participating in policy making at a national level by helping to draft legislation and improving my science communication skills,” she said of the fellowship.

Liza Wright-Fairbanks is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences (DMCS) at SEBS where she is a member of the Center for Ocean Observing Leadership. Her dissertation research focuses on the use of underwater gliders to investigate drivers of coastal ocean chemistry in the Mid-Atlantic. Wright-Fairbanks is a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at DMCS, serving as a founding student member of the DMCS DEI committee. In her free time, she enjoys gardening and hiking with her dog.

“I look forward to improving my communication skills in an interdisciplinary setting and learning how scientific research can influence federal policy,” Wright-Fairbanks said.

Knauss finalists are chosen through a competitive process that includes comprehensive review at both the state Sea Grant program and national levels. Students that are enrolled in or have recently completed their master’s, juris doctor (J.D.) and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) programs with a focus or interest in marine and coastal science, policy or management apply to one of the 34 Sea Grant programs.

Meet the Climate Corps

Angel Alguera, Rutgers Climate CorpsAngel Alguera
I am a first-year Atmospheric Science master’s degree student in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and my work focuses on meteorology and applications of climate change resiliency. My professional interests include severe weather forecasting and community preparedness regarding weather-related disasters. I work with Dr. James Shope at the NJ Climate Change Resource Center to produce applied research and reports relevant to New Jersey stakeholders. I currently assist with climate change data analysis, large dataset management, and report writing.

Daniel GilkesonDaniel Gilkeson
I’m a second-year master’s student in the City and Regional Planning Program with a concentration in environmental planning. As a planner, I hope to build more resilient communities in the face of increased risk due to climate change. With the Climate Change Resource Center, I am working on a project to aid the state in an update of its floodplain buyout program, known as Blue Acres, to be more proactive and comprehensive. Prior to this position, I interned in the Community and Economic Development Office at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Association. I’m also an AmeriCorps alum, having completed a year of service working on affordable housing in Nashville, Tennessee.

Benjamin GoldbergBenjamin Goldberg
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in climate adaptation and resiliency planning, with experience in sustainable food systems. I joined the Climate Corps last summer to help develop a GIS-based food waste recovery tool, and currently support community resilience through flood vulnerability analysis. I hold a B.A. from Middlebury College and a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz.

Surya Jacob, Rutgers Climate CorpsSurya Jacob
I am a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School concentrating in community development, focused on housing, land and finance, as well as pursuing the Real Estate Development/Redevelopment Certification. Prior to Bloustein, I worked as an architect and interior designer in India and Canada and am pivoting towards a career in urban planning to engage in extensive projects at the macro level. My interests include affordable and mixed income housing, urban redevelopment, and housing finance, and I am deeply passionate about climate resilience in community planning. Being part of Climate Corps is a foundational step towards helping to solve equity issues in vulnerable communities along the coastal region.

Vineesh Das Kodakkandathil, RutgersVineesh Das Kodakkandathil
I am an urban planner with five years of professional experience in community-led ecotourism development and land use and environment management planning in ecologically sensitive areas. I have worked on and conducted extensive environmental sensitivity analyses, flood and landslide vulnerability assessments, and human impact assessments with the help of GIS tools. I’m currently pursuing my master’s in City and Regional Planning at Bloustein School with a concentration in Transport Planning and GIS.

Douglas LeungDouglas Leung
I am working with the Climate Change Resource Center to identify vulnerable communities and places affected by climate-induced flooding in coastal New Jersey municipalities. I am a Master of City and Regional Planning candidate at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. As a planner, I want to develop strategies and solve problems affecting our cities and communities that enable more equitable outcomes in housing and transportation. I am also a recent Army veteran, having served as a company commander of recruiting in the northern suburbs of Chicago and as a reconnaissance platoon leader in the 10th Mountain Division. For fun, I enjoy weightlifting, running, reading fiction, and board games.

Nihar MhatreNihar Mhatre
I am a master’s candidate in city and regional planning at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, focusing on urban design and land use planning. Before being accepted at Rutgers, I worked as an architect at JD Studio and had my own architectural practice, Vastu Insights. My research interests revolve around designing and developing climate change adaptation and resilience strategies to promote equity in urban landscapes. Having the opportunity to work on real-world projects through Climate Corps will be an essential step in the development of my understanding of addressing climate change issues in vulnerable regions.

Justin MorrisJustin Morris
Justin is a master’s student at Rutgers University studying discovery informatics and data sciences. He is working under Professor Mark Rodgers to develop an optimization model that will act as a decision support tool for university financial investments with the end goal of eliminating Rutgers’ scope 2 emissions. He is excited to apply his background in data analytics and mathematical programming to help the university fight climate change.

Josephine O'GradyJosephine O’Grady
I am a first-year student in the Master of Public Policy program. Through the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) certification, I am focusing a significant portion of my graduate coursework on topics including coastal geomorphology, environmental justice, and hazard mitigation planning. Before beginning my studies at the Bloustein School, I received my bachelor’s degree in public health from Kean University, where I first became interested in how coastal dynamics shape lived experiences. I previously served as an intern at the New Jersey State Policy Lab and currently work for the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

Jessica Parineet Jessica Parineet
I am a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the Bloustein School with a strong interest in climate change policy and related topics. In my previous work, I gained experience in a number of dimensions of climate change issues through carbon capture storage research, urban heat island research, and community level engagement as I am currently on the Student Advisory Board for the Rutgers Office of Climate Action. I am excited to expand on my interests in environmental justice and local level resilience planning through my involvement in the Climate Corps.

Dillon Patel Dillan Patel
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Environmental Planning and International Development. I have previously worked as an economist performing cost-benefit analysis and conducting monitoring and evaluation for renewable energy in developing countries. I have also spent a summer in western Massachusetts mapping stormwater infrastructure and working with planners to identify suitable places for green stormwater infrastructure.

Moira Sweeder, Rutgers Climate CorpsMoira Sweeder
I am a graduate student enrolled in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School. My concentration is environmental planning with a focus on coastal resilience. Before pursuing my master’s degree at Rutgers, I studied sustainability at Stockton University. During this time, I interned for the PSEG Institute of Sustainability Studies, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuary Research Reserve, and NJ Audubon. I am thrilled to now be a part of the Climate Corps, researching coastal resilience as a part of the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

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