Jaqueline Schwartz

Reflecting on my fellowship

Kathryn Beheshti, PhD

Hi! I’m Kat Beheshti, 2021 California Sea Grant State Fellow for the California Ocean Protection Council’s Climate Change Program and I’m here to shout from the rooftops that this fellowship changed my life.

Keeping the momentum

I defended my PhD less than two weeks before starting with my host agency so I have been moving at what has felt like hyperspeed for nearly a decade and didn’t want to slow down. I wanted to continue the momentum and excitement of the post-PhD experience into my Sea Grant Fellowship, which was why I was so excited to match with the Ocean Protection Council.

During the matching workshop it was clear to me that OPC was the place for me. At OPC, I knew I would be challenged and able to work in a fast-paced, yet thoughtful environment, with an inclusive and welcoming team. Watching OPC leadership in action has been inspiring. Executive Director Mark Gold and Deputy Director Jenn Eckerle are truly visionary and able to inform and advance solutions related to how we prepare, plan, and implement projects that make our coastline and the communities and economies it supports resilient to climate impacts (sea level rise, ocean acidification, hypoxia). Together, OPC staff work to reach state targets around protecting and restoring our treasured coastal habitats (salt marshes, seagrass meadows, kelp forests, etc.) for current and future generations. 

Small but mighty

OPC is a relatively small state agency, with around 12 permanent staff and 2 CA Sea Grant State Fellows, but don’t let that fool you, this is a huge asset of OPC’s and as a fellow it means that you get to contribute in a big way on a lot of different projects, initiatives, and state priorities. Also, you’ll get to work with some of the most proactive, passionate, and forward thinking individuals you’ll meet in state government. The expertise housed at OPC provides an environment for incoming fellows to grow, learn, and contribute. For example, I serve on the Natural and Working Lands Science Team and have helped develop the Climate Smart Strategy--a document that is going to help guide the state towards carbon neutrality! It’s a pretty neat feeling when you are writing something for the state of California and pulling from the same literature you used in your own dissertation! 

Part of the team

As a fellow, I have helped lead an interagency group called the Sea Level Rise Leadership Team Working Group which is tasked with implementing the Sea Level Rise Principles released late last year. We have been developing a Work Plan to help align and advance current and future state priorities around sea level rise planning and projects.


So far, I have authored two Staff Recommendations, one for the disbursement of Prop 68 funds to California Sea Grant to administer the Prop 68 Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH) Grant Solicitation (June Council Meeting) and another for the Informational Agenda Item for a Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries that I am leading and is currently underway (September Council Meeting). At the December Council Meeting, I will likely draft an additional Staff Recommendation for council-approval to fund OAH projects from the solicitation released earlier this summer.

If you’d like to see some of the work I have been able to do as a fellow, I encourage you to check out the Climate Resilience Miniseries, available on the OPC Website and my personal website!

My fellowship experience has given me so much more than I could have ever imagined. I envy all of the incoming 2022 fellows that get to start this journey! Enjoy every minute!