As the National Sea Grant College Program celebrates its 50th anniversary, we take a look back at how our program has supported education through graduate fellowships.
In month-long this series, we explore what former California Sea Grant State Fellows have been up to since their fellowship.
As a California Sea Grant State Fellow with the California Natural Resources Agency in 2002, Christine Blackburn helped organize the “California and the World Ocean Conference” and the first meeting of the board of trustees of the newly formed California Ocean Trust.
After her fellowship, Christine Blackburn worked as a policy associate with the Research, Education and Marine Operations Working Group of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.
The 16-member commission spent nearly three years reviewing the nation’s marine programs and policies and sent a 400-page draft report outlining its recommendations for improving ocean governance to the nation’s governors and interested stakeholders.
As support staff for the commissioners, Blackburn wrote chapters of the report dealing with ocean research, science infrastructure, and oceans and human health. She then incorporated governors’ comments into a final report sent to President George W. Bush in fall of 2004.
“Working at the Ocean Commission was a once in a lifetime experience and my time as a fellow made it possible,” Blackburn said. “[That experience] was invaluable for understanding the policy implications of science and how science fits into policy-making.”
She credits California Sea Grant for giving her the start in policy.
“Until I started the Sea Grant State Fellowship, my only job experience was in the lab doing independent research,” Blackburn said. “After completing my doctoral degree, I was interested in taking a different career path and wanted to get involved in policy work related to science. Opportunities to switch fields are limited. The fellowship gave me an unparalleled opportunity to experience this kind of work firsthand.”
Blackburn is currently the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Originally published June 2004