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Five Louisiana Grad Students Named Knauss Finalists

The Louisiana Sea Grant College Program (LSG) will have five Knauss Fellows in Washington D.C., in 2018 – a first.

“This is truly an honor for Louisiana Sea Grant,” said Robert Twilley, LSG executive director. “We’ve typically had one, sometimes two fellows in any given class. For us to have five is unprecedented. I can’t say enough about these scholars and how happy we are to have nominated them.”

The five are: Michelle Felterman, Kristen Hilferty, Sarah Margolis, Andy Muench and Bret Sparks.

Sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program, the John A. Knauss Fellowship matches graduate students with an interest in ocean and coastal resources and national policy affecting those resources with hosts in federal legislative or executive branch offices for one year. In November, fellows will travel to Washington, D.C., to determine in which offices they will work. Fellowships will begin Feb. 1, 2018.

Michelle Felterman

Felterman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a Master of Science degree in marine and environmental biology from Nicholls State University. Her Juris Doctorate is from Tulane University Law School. “The Knauss Fellowship would give me firsthand experience in creating policy and an understanding of how something goes from being an idea to becoming law,” said Felterman. “That experience would be invaluable in the future as I work to create and uphold environmental policies aimed at protecting our coastal and marine environments for the future.”

Kristen Hilferty

Hilferty’s desire to work on environmental causes began when Hurricane Katrina struck her hometown of New Orleans. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and history from Louisiana State University and a Juris Doctorate from Tulane University Law School, her goal is to guide environmental solutions from scientific development to implementation. “I will seize every opportunity to learn in order to bring home a wealth of knowledge which I can use to help Louisiana live with water and improve coastal conditions,” Hilferty said about the fellowship. “The connections I will make during my fellowship will be invaluable, and it will be the next step in my attainment of policy-legal and scientific knowledge.”

Sarah Margolis

Margolis is nearing completion of a Master of Science degree in oceanography and coastal sciences at LSU. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in marine science from Boston University. Her interest in the marine environment was sparked at a young age and grew throughout her academic career and experiences abroad. “The Knauss Fellowship would be fundamental to achieving my long-term career goal of working in international fisheries,” said Margolis. “The U.S. is a world leader in marine policy; the opportunity to work alongside and learn from policy and management experts in Washington, D.C., makes this fellowship uniquely relevant to my interests.”

Andy Muench

Muench is also close to completing a Master of Science degree in oceanography and coastal science at LSU. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in botany and wildlife ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is interested in ecosystem services provided by wetlands. “Through this fellowship I will develop policy making skills which will better allow me to effect positive change in environmental policy throughout my career. I not only plan on learning as a Knauss Fellow but I will strive to use my experience as a researcher, teacher and ecologist to help better inform coastal policy during the fellowship,” said Muench.

Bret Sparks

Sparks grew up exploring the swamps and marshes of south Louisiana. “I bore witness to the impacts that policymakers’ decisions have on this area, both good and bad, and I understand how much power one decision can have on an ecosystem and its resources,” he said. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in plant and soil systems from LSU, Master of Science degree in plant and soil sciences from the University of Kentucky, and Juris Doctorate from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at LSU. From the fellowship, Sparks hopes to gain the tools necessary to establish a career focused on protecting natural resources for future generations.

There are 61 finalists in the 2018 Knauss class. Three other Sea Grant programs also have five finalists in the 2018 class – Maryland, Oregon and Virginia.