2023 Knauss Fellowship Finalists announced

Ute Eberle

Four exceptional graduate students from California have been selected as finalists of this year’s prestigious John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program, sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program. California Sea Grant is pleased to announce the finalists will be placed in host offices in the legislative or executive branches of the U.S. that work on coastal and marine science policy for a one-year paid fellowship. They will receive their assignments in the fall and will begin their fellowship in early 2023. The national 2023 class is the largest in recent years with 86 finalists. 


The four California finalists were chosen after a highly competitive selection process that included several rounds of review at the state Sea Grant and national levels. Since 1979, over 1,550 fellows have completed the program, which is sponsored by Sea Grant and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and trains new leaders in science, policy and public administration roles. The fellowship honors John A. Knauss, a founder of the National Sea Grant program and NOAA administrator. It provides a unique professional development opportunity for talented graduate students who have an interest in national policy decisions affecting ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. 


The class of fellows will be split into two cohorts — legislative and executive. Legislative fellows work in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, both in personal and committee offices. Executive fellows are placed in federal agencies with marine policy relevant missions and have previously served on the Committee on the Marine Transportation System, Department of Energy, Department of Interior, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, Marine Mammal Commission, NOAA, National Science Foundation, Oceanographer of the Navy, State Department, Smithsonian Institute, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard and the White House.


The 2023 Knauss Fellowship finalists from California represent a wide array of research experience and interests. They come from the University of California Santa Cruz, the University of San Diego and the University of California Los Angeles.




Michelle Robidas. Courtesy of Michelle Robidas.
Michelle Robidas. Courtesy of Michelle Robidas.


Michelle Robidas is pursuing a Master of Science in environmental & ocean sciences at the University of San Diego. Her research investigates what abiotic and biotic factors impact larval condition and recruitment variability of Northern anchovy in order to improve small pelagic fishery management. Beyond her studies, Michelle co-created a fellowship that empowers undergrads to take their sustainability ideas into action. Additionally, Michelle works at a non-profit where she has partnered with several regional stakeholders to improve outdoor inclusivity and access, implement equitable climate adaptation strategies and create community engagement frameworks. In her career, Michelle hopes to combine her love for outdoor spaces with equitable conservation policies through trust-based relationships and collaborative community engagement.  




De'Marcus Robinson. Courtesy of De'Marcus Robinson.
De'Marcus Robinson. Courtesy of De'Marcus Robinson.


De’Marcus Robinson is a graduate student in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Department at the University of California Los Angeles in the field of oceanography. His research investigates the benthic geochemical, geomicrobial and ocean biogeochemical feedback loops in the Santa Barbara Basin's oxygen minimum zone. He is an advocate for broadening participation in geoscience and marine science along with using science communication as a tool to educate and inform the public about marine science.




Austen Stovall. Courtesy of Austen Stovall.
Austen Stovall. Courtesy of Austen Stovall.


Austen Stovall recently earned a Master of Science in coastal science and policy at the University of California Santa Cruz. For her master's capstone project, Austen examined the feasibility of accessing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hazard mitigation funding for a project that used coral reef restoration for risk reduction in Hawai'i. She plans to continue to work at the intersection of disaster risk reduction and nature-based solutions and hopes to facilitate policy at the federal level that recognizes nature as a critical natural infrastructure that protects diverse coastal communities from hazards.








Ellen Willis-Norton. Courtesy of Ellen Willis-Norton
Ellen Willis-Norton. Courtesy of Ellen Willis-Norton.



Ellen Willis-Norton is pursuing a doctorate at the University of California Santa Cruz where she studies how U.S. West Coast marine ecosystems are responding to climate change. A focus of her work is predicting how the abundance and distribution of commercially and ecologically important fish species will be impacted by future climate conditions. She also examines the adaptability and vulnerability of fishing communities to these predicted changes. Besides climate change policy, her other great interest is offshore renewable energy research.







Want to learn more about the Knauss Fellowship? Visit the Knauss Fellowship Blog where the 2022 class of fellows share stories of their experiences in Washington, D.C.



About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Headquartered at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, California Sea Grant is one of 34 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.