“Our goal as an office is to promote pragmatic approaches to natural resource decisions that consider both the environment and the people impacted”, says Sean Mullin, a 2021 Knauss Fellow with the Office of Congressman John Garamendi.
The John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program, offers one-year fellowships working in federal government offices in Washington, D.C. to early-career professionals. Sean, who recently defended his Ph.D. in Geobiology from the California Institute of Technology, sought out the Knauss fellowship in hopes to strengthen communication between scientists and policymakers and to foster public appreciation of the oceans and their diversity. He is one of the 71 Knauss fellows accepted into the highly competitive 2021 cohort.
As he began his role as a Knauss Fellow, Sean hoped to not only gain knowledge on major natural resources issues and relevant laws and regulations, but also to expand his network of contacts within Congressional staff and non-governmental organizations. The Knauss Fellowship benefits both Fellow and Host. Sean’s host office, the Office of Congressman John Garamendi, hoped that Sean would gain a strong understanding of Congressional processes and documents and direct experience working through each step during his time as a Fellow to better prepare him for the next chapter of his career.
In his time as a Knauss Fellow thus far, Sean has pursued interesting new projects.
“I have worked in tandem with the Legislative Director to introduce five bills to date,'' he says. “I am also the lead point of contact for three major bills that we expect to introduce by the end of the year.”
Sean also took on the responsibility of drafting legislative documents for personal office work, including constituent letters, bill summaries, bill text, press releases, speeches, questions for Congressional hearings, and informational memos.
Beyond the hands-on experience in the legislative branch, Sean has also had numerous opportunities for training and professional development. He notes many networking opportunities with Congressional staff and a variety of webinars and classes through groups such as the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Service Academy, and the Environmental Law Institute.
Despite some limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sean also made it a point to try and visit a variety of California Sea Grant offices this fall. Over the remaining months of the fellowship, he plans to finalize the major bills he has been working on as well as an academic manuscript for submission for journal publication.
Sean recently accepted a position in California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office where he hopes to continue bridging the gaps between science and policy in the legislative world.
This update was developed by Sarah Farnsworth, 2021 California Sea Grant State Fellow at the Delta Stewardship Council.
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.