From Divemaster to D.C.

Fellow Name: Amy Bowman
Fellow Type: Knauss Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2015

Years of experience working and playing in the water in exotic locations around the world have led to Amy Bowman’s latest land-based adventure: working on fisheries policy and ocean science communication in Washington, D.C.

Bowman, a recent graduate of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, is now working in the nation’s capital as the recipient of a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship through California Sea Grant.

This competitive yearlong fellowship pairs qualified graduates with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branch of government, where fellows gain first-hand educational experience in national policy decisions affecting ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources.

The Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship is named after Scripps Oceanography alumnus John Knauss, one of Sea Grant's founders and a former NOAA Administrator.

“This program provides graduates with hands-on, direct experience working on policy at the federal level,” said Jim Eckman, director of the California Sea Grant Program. “Whether a fellow winds up working in government, non-profits, or in academia, there is incredible value in having the experience helping develop and implement real-world policy.”

After receiving a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (MBC) from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego in 2014, Bowman was eager to find post-graduate research or job opportunities related to ocean conservation, which ultimately led her to the Knauss Fellowship. She credits the program at Scripps with opening her eyes to the interconnectedness of science policy and conservation.

“Now I understand how much policy affects conservation. Economics affect conservation. Science affects conservation. Communication affects conservation,” said Bowman. “There are a lot of elements in a successful conservation campaign. Scripps really taught me that.”

Bowman says she “adored” her time at Scripps, where she learned from some of the top minds in ocean science, interacted with brilliant people, and was given the flexibility to learn and grow as an ocean science professional.

“Scripps immerses you into a world of people who want to understand our world and make it a better place,” explained Bowman. “You can't help but feel further empowered to follow your own dreams.”

Since the start of her Knauss Fellowship early February, Bowman has been working as a Communications Specialist at NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Science and Technology.

Her current responsibilities include writing science articles for the Office of Science and Technology’s newsroom, creating fisheries- and climate change-related fact sheets for public information, creating infographics using visual design programs, and assisting with internal communications projects.

“I am getting an in-depth focus on how communications works in science and policy, and I am really loving this work,” said Bowman.

A self-proclaimed “fish nerd,” Bowman has been an ocean lover for as long as she can remember. She fondly remembers spending long days playing at the beach and she recalls experiencing a “pivotal moment” during an eighth grade field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “I lost the group tour and spent a couple of hours completely engrossed in petting bat rays. It was love at first pet!”

After graduating from high school, Bowman earned a business degree from Sierra Nevada College in Nevada, just one mile from the shore of Lake Tahoe.  Then, she spent a year traveling the world and began scuba diving—a hobby that soon led to incredible job opportunities.

In the following years, Bowman worked on a ship in Alaska for half a year and then as a divemaster and instructor while living in Thailand, Egypt, Nicaragua, and the Bay Islands of Honduras. She also spent six months working as the dive safety officer while on a research base in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.

After working and traveling for many years, she relocated to Maui, Hawaii, where her interest in ocean science was again piqued.  

Fascinated by the local Hawaiian marine life, Bowman wanted to learn more about the different species. She read extensively, attended science lectures, and eventually signed up for an oceanography course at University of Hawaii, Maui College (UHMC). With encouragement from oceanography instructor Donna Brown, Bowman decided to continue to her educational journey at UHMC, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in applied natural science in 2013.

Following graduation, Bowman became interested in the MAS MBC program at Scripps for its interdisciplinary approach to educating students about ocean conservation.

“I felt that I could learn so much from a diverse platform, and knew that I would meet some top people in science, economics, and policy,” said Bowman. “I felt that what I would learn at Scripps could really help me pursue a career in conservation.”

For her final “capstone” project at Scripps, Bowman created a documentary and teaching tool about ocean acidification called “Losing Base.” She also participated in educational science outreach to middle school students in San Diego, under the guidance of Scripps Assistant Professor Andreas Andersson.

Bowman’s academic achievements at Scripps, work experience, and passion for ocean conservation made her an ideal candidate for the Knauss Fellowship.

“Amy has a very unique, diverse background that clearly demonstrates her passion for marine conservation,” said Eckman. “She is motivated, self-directed, and a natural leader with a very engaging personality.”

Upon completion of the Knauss Fellowship, Bowman hopes to continue working on science policy and communication in D.C., at NOAA Fisheries if possible. Eventually, she would like to return to Maui, the place she considers “home” after living there for ten years (the longest she has ever lived in one city).

“As an avid diver, coral reef ecosystems will always have my heart,” reflected Bowman. “There is a strong group of dedicated people back home who really care about making our world a better place, and I would be happy being part of that effort.”

Written by Brittany Hook, Scripps Communications. A version of this article first appeared on Scripps News