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From left, Mariana Rocha de Souza, Roberto Porro and Sean Mahaffey.

Three graduate students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa were awarded the prestigious 2022 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship and began their one-year paid fellowship in Washington, D.C. focusing on critical marine policy issues.

Sean Mahaffey, Roberto Porro and Mariana Rocha de Souza are representing the UH Sea Grant College Program and were selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants from across the nation to serve in either the legislative or executive branch of government.

“At both the state and national levels, Sea Grant’s active recruitment and student engagement efforts supported one of the most robust applicant pools in fellowship history,” said Jonathan Pennock, National Sea Grant College Program director. “I have no doubt that the finalists’ diverse perspectives will provide great insight towards addressing critical marine policy and science challenges.”

More on Mahaffey

After spending 11 years in the U.S. Navy, Mahaffey was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue a master’s of science degree in oceanography and study water quality and nutrient inputs into the Ala Wai Canal. This oceanographic knowledge and leadership experience will assist him as an executive fellow at the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research International Activities Office where he will engage with the All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and many others.

Mahaffey said, “Working in NOAA’s Research International Activities Office will give me insight and experience in international scientific diplomacy. In addition to learning how NOAA operates at this high level, I will learn about partner agencies such as the Department of State and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. I’m excited to be working in this incredibly positive and supportive office and I’m thrilled for the unknown opportunities that await in the future.”

More on Porro

Porro will have the opportunity to gain firsthand experience related to coastal hazards planning and disaster recovery, the focus of his PhD studies, through placement in a joint position at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Coastal States Organization (CSO). In this unique position he will serve as a communication link between the two agencies to ensure that coastal communities have access to critical resources and hazard mitigation assistance, and will lead the Coastal Hazards Planning and Adaptation Work Group at CSO.

“I feel lucky to be placed in a joint-position with the Coastal States Organization and FEMA, which not only aligns with my experience and interest in coastal management and disasters, but also provides an opportunity to gain insight from both the federal and non-profit perspective,” Porro said. “I’m looking forward to contributing and learning how these realms combine to make coastal communities more resilient.”

More on Rocha de Souza

Rocha de Souza, who recently completed her PhD in marine biology, is spending her fellowship year at the NOAA Global Ocean and Observing Program (GOMO), the leader in global ocean observations used in climate and weather predictions. Prior to earning her PhD investigating the impacts of future climate conditions on coral reefs, she had the opportunity to study and travel to multiple countries, including Brazil and France.

Rocha de Souza noted, “As a coral biologist, the Knauss Fellowship is an opportunity to synthesize my work in research and communication, as well as strengthen my understanding of policy and stakeholder engagement skills, to encourage meaningful policy changes that benefit coral reefs. I am very excited to be working at GOMO, the Global Ocean Monitoring and Observation Program at NOAA, which will allow me to engage with international stakeholders and policymakers, giving me a great opportunity to learn about international policy.”

For more information, see the Hawaiʻi Sea Grant website.

–By Cindy Knapman

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