UAF fisheries graduate student chosen as National Sea Grant Knauss Fellow

Juneau native heads to D.C. to learn how marine resources are managed, policies made

6/26/2007

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NR: SG-2007/NR257

Seanbob Kelly
Seanbob Kelly in Prince William Sound. Right-click or control-click image to download print-quality version [TIFF; 4.3 MB].

Fairbanks, Alaska—Seanbob Kelly, a University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences graduate student, will soon work in the nation's capital as a 2008 National Sea Grant Knauss Fellow.

"We are proud that Seanbob Kelly completed both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences," said Dean Denis Wiesenburg. "I know that this background and his interest in fisheries policy issues provide a solid foundation for his tenure as a Knauss Fellow."

The prestigious fellowship was established in 1979 to provide insight and training to graduate-level university students interested in how the nation's marine resources are managed and how marine policies are made.

Knauss Fellows receive a year's stipend to work in Washington, D.C., either within marine resource agencies of the federal executive branch or in Congressional and Senate committees that help set the nation's marine policies. The fellowship is widely viewed as a key step in the career path of scientists and managers.

"I can't imagine a nicer end to my college life or a better beginning to my professional career," said Kelly. "The fellowship will be a lot of work, with many challenges, but it will offer opportunities as well. I want to bring back to Alaska as much knowledge and experience as I can."

Kelly, 31, calls Juneau home, but has family throughout the state. He has been living in Fairbanks while completing his master's degree in fisheries oceanography. In July, he will travel to the fellowship's orientation in Washington, D.C. There, he'll learn where he is to serve. Kelly hopes to be placed in an executive branch agency that helps make fisheries policy in Alaska.

"I'm interested in science and policy, because they are so interconnected," said Kelly. "Policy is made from the science, but the policies and politics affect the people who use and depend on the resources."

The one-year fellowship begins February 2008. For Kelly, the fellowship is part of a plan to fulfill higher education goals that he and his wife Anke, a permanent U.S. resident from Germany, have long been working toward. Anke recently was accepted to Brandeis University outside Boston, Massachusetts, where she will pursue a master's degree in human genetic disorders. Anke hopes to one day conduct research aimed at curing childhood diseases.

"Our plans are coming together, and that's a wonderful feeling," said Kelly. "We feel so blessed."

Kelly sought many opportunities to grow and learn while studying at UAF. As an undergraduate student, he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, counting salmon migrating up the Yukon River to U.S. and Canadian tributaries. The summer job afforded him many interactions with subsistence fishermen, and instilled in him an appreciation for Native culture and subsistence, he said. Kelly also worked for the Yukon River Drainage Fishermen's Association, helping researchers studying salmon on the Andreafsky River in Southwest Alaska. When not on Alaska's rivers, Kelly could often be found aboard oceanographic research ships in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean, jobs usually reserved for graduate students.

In Fairbanks, Kelly volunteered his time as an earth sciences and mathematics tutor at Lathrop High School. He said his many experiences helped him in his own studies. Kelly's exemplary grades earned him a spot on the Chancellor's List (4.0 GPA) five times, and twice he was named to the Dean's List (3.0 GPA). In both 2004 and 2005, Kelly was selected as UAF's outstanding fisheries undergraduate student.

As a UAF graduate student, Kelly examined Pacific herring habitat use in Prince William Sound, Alaska. He expects to complete his master's thesis and graduate this summer.

This year, more than 75 graduate students nationwide applied to be Knauss Fellows. Of these, 52 were selected. Alaska Sea Grant submitted two SFOS fisheries students to the fellowship competition.

"This is a very competitive university fellowship across the country, and the demands are high for the recipients," said Brian Allee, director of Alaska Sea Grant. "We are very fortunate to have had two extremely strong candidates, and that one candidate was selected for this prestigious fellowship. It's a feather in UAF's cap for its students to have competed so well."

Since 1979, more than 600 Knauss Fellows have worked in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. Past Knauss Fellows from Alaska were Jill Brady and Ashley Evans (1991), Carl Rebstock and William S. Robie (1992), Erika Feller (1995), and Nina Mollett (1996).

The Knauss Fellowship is named in honor of John A. Knauss, one of Sea Grant's national founders and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator. Sea Grant is a nationwide network of 30 university-based NOAA programs engaged in scientific research, education, training, and extension projects aimed at better understanding and managing the nation's marine and Great Lakes resources. Alaska Sea Grant is based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.