Texas A&M Galveston grad student chosen for national fellowship

January 12, 2016

By Cindie Powell

A graduate student sponsored by the Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University will start her term Feb. 1 as a 2016 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C.

Natalie Spear, who is expected to receive her master’s degree in marine biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston in May, will spend a year working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Ecological and Health Processes Branch.

She previously graduated with honors from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation and Resource Studies (International Resource Conservation), and has worked for the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a contract fisheries research biologist, biological research technician and marine mammal observer.

“I want to create effective pathways of communication between scientists and policymakers,” she said. “My work with NOAA showed me that the science-policy gap is not for lack of desire by the scientific community to share information. As a Knauss Fellow, one of my goals is to learn tools and skills that will strengthen my ability to communicate scientific findings and their relevance. I want to help individuals and communities make choices that contribute to a healthier planet, to recognize we are part of nature.”

While at EPA, Spear will join the Nutrients Team as the National Nutrient Criteria Program Fellow. Excessive nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus — caused by human industry, agriculture and municipal design can cause negative ecological impacts in water bodies, including stimulating harmful algal blooms and depleting oxygen in the water to a level that no longer supports marine life.

NOAA established the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program in 1979 to provide a unique educational experience to students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. Participants are nominated by one of the 33 state Sea Grant programs and spend their Knauss year working for a host office in either the legislative or executive branches of the federal government in the Washington, D.C., area. The program is named in honor of one of Sea Grant’s founders, the late former NOAA Administrator John A. Knauss.

Texas Sea Grant is now taking applications for the 2017 Knauss Fellowship. More information is available on the Texas Sea Grant website at http://texasseagrant.org/funding/dean-john-a.-knauss-marine-policy-fellowship/.  Applications are due Feb. 12, 2016.


Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.