I moved into my beautiful studio in D.C. three days before I started work at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (NOAA). The lush greenery of Washington, D.C. has pleasantly surprised me. Walking around this city feels like a mixture of my favorite metropolises- the greenery of Amsterdam, the liveliness of Istanbul, and the historical beauty of Paris. My apartment is located in an incredibly central area that is the perfect combination of city life and nature, including trails leading to Rock Creek National Park. The weekend we flew to D.C. happened to fall on Memorial Day Weekend. It was so much fun to experience the parades and festivities throughout the National Mall all the while honoring our veterans.
Pickle and I have been taking full advantage of the late sunsets, walking anywhere from 5-10 miles every evening after work. We have walked to the White House, the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, Georgetown, DuPont Circle, etc. The architecture and history all around the city is breathtaking. One of my favorite aspects of Washington, D.C. is that there are no skyscrapers. There is a rule here, that no building can be taller than the Capitol (11 stories), because “nothing is higher than freedom”. So much incredible renovation has been done to the buildings and streets – widespread roads with bike lanes, cyclists, pedestrians, and historical buildings mixed
in with modern architecture. There is truly history in every corner, something a California native is not used to. I love how alive the city feels at all hours of the day. The streets are filled with music, dancing, food and drink until as late as 3 am. I’ve seen students playing the violin to raise money for hunger, men who have made amazing drum sets out of buckets, protests to end violence in Somalia in front of the White House and countless other acts of artwork and passion. Pickle and I have even attended “wine Wednesday” at a local bar for dogs and humans, along with making game day friends while watching the NBA playoff games to support the Warriors!
For those who may not know me, I am a huge ocean junkie. I have been raised spending my summers immersed in the Mediterranean and continuously. I would spend hours of my days as a child peeking at the goldfish my grandfather got me. I was obsessed with the oceans, the seas, and all life underwater. My background involves hard sciences (University of California, San Diego; Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences) where I was involved with lots of marine biology research. After graduating, I was left feeling that I lacked the adequate skill set to make the changes I wished to see in order to benefit our oceans and combat climate change. As a graduate student of Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), I have been able to couple my scientific expertise with my newfound knowledge in policy, economics, and business. As an eligible candidate for the Center for Blue Economy Fellowship supported by my program at MIIS (International Environmental Policy with a focus on Ocean and Coastal Resource Management), I was accepted and have began my fellowship for the summer.
Since the start of my master’s program in the fall, the Arctic has been my main area of focus and interest. I have been working at the National Ocean Economics Program at the Center for Blue Economy as the Arctic Research Analyst, where I spearheaded the creation of a new Arctic section to our database and website (www.oceaneconomics.org/arctic) with the support and help of the CBE, Pat Johnston, and Dr. Judy Kildow. In all my classes, I have been focusing my research, papers and presentations on the Arctic and the potential ways we can establish its protection.
As we battle climate change, the Arctic will experience the negative repercussions of our actions on a much broader scale than most other regions. My interests lies in the creation of marine protection throughout the 8 Arctic nations, before it is too late. Due to the loss of sea ice and extended summer seasons, economic activity, such as shipping and drilling, will become the norm in these previously inaccessible regions. The protection needs to become established immediately in order to conserve these already stressed environments (including indigenous communities who rely on the land, fish and water).
I applied to many positions involving Arctic protection and stewardship, and had to make a difficult decision between several incredible organizations. In the end, I decided to work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for 3 months. This summer, I will be NOAA’s “Arctic Stewardship Summer Fellow“.
My position involves assisting NOAA in various tasks related to NOAA’s mission of environmental stewardship and resource conservation in the Arctic. These tasks support U.S. priorities as it assumes chairmanship of the Arctic Council in April 2015. My work will aid NOAA’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Center in establishing an Arctic MPA Workgroup to advise the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee on issues related to strengthening Arctic MPAs. I am also supporting the NOAA General Counsel’s office in work to ensure safe and
environmentally sound practices for shipping in the Arctic, which is expected to increase dramatically with the melting of sea ice.
Tuesday, May 26th was my first day at NOAA. Within an hour of being there, I was given huge hands on opportunities including attending an Environmental Justice and Consultation Tribal Training. This training was led by a tribal chief from Alaska. This is an inedible skill that anyone who hopes to communicate in a respectful and transparent way with tribal communities. A few days later, my boss left for NOAA’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Center’s Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) Meeting in Washington state. While she was away, I was asked to attend the Issue Area Meeting for Marine Transportation Service in her place to represent NOAA MPA Center. I spoke to high level officials of the U.S. Coast guard, U.S. Army corps of engineers, and U.S. Dept of state officials on arctic shipping, transportation, safety and resilience. Since it was still my first week at NOAA, I was very nervous about what questions I might get asked about the organization that I would not be able to answer. I am happy to report, it went incredibly well. Even though I was significantly younger and less experienced than everyone else in the room, my opinion was taken very seriously, I was asked tough questions that I was able to answer thoroughly, and I was taken aside by many individuals after the meeting to thank me and tell me how apparent my passion for the Arctic was and that they hope to have me come back to speak to them. It was a very empowering and exciting feeling.
My first three weeks at NOAA have been more rewarding that I could have ever imagined. I never would have thought that I would be able to implement my research papers and proposals for my classes during my summer fellowship. I will be working with the Pan-Arctic Network of Marine Protected Areas working with tribal communities, intergovernmental agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders. Being a part of a network of MPAs in the Arctic is a dream job for me, and I cannot believe I am working on this so early into my career. So far, being at NOAA has been nothing short of inspirational.
Lucky for you, this is only the first of many posts throughout summer! Stay tuned for my next update on Capitol Hill Ocean Week– the nations largest, most focused, and highest level of oceans discussions.