To any future fellows who are considering one of the several State Fellowship opportunities that work in climate change: be sure to take care of yourself. Climate change is a tough concept to grapple with day in and day out. Sea levels are rising; the chemistry of the ocean is changing; storms, extreme heat days, and wildfires will become more frequent and severe. The list goes on, and these impacts will disproportionately affect communities that already face socioeconomic and racial inequities.
This is a heavy topic, and one that I had not yet worked with on a daily basis. It was actually for this reason that I chose the Climate Ready position at the State Coastal Conservancy; I wanted to gain new, on-the-ground insight into what California is doing to prepare for current and future impacts of climate change. And I have, indeed, gained invaluable experience in California’s climate adaptation realm. However, one of the best, unexpected parts of this fellowship was that it truly drew me out of the marine science shell that I had placed myself in during graduate school.
The fellowship forced me to face the fact that you can’t manage coastal or ocean resources without thinking about people or climate change. In the science realm, it is often all too easy to put your head down in your work and forget—at least temporarily—about the overwhelming and intersectional challenges facing the state, country, and world today.
I quickly learned that thinking about these issues day in and day out is, frankly, exhausting. But I also found myself immersed in an inspiring community of climate change adaptation practitioners. The members of this community and the innovative work that they champion are what helped me stay positive in a world facing very daunting changes.
If you find yourself jumping in to a fellowship focused on climate change, seek out these positive stories and champions. Take mental health breaks, whether that means talking to your peers about how hard this work is, or grabbing another Sea Grant State Fellow to take a walk around the block during a long conference. Climate change is overwhelming no matter how you look at it, but we’re lucky that California is helping to lead the nation in climate change policy and adaptation. This fellowship is a perfect chance to be a part of that leadership.