My morning commute begins with a short walk to the metro, a 20 minute train ride, a brief climb up the escalator (accompanied by the sounds of a local brass band and ubiquitous car commuters), followed by a brisk walk to my workplace: NOAA’s Office of Education housed in the Department of Commerce headquarters. For the last 5 months this commute has provided me with a unique view of the city and our nation. As I cross the grand avenue of Pennsylvania I glance to my right, the entrance to the White House, and to my left, the federal house known also as the U.S. Capitol. Each day this walk reminds me of where I am, how far I’ve come, and what still lies ahead. As it were, the capitol once served as a similar reminder to President Lincoln. (Pardon for a brief history lesson but as a resident of the district I’ve come to find myself as an armchair historian)
During our Civil War the U.S. Capitol rested with a significant portion of its grand dome only half complete. President Lincoln, who was inaugurated under the unfinished dome, believed that the incomplete Capitol symbolized a fractured Union and pressed for the completion of the dome. Despite the heavy strains of war the dome was completed a couple years later, not long before the Battle of Gettysburg (150 years ago this week, more on that in the next blog).
Sometimes called the City of Magnificent Distances, Washington still serves as a symbol of the Union to the rest of the free world and also, as I have learned, to the scientific world. It has surprised me the quantity of science discussed around the city and it dawned on me the other day that D.C. is a perpetual scientific conference. Professionals, professors, government employees, and graduate students in any area of science attend conferences to remain at the forefront of their field, to build networks of new potential partners and collaborators, and to return to their work invigorated with the idea of new projects and new horizons. D.C. is in a continuous mode of each of these aspects. Two weeks ago I attended an event focused on citizen science at the White House Executive Office Building (more on that in the next blog). Last week I toured the Naval Observatory here in D.C. and learned how they keep time for the rest of the world (more on that later too). And just this week I sat on a panel with some of the nation’s leading minds on fisheries management, blue carbon, and disaster preparedness (a whole other blog on that still to come). After each of these events I’ve been lucky enough to meet with these experts, one-on-one, to delve deeper into domestic and global issues with questions and ideas of my own.
Therein lies the most difficult aspect of the fellowship to date and the challenging choices my fellow Knauss-fellows must ponder. For us career opportunities and potential pathways constantly present themselves. With enough leg work and elbow grease each of these opportunities can become reality. For now though, this City of Magnificent Distances is a constant reminder of where we are, how far we’ve come, and what still lies ahead.
By 2013 Knauss Fellow: Sepp Haukebo
2013 First Inaugural Knauss Fellowship Luau in rural Virginia