Two Texas grad students chosen for yearlong marine policy fellowship in Washington, D.C.

July 12, 2017

By Jessica Scarfuto

Two Texas doctoral students have been selected to receive the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship for 2018.

Emily K. Cira and Andria Kay Salas will spend a year starting next February in Washington, D.C., on a paid fellowship with either the Legislative or Executive Branches of the federal government. The Knauss Fellowships, established in 1979, pair highly qualified graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources with “hosts” in the legislative and executive branches of government. This provides a unique educational opportunity for students to learn about national policy decisions affecting these natural resources.

A Ph.D. student in Coastal and Marine Science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Cira is studying how environmental factors such as temperature and salinity and human factors such as nutrient loading influence water quality in Baffin Bay in South Texas. “Baffin Bay has been showing signs of water quality degradation,” she said. “I hope that the results of my research can help the local efforts to address these concerns.”

Cira said she is looking forward to learning how research like hers is applied to policy and management decisions. “I have spent the past years conducting research on coastal water quality with the intent that my results would be used to guide management decisions,” she said. “The Knauss Fellowship will give me hands-on exposure to marine and coastal policy, and allow me to have a much more active role in the process.”

Salas is a Ph.D. candidate in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on how sounds generated by the activity of animals living on coral reefs may serve as cues to indicate the quality of a reef for larval fishes that use reefs to transition to the next stage of life.

She said she is excited to participate in the Knauss Fellowship because she is passionate about the research process and has a deep appreciation for the world’s oceans. “I want to gain knowledge and insight about what type of science is needed and how this science is used by policy makers so that I can better guide my own research to positively contribute to how our ocean resources are managed and protected.”

The Knauss Fellowship program is open to students who are enrolled toward a degree in a graduate or professional program; they are required to apply through the nearest state Sea Grant program. The fellowship is named in honor of one of Sea Grant’s founders, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator John A. Knauss.

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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.