New York Sea Grant Congratulates Two Finalists in 42nd Knauss Fellowship Class
Education - News

Chris Gonzales, Freelance Science Writer, New York Sea Grant

Late October 2020 Update: Starting in early 2021, Tammy Bleier will be working with NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research International Activities Office and Maya Whalen-Kipp will be at the Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies and Wind Power Technologies Office.

New York, NY, September 10, 2020 - New York Sea Grant (NYSG) congratulates two finalists in the 42nd class of Sea Grant’s John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship (Knauss Fellowship). Starting early next year, Tammy Bleier and Maya Whalen-Kipp are among the fellowship program’s 74 national finalists.

“We are thrilled to welcome Tammy and Maya to the New York Sea Grant family, and congratulate them on being selected as finalists to the highly competitive Knauss Fellowship,” said Becky Shuford, NYSG Director. “Both have impressive portfolios and have already made considerable contributions to marine and coastal environments and to the communities within which they live.”

Starting this fall, Tammy and Maya will join the other 2021 finalists from across the nation to virtually interview with federal offices that work on or have interest in coastal and marine science and policy issues. 

“They will bring these experiences to bear at federal agencies in the Washington, D.C. area, helping to develop and advance marine and coastal science, policy, and conservation initiatives at a national level for the benefit of our coasts and the people who live and work there,” said Shuford. “The fellowship in turn will help to hone and expand their skills and knowledge at the intersection of science and policy, and pave the way for continued success in the future.”

Both Tammy and Maya will serve in the Executive branch of the fellowship, meaning they will have the opportunity to bring their skills to federal agencies in Washington, D.C. Following placement, which will take place in mid-October, each will begin their fellowship in February 2021. 

NYSG spoke with the two New York finalists, Tammy and Maya, right as their 2021 Knauss Fellowship status was announced in late July. Here’s what they shared with us:

Tammy Bleier

“I received my bachelor’s degree in marine biology from University of North Carolina Wilmington and I am completing my masters in environmental science and ecology at SUNY Brockport,” said Bleier. 

“Most of my education has focused on plastic pollution, and I am excited to gain experience working on similarly critical marine issues during the Knauss Fellowship. One of my primary goals is to learn about marine affairs at the international level and be a part of bilateral and multinational negotiations and policy-building.”

Maya Whalen-Kipp

“This past May I graduated from Bard College, where I earned my master’s degree in environmental policy,” said Whalen-Kipp. “My academic research has focused on the intersection of coastal and estuary species conservation and local livelihoods. From 2017-2019 I was a Master’s International Fellow serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Fiji as a community health educator. There I started my work in supply chain analysis of tropical invertebrates and developed my masters thesis on the application of South Pacific Islander cultural traditions to advancing the marine policy regulations to protect endangered sea cucumber species.”

“I grew up in Queens, New York and had the opportunity to attend Union College as an Academic Opportunity Program scholar where I earned my bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. As an undergraduate I focused on the intersection of social and racial justice and climate action. Currently, I work for a startup company in NYC leading a growing team of young environmental advocates in organizing around renewable energy development. I am looking forward to being a Knauss Fellow to gain knowledge and experience in the federal and international policy making process. However, I am most excited to build my network of innovative marine scientists and policymakers that are associated with the Knauss program.”

Knauss Fellows: 2020 Class

As announced last fall, New York Sea Grant currently has three Knauss fellows:  (above, l-r) Celina Scott-Buechler, Irvin Huang and Naomi Lewandowski

Scott-Buechler stepped into a role as a legislative fellow in the office of United States Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

"Knauss is one of the most important professional experiences I've had,” said Scott-Buechler. “It opened up a world of decision-making discussions I hadn't had access to. Working in the Senate has taught me not just how the federal government works, but also why and for whom. Equipped with this knowledge, I see Knauss as my gateway into a career of science-based climate policymaking."

Huang is now working as a marine policy fellow for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in the National Ocean Service Policy and Constituent Affairs Division.

"The Knauss Fellowship has been a truly immersive experience," said Huang. "My hands-on experience working with NOAA policy teams and leadership has taught me an incredible amount about how the federal government works, but more importantly, it's shown me how and where I can most effectively apply my scientific skills and expertise to advance smart environmental policies for public good." 

Lewandowski has been working for the Department of Energy (DOE) on offshore wind projects. 

“The biggest threat to oceans is climate change and rising sea water temperatures,” said Lewandowski. “Increasing green energy usage will work to mitigate climate change. I feel so much satisfaction every day that even the little things I do in this job will help make a difference in protecting marine life.”

In a recent post on The National Sea Grant College Program's (NSGCP) Knauss blog, Lewandowski revealed that growing up she dreamt of becoming a marine biologist. But transitioning from academia to government was not the path she envisioned. You can find out more on how the fellowship opened her eyes to a new career as a different type of scientist via her blog post. Check out NSGCP's "In Their Own Words" blog for more entries featuring the experiences of current and past Knauss fellows. 

Also, NYSG recently launched a new website for all things related to coastal fellowships in New York, including the Knauss, at

More Info: National Perspective on Knauss

This past July, the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) announced the 2021 finalists for the Knauss Fellowship program, which includes NYSG's Bleier and Whalen-Kipp.

“We are excited to welcome the 2021 class of Knauss fellows and look forward to the skill and perspective that they will provide towards addressing critical marine policy and science challenges,” said Jonathan Pennock, National Sea Grant College Program Director.

The 2021 finalists for the Knauss Fellowship program will become the 42nd class of one of the most prestigious marine policy fellowships in the U.S. The 74 finalists represent 27 of the 34 Sea Grant programs. This year’s class includes early career professionals who have diverse backgrounds and experiences. In addition to completing rigorous academic programs, the 2021 finalists have held campus-based leadership positions, served their communities, traveled to 47 countries outside of the U.S. and received impressive awards and scholarships. The class includes NOAA scholars, student mentors, fisheries observers, former delegates for the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties, marine animal rescuers, outdoor adventurers, science communicators and an Olympic athlete. 

In "Pathways to Marine Policy," NOAA spotlights the incoming class of Knauss fellows who will build on past experiences with the organization.

The 32 Knauss finalists who had previously completed other NOAA educational experiences hailed from these 20 state Sea Grant programs. Credit: Sea Grant, copyright:; Inset: Thirty-two of the 74 finalists for the 2021 class of the Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship previously completed other NOAA educational experiences. Credit: Sea Grant.

Since 1979, Sea Grant has provided one-year Knauss fellowships to over 1,400 early career professionals to work in federal government offices in Washington, D.C. Knauss alumni go on to have prospering careers in all sectors of society.

Executive appointments for the 2019 Knauss fellows included placements throughout NOAA as well as with the Department of the Interior, National Science Foundation, U.S. Navy, and other agencies. Legislative placements included the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (Minority), the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (Majority), the Senate Commerce Committee (Majority and Minority), the House Committee on Natural Resources (Minority), and several placements in both majority and minority Congressional offices.

Students finishing graduate programs such as master's, doctor of philosophy, and juris doctor, with a focus in coastal and marine science, policy, and management can apply to the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program via one of 34 state Sea Grant programs. Applicants who are successful at the state level advance, and their applications are reviewed by a national panel. You’ll find further details about the fellowship at and you can keep up with current and previous Knauss fellows from across the country at

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, University at Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly. Our program also produces an occasional e-newsletter,"NOAA Sea Grant's Social Media Review," via its blog,

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