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Meet GOMO’s new Knauss Fellows: Jessica Gwinn & Sarah Tucker

The Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing Program (GOMO) has a history of working with NOAA’s Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship Program each year, and has supported 12 Knauss Fellows since 2015! This February, GOMO welcomed two new fellows, Sarah Tucker and Jessica (Jesse) Gwinn. Sarah comes to GOMO from Hawaii Sea Grant and is working to support the Arctic Research and Communications portfolios. Jesse is from Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant and is helping with GOMO’s Pacific Islands Capacity Building and Communications. Get to know our new team members in their introductory blog below!

What made you apply for the Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship?

Sarah: While working directly with a coastal community as a graduate student, I realized that I could be a more effective collaborator and advocate if I had a better understanding of how science informs policy and management and vice versa, how policy and management informs science. The Knauss Fellowship provides the perfect opportunity to gain this knowledge, while also providing first-hand exposure to a variety of career paths, a broadened network, and chance to participate in meaningful coastal and ocean resource management. This year I am hoping to build skills in working at the science-policy interface, grow my leadership experiences, collaborate across agencies and offices, and challenge myself to become a better scientist, project manager, and communicator.

Jesse: Prior to the Knauss Fellowship, my PhD research focused on studying the fate of harmful algae toxins in marine food webs to improve prediction of seafood-borne illnesses in humans. Harmful algae are a global issue requiring a considerable amount of community and stakeholder engagement to communicate risks associated with consuming contaminated seafood and to aid in developing management strategies. Although I could see the implications of my work for human and marine ecosystem health and the socioeconomic security of coastal communities, most of my career so far had been spent as a researcher. I applied to the Knauss Fellowship as an opportunity to learn more about the intersections between science, policy, and communication – all of which play a role in protecting people and the environment.

What drew you to the GOMO office?

Sarah: As an international leader in ocean observations, I felt a position within the GOMO office would align perfectly with my interests in biological oceanography, time-series management and analyses, data sharing, international collaboration, technology development, science communication, and community engagement. In particular, the Arctic Research and Communications Fellow Position would provide the opportunity to work at the forefront of Arctic research and policy, engage across NOAA and among federal agencies, support communities, and take part in the communications, including the annual creation of the Arctic Report Card. Following my interview with the office, I saw that GOMO was incredibly collaborative and supportive, and was excited to join such a positive work environment. 

Jesse: I was drawn to GOMO because they seemed like a great team with people that are passionate about what they do. The Pacific Islands Capacity Building & Communications Fellow position was particularly appealing to me because of my previous experiences working in coastal areas and tropical islands, through which I grew to appreciate the connections of these communities to the ocean and the challenges they face in light of climate change and other environmental stressors. I was excited by the opportunity to apply my background in marine science to engage and uplift these often underserved communities and to improve global awareness, education, and access to ocean data.

What do you like to do for fun? Do you have a favorite place in DC yet?

Sarah: I enjoy spending time outdoors, swimming, with friends and family, and learning new languages. I am still exploring DC, but so far some of my favorite places include the Eastern Market and the US Botanical Garden.

Jesse: I love being outside and staying active, so I usually spend a lot of my free time biking, paddleboarding, or playing fetch with my recently adopted dog, a 9-year old Glen terrier named Doug. I’ve been doing yoga for about 10 years, so I am also often found listening to music and doing handstands around my house. I’m still exploring DC but have really enjoyed visiting the Smithsonian museums and the National Arboretum. Being from Texas and Alabama, I am not too fond of the cold, so I am excited for the weather to warm up to hopefully spend more time getting outside the city to go hiking!