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Four Knauss Finalists from Louisiana

Three graduate students at Louisiana State University (LSU) and one from Loyola University have been named 2022 Knauss Fellowship finalists. At LSU in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Nazla Bushra is a doctoral student who will graduate in August; Elsa Gutierrez is a master’s student who will graduate in May 2022; and Allyson Kristan is a master’s student who will graduate in August. Spring Gaines graduated in December 2020 from the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

Photo: Nazla BushraNazla Bushra
LSU Department of Oceanography & Coastal Science

Bushra is a native of Bangladesh who earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees in geography and the environment from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, as well a master’s degree from LSU. “In my native Bangladesh, preparing for and combating the consequences of deadly hurricanes, storm surge and flooding is a part of life,” she said. “The suffering, disproportionately borne by impoverished people, motivated me to become an atmospheric science researcher to improve the lives in the coastal community. But research, including that on natural hazards, without action goes wasted.” Bushra’s research examines atmospheric circulation features that may influence coastal hazards with the hope of providing better hazards predictions. “All of my research is dedicated to supporting climate adaptation and mitigation, promoting a society better able to respond to weather challenges and enhancing resilience in coastal communities and economies,” she said.

Photo: Spring Gaines

Spring Gaines
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Gaines grew up in St. Bernard Parish and earned her undergraduate degree in marine biology from Nicholls State University and her juris doctorate and master of laws in environmental law from Loyola. “Growing up, being a good steward of our wetlands was important to me, which made the devastation of important marine habitats after Hurricane Katrina all the more painful,” she said. “Since then, I have worked as a wetland educator, marine education specialist and special programs coordinator at a marine mammal rehabilitation non-profit. Now, as a lawyer, I utilize my joint background in marine science and education to be a bridge between complex coastal science and policy and law.” Gaines added. “With the abilities and experiences I will earn through the Knauss Fellowship, I can be the Louisiana lawyer on Capitol Hill discussing how my home is a sentinel state for the issues affecting our coastlines nation-wide. My career goal is to influence federal policy to foster stewardship for our oceans and the many creatures and plant life that make their homes there.”

Photo: Elsa Gutierrez

Elsa Gutierrez
LSU Department of  Oceanography & Coastal Science

Gutierrez earned her undergraduate degree in biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston. “All my life, I’ve been translating – whether it was translating from English to Spanish, or vice versa, to convey thoughts and ideas in my community or translating scientific findings into terminology accessible to a broader audience,” she said. “Growing up in a border town, I was surrounded by two cultures and languages; this upbringing shaped my desire to be a bridge connecting science to communities from Mexico and the United States.” Her research at LSU involves establishing an age and growth curve for blackfin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico, as there are few studies on this species. The overall objective of the research is to know more about the life history of blackfin tuna in the Gulf in order to protect the fishery and avoid a population collapse. “As a Fellow, I intend to connect with management and policy leaders with similar and opposing views, to broaden my perspective and become a better leader for my community. As a bilingual, bicultural, goal-oriented individual with a passion for marine life, I will strive for long-term goals that seek to use science to connect and improve the lives of our many diverse coastal communities,” Gutierrez added.

Photo: Ally Kristan

Allyson Kristan
LSU Department of Oceanography & Coastal Science

Kristan earned her bachelor of science degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. “Not all beings have the ability to clearly articulate their message, but I’ve been fortunate to see how research, service and education can give voice to the voiceless and galvanize lasting change,” said Kristan. “Whether researching penguins in their imperiled Antarctic environment, rehabilitating sea turtles for their oceanic return or encouraging tourists to incorporate simple steps that foster ocean stewardship, I use my dedication to threatened species and environments to carry these conservation messages forward and amplify unheard voices, creating change that endures.” Kristan’s research while at LSU included analyzing heavy metals in penguin eggshells to determine whether natural or anthropogenic phenomena are driving intraspecific variation around the Antarctic Peninsula. “I have been shaped by work in extreme environments and influenced by the importance of speaking up and enacting change where needed,” she added. “I keep one foot firmly rooted in science, and one stepping into the unknown, overlooked or understudied. I will champion science, working to ensure that it effectively informs the decision-making process.”

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, finalists from across the country will travel to Washington, D.C., to determine in which offices they will work. Fellowships will begin Feb. 1, 2022.