Above left to right: Kacey Hirshfeld Clayton, Allison Lepp, Natalie Lerma, Lauren Alvaro, Chelsea Gray, and Kesten, Bozinovic
2024 Knauss Fellowship Finalists Announced
Five Virginia students and one Washington, D.C. student have been chosen as finalists for Sea Grant’s prestigious 2024 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program. They will join more than 1,600 Knauss alumni who have completed the program, named for one of Sea Grant’s founders and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator, to become leaders in science, policy, and public administration. The current class of 2024 Knauss finalists, 84 early-career professionals, is an impressive group with diverse backgrounds and interests. They represent 30 of the 34 Sea Grant programs in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
“Nothing prepares early career professionals like a Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship. It thrusts recent graduates into meaningful, fast-paced marine and coastal management and policy decisions at the federal level, in Congress, and the Executive Branch,” said Troy Hartley, Director of Virginia Sea Grant. “We add a layer of professional development, mentoring, and support services to ensure Fellows not only survive but thrive. Knauss Fellows from VASG are prepared to succeed today, tomorrow, and throughout long illustrious careers.”
The John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship is a unique opportunity for graduate students to expand their educational and professional experience with national marine policy at the federal level in Washington, D.C. Knauss finalists are chosen through a competitive process that includes several rounds of review. If applicants are successful at the state Sea Grant program level, their applications are then reviewed by a national panel of experts. This fall, the finalists will participate in virtual interviews with several executive or legislative host offices. Following placement, they will begin their fellowship in February 2024.
Kacey Hirshfeld Clayton graduated from the College of Charleston with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and recently earned a Master of Arts from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Marine Science, where she used stakeholder knowledge to help develop policy recommendations for offshore wind development with commercial and recreational fishing activities.
Allison Lepp graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Science in Geology and earned a Master of Science in Earth and Environmental Studies from Montclair State University, where she studied Antarctic marine sediments. She earned a doctoral degree in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia, where she studied Antarctic subglacial hydrology. Lepp served as a Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science fellow, where she worked with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission on a project focused on balancing renewable energy infrastructure with fisheries interests.
Natalie Lerma graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Offshore and Coastal Systems Engineering. She is a doctoral candidate in Civil Engineering at the University of Virginia, where she studies hydrodynamic modeling for stormwater management with an interest in increasing opportunities for citizen participation.
Lauren Alvaro graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and recently earned a master’s degree from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Marine Science, where her research looked at how seagrass species identity alters faunal community composition. Alvaro has translated her knowledge of seagrass ecology into lesson plans for middle and high school students as part of the Virginia Scientists and Educators Alliance Project.
Chelsea Gray graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor of Science in biology and she earned a Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy from George Mason University. She is a doctoral candidate in Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason, where her work includes an individual-based model of Irish basking sharks and assessing the models use in policy. Gray served as a Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science fellow, where she distilled complex research into policy guidance.
Kesten Bozinovic graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. She recently earned a Master of Science in Environmental Metrology and Policy from Georgetown University. Where she studied polyfluorinated substance contamination in Department of Defense waterways. Bozinovic is passionate about translating science into relatable and actionable formats.