Three Louisiana Knauss Fellowship Finalists Announced
Graduate students at Louisiana State University (LSU), the University of New Orleans (UNO) and Tulane University have been named 2024 Knauss Fellowship finalists. All were nominated for the fellowship by the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program.
Robert Caplan Feder
LSU, College of the Coast and Environment
Feder completed his master of science degree in oceanography and coastal sciences in August. He earned his bachelor of science degree in environmental science from the University of Florida in Gainesville. “Growing up in Miami, I was a stone’s throw from the coast but none the wiser. But on my fifth-grade field trip to Everglades National Park, I listened intently as park rangers chronicled how the water I drink first traveled through the Everglades, being purified by sawgrass prairies. This piqued my curiosity about the relationship between coastal communities and coastal ecosystems,” said Feder. “My experiences have taught me that that the well-being of coastal ecosystems is inextricably linked to our own well-being, a principle that guides my pursuit to restore coastal ecosystem services as a career. I believe the goal of science is to create knowledge that benefit people’s lives and that policy is the mechanism through which this goal is achieved. I envision myself crafting policies that invest in nature-based solutions to improve water quality and build climate resilience for coastal communities. Being a Knauss Fellow will enable me to develop a profound understanding of how coastal science is translated into federal policy,” he added.
Tulane University Law School
Hudgens graduated with a juris doctorate degree from Tulane Law School in May 2023. He earned a bachelor of science degree in ecosystem science and sustainability from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Since attending law school, Hudgens has worked as a legal intern for Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, a Louisiana environmental nonprofit, as well as Surfrider Foundation, where he engaged in both environmental litigation and policy. “Throughout my academic career, I have taken opportunities to expand my knowledge of the environment and join efforts to protect our natural resources. My experience began in the scientific field during my time at Colorado State University and transcended to the legal field as I began studying environmental law,” Hudgens said. “Following a budding passion for conservation that began with research I was involved in at CSU, I took my studies to Turks & Caicos, where I attended the School for Field Studies’ Center for Marine Resource Studies. Working and living with my research team, going into the field to collect data and becoming closely acquainted with the communities that utilize the marine resources we sought to protect allowed me to feel a sense of purpose. Communicating with a coastal community about the implications of our research opened my eyes to the reality of the policy and legal issues that can limit the hopes of research scientists. Realizing this, and with the aim of being an effective advocate, I decided to attend law school.”
UNO, Department of Biological Sciences
Kirkland is a doctoral candidate studying integrative biology at UNO. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in biological conservation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Puerto Lopez, Ecuador, proved to be a memorable place to begin a career in marine science,” said Kirkland. “I was mentally prepared to document shark bycatch, but the scene I entered was shocking. Pyramids of juvenile hammerheads laid next to a line of threshers. These sharks were primarily captured to be ‘finned,’ where the fins are removed, and the rest of the shark is discarded. This unsustainable, wasteful practice left an indelible impression on my life and influenced me to pursue ocean conservation,” she added. “After returning from Ecuador, I worked on several projects that promoted healthy coastal ecosystems. Currently, I explore how warming and ocean acidification affect artificial reef ecosystems. This work contributes to sustainable fisheries as artificial reefs are important areas of food and refuge for fishes … My ideal career is as head of a research lab for NOAA examining how climate change affects benthic organisms including corals, bivalves, crabs and others. With that science, I want to influence new policies in an ocean-focused manner like the recently published State of Hawaii Ocean Acidification Action Plan.”
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 the coming months, finalists from across the country will travel to Washington, D.C., to determine in which offices they will work. Fellowships will begin Feb. 1, 2024.
A total of 140 graduate students applied for the 2024 Knauss Fellowship; 84 have been selected as finalists.