2022–2023 Alaska Sea Grant State Fellows announced

Thirteen early-career scientists and professionals have been selected for the 2022–2023 class of Alaska Sea Grant State Fellows. The group comprises the largest fellowship cohort in the program’s history. 

The year-long paid fellowship matches soon-to-graduate or recently finished graduate students with hosts in Alaska-based state or federal agencies and nonprofits where they acquire on-the-job experience in marine science and policy positions. 

Benjamin Americus

Man with backpack overlooking the ocean
Courtesy of Ben Americus

Benjamin is working with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation to facilitate certification of Alaska salmon fisheries by Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). He will be summarizing and contextualizing findings from the Alaska Hatchery Research Project, a 12-year study into the extent and consequences of hatchery salmon straying. Ben has a master’s degree in microbiology from Oregon State University and is working towards a PhD.

Juliana Cornett

woman with a hat on a boat
Courtesy of Juliana Cornett

For her fellowship, Juliana is joining the mariculture team at the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Juneau. She will be supporting a number of mariculture projects, including a project monitoring the health of farmed oysters and the relationship among environmental conditions, oyster saxitoxin levels, and harmful algal blooms. She will develop related education and outreach materials. Juliana received her master’s in marine science from California State University, Monterey Bay and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, where she studied physiological responses to hypoxia in juvenile flatfishes. 

James Currie

Man in a wet suit in the ocean holding onto a ring buoy
Courtesy of James Currie

James is working for the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region Aquaculture Program in Juneau, helping to create a portfolio of suitable sites for aquaculture in Alaskan waters. This project will provide a tool for future aquaculture development in the state, and will combine data analysis, science communication, and stakeholder engagement. James recently completed a master’s degree in marine biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, focusing on ocean acidification.

Karen Grosskreutz 

Woman in yoga pose sitting on ice
Courtesy of Karen Grosskreutz

Karen is working with the Indigenous Aquaculture Collaborative, a community of practitioners throughout the Pacific region that is fostering resilient, sustainable, equitable food systems and marine governance in response to declining ocean health and social inequalities. Karen will identify and increase awareness of sea gardens, such as clam gardens, in Alaska through literature review, site visits, and knowledge sharing. Karen earned her MSc in sustainable resource management from the Technical University of Munich in Bavaria, Germany. She is a Fisheries PhD student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks focused on transdisciplinary, applied research to bridge Indigenous and Western sciences and support local priorities through community-engaged resource management.

Noelle Helder

photo of Noelle Helder
Courtesy of Noelle Helder

Noelle  is serving a second fellowship year with the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Noelle uses a variety of tools including drones, sonar, and satellite data to map Arctic coastal changes to support emerging renewable technologies including tidal and wave hydrokinetic energy. She recently completed a master’s degree in marine ecology from the University of Alberta.

Sean Kelly

Man with baseball hat standing in tundra
Courtesy of Sean Kelly

Sean is working with Alaska Sea Grant’s coastal community resilience specialist to catalog resilience and climate adaptation plans among Alaska Native Tribal communities. Sean will look for trends in how each Tribe is approaching resilience and adaptation, identifying indicators of resilience that are culturally appropriate. Sean will also assist with a workshop on climate migration and resilience focused on Alaska, the Arctic, and the greater Pacific region. Sean recently completed a master’s degree in energy and resources from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Clay McKean

Man with beard and glasses standing in front of an ocean view
Courtesy of Clay McKean

Clay is joining the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council to analyze fishery data and prepare biological, environmental, and regulatory impact analyses for use in the amendment of fishery management plans. In addition, he will help investigate the incorporation of Other Effective Conservation Measures (OECMs) into Alaskan fisheries. Clay has a master’s degree in marine and environmental affairs from the University of Washington and previously worked as a fishery observer in the North Pacific Groundfish Program.

Robin McKnight

woman with a hat on a boat with a tidal glacier in the background
Courtesy of Robin McKnight

Robin is spending her fellowship with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation as their mariculture development coordinator. Robin will focus on outreach and communication projects pertaining to the mariculture industry in Alaska. Robin is finishing her master’s degree in coastal and marine management at the University Centre of the Westfjords in Iceland. Her background is in geography, science communication, and interpretation. 

Jamie Musbach

photo of Jamie Musbach
Courtesy of Jamie Musbach

Jamie is continuing her fellowship with the National Marine Fisheries Service Protected Resources Division in Juneau. Jamie’s work focuses on understanding the likelihood of recovery of the Western Distinct Population Segment (WDPS) of Steller sea lions, and education, outreach and planning to reduce pinniped entanglement in fishing gear. She has been conducting a review of information on mercury contamination in samples collected from the western and central Aleutian Islands during the past 20 years to inform how disease or contaminants may be limiting recovery of the WDPS Steller sea lion. Jamie is also assisting with the Juneau Ocean Guardian School Program, contributing to student stewardship projects, producing an Alaska Ocean Guardian School newsletter, and recruiting new schools to the program. She graduated with a master’s degree in fisheries from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Drew Porter

man sitting on a barnacle covered rock near the ocean
Courtesy of Drew Porter

Drew is working with the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center Recruitment, Energetics, and Coastal Assessment Program to research issues that are affecting Alaska’s fisheries. Drew will participate in the development of novel analytical methods for monitoring the impact of thiamine deficiency in fish. Drew is graduating with a master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Douglas Shaftel

Man with a hat with mountains in background
Courtesy of Douglas Shaftel

During his fellowship with the Alaska Mariculture Alliance, Doug is collaborating with public and private entities to refine regulations that apply to shellfish and seaweed farms and develop processes for mariculture grant administration. Doug has a law degree from Northwestern University and recently earned a master of advanced studies in marine biodiversity and conservation from the University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

Michelle Trifari

Woman in kayak
Courtesy of Michelle Trifari

Michelle is joining the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Protected Resources Division in Juneau to address management needs associated with the recovery of the Western Distinct Population Segment of Steller sea lions. She will assist with marine mammal stranding responses, outreach, and data collection, and will work with the Alaska Ocean Guardian School Program to conduct outreach and collaborate with students on stewardship projects. Michelle is graduating with a master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Harmony Wayner

Woman filleting a salmon on a beach
Courtesy of Harmony Wayner

Harmony is working with the NOAA Marine Debris Program on an Alaska marine debris strategic plan. The plan will combine multiple stakeholder efforts for cleanup of Alaska’s extensive, mostly remote coastline. She is a tribal member of Naknek Native Village and a commercial fisherwoman in Bristol Bay. Harmony is graduating with a master’s degree in resource management from the University Centre of the Westfjords in Iceland. Her thesis focuses on well-being through food sovereignty in Igiugig, Alaska.