Current and Former CC&E Students Named Science Policy Fellows

September 11, 2023

Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences student Elizabeth Harris

Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences Masters student Elizabeth Harris

BATON ROUGE - Impact is the name of the game for a trio of CC&E’s current and former students, as they take their scientific training and analytical abilities into the policy space. As Science Policy Fellows in the National Academies' Gulf Research Program, these students will gain experience as they apply research skills to real life policy situations.

CC&E representation amongst the Fellows was strong, as only ten total fellowships were awarded to applicants from around Gulf Coast and the nation. Awardees will spend a year working on the staff of federal and state government agencies, public health departments and non profit organizations in areas around the Gulf of Mexico. 

CC&E students awarded the fellowship were:

  • Jennifer Irving, a PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental Sciences, or DES
  • Elizabeth Harris, a Masters student in the Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences, or DOCS
  • Katherine Loesser, a recent graduate of the DOCS Masters program

Harris, who has also worked in Tracy Quirk’s Wetland Plant Ecology lab, will be placed with Texas Parks and Wildlife, in Coastal Fisheries.

“Essentially, I'll be working at the intersection of scientific data collection and how effective fisheries management practices can help us conserve resources while also supporting the communities that rely on access to these resources,” she said. 

“Ideally, I hope to utilize this experience to help find a way to increase accessibility to coastal and inland resources and conservation, as well as ways to enhance preservation of the incredible cultural diversity found in the Gulf region.”

Department of Environmental Sciences PhD candidate Jennifer Irving

Department of Environmental Sciences PhD candidate Jennifer Irving

Irving will spend her time as a Fellow at the Houston Advanced Research Center, or HARC, a non-profit environmental and energy research hub. HARC has two different projects that interest her: “their Leading with Equity in Adaptation Practice (LEAP) program and their Climate Equity and Human Engagement Initiative,” she said. “These projects appeal to me because investments in infrastructure that can help with climate adaptation have great potential to reduce environmental health disparities – but only if traditionally marginalized communities have fair access to these types of programs.”

Irving believes completing this fellowship will impact her dissertation research. “My dissertation research work focuses on identifying areas in Louisiana that have high environmental health burdens due to cumulative environmental health risks. Through this fellowship, I hope to learn how to develop partnerships, find funding, and implement the types of projects that will address environmental injustice, enhance resilience, and improve environmental health in the communities that need it most.”

The Science Policy Fellowship program is run by the National Academy’s Gulf Research Program, and is designed to benefit Gulf Coast communities. 

“The Science Policy Fellowship pairs talented scientists with organizations across the Gulf of Mexico region working to solve complex local challenges,” said Karena Mary Mothershed, senior program manager for the GRP’s Board on Gulf Education and Engagement. “These partnerships support emerging scientific leaders as they advance evidence-based policy for the benefit of Gulf Coast communities.”