The City of Magnificent Distances

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)

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http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=3319&picture=us-capitol

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

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2013 First Inaugural Knauss Fellowship Luau in rural Virginia

Fellows with Benefits

I am not sure where to begin.

The amount of fun I’ve had in one month…

The amount of people I’ve meet in one month…

The amount of work I’ve accomplished in one month…

Well, maybe you get the picture. My first month as a Sea Grant Knauss Fellow has been an amazing one! I’ve been working hard, networking big-time, and made so many friends, all in such a short time too. I’m pretty sure that my other “knauss-ers” will be my friends and colleagues for life. In fact, I’m been told that I’m already a part of the “knauss mafia.” (Secretly, I think this mafia somewhat runs DC)

Anyways, back to benefits… So pretty much anywhere I go I snap a picture. This helps me track my activities, which one would think is easy to do, but after a little while everything seems to mesh together. I’m starting to even to take notes on the back of business cards about where I met who. So, yes, pictures help. And, of course, my calendar helps too. For example… Oh yeah, I met the acting undersecretary of NOAA at the Sea Grant Association meeting on this day. But, the fact of the matter is that the action never stops. Every Knauss fellow knows of a social event, guest lecture, sports event, or conference going on just about every day. Having the Knauss network substantially increases the amount of activities you can attend. It’s probably the absolute best way to get introduced to all that DC has to offer. 

So now, you may ask – what has happened all this past month? Well, I’ve attended many social events, conference receptions, closed-door meetings, federal agency partnership discussions (NOAA/FEMA/NWS/EPA/OCRM/USLA), a few Sunday brunches, explored the capital building, and even participated in a climate rally. I’ve met some important people, including Sea Grant’s National Advisory Board, just about half of Sea Grant’s State Directors, other Sea Grant Extension agents, and a Senator or two. I’ve also mingled with members of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the World Bank, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Knauss alumni network. Sounds cool, right!? Well, to add to this list, I’m writing this blog on a flight to California! Yup, going to Sea Grant’s Climate Extension Workshop in sunny Santa Monica.

As mentioned, I’ve got a few pictures. I’m going to post some of them here to give a little taste of my experience thus far.

Cheers!

Henry (Hank) Hodde

2013 Sea Grant Knauss Fellow

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Stephen F. Austin in the Capital building. Go Texas!

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Atrium inside the World Bank building. Yes, those are people on the very bottom!

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Representing NOAA!

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Senior Scientist from the Office of Naval Research talking about issues in the Arctic!

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Sea Grant Climate Network Workshop in California

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Texas Sea Grant’s own John Jacob, instructing other Sea Grant agents on his weTable

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Climate Rally!

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So many conferences, they share buildings! Left or right??

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Violinists at a GIS confernce? Yes!

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Took some personal time in Cali too! And, my girlfriend got in on the action.

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Oh yeah, I got 3 parking tickets arleady… 

 

0 to 100mph

Almost exactly one year ago, I was scrambling to throw together my 2013 Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship packet. And I thought… Did I get my passion across? Am I really as deserving as my letters of reference say? Did I choose the right font? Would I like D.C.?

I cannot believe these thoughts passed through me that long ago. But, they did. Why did this come up today..?

Well, let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Henry Hodde (I like to go by Hank) and I am the 2013 Sea Grant Knauss Fellow for the National Sea Grant Office. Great spot, huh?! Here, I am the Focus Team Coordinator for Sustainable Coastal Development and Hazard Resilient Coastal Communities (my passions). I am on the 11th floor of NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring, MD. I just got my @noaa.gov email address, my security badge, have attended a lot of meetings thus far, and my business cards are in the mail. I take the metro rail from DC every day. I have two roommates and luckily my own bathroom. I have found an awesome food market down the street and have already got a parking ticket. Oh… and I just celebrated my 30th birthday with all my other 2013 fellows; it’s like we are family already.

A lot has happened in the two weeks since I’ve started. Maybe even more drastic, is the change in my life since the announcement of me being a Knauss Finalist. Since then I have survived placement week, finished my thesis, and got my Master’s! My stuff is now all moved in and my boxes are unpacked. I know my way around and never feel bored. I can even see the Capital building lit up at night from my balcony. I’ve made it to DC!

But, most importantly, my cubicle is right next to Chelsea Berg, the Knauss Program Manager for the National Sea Grant Office. And, as she receives phone calls just about every 15 minutes from eager and nervous students from around the nation, I am reminded of the scramble taking place to complete all those application packets.

Good luck!

-Hank Hodde, 2013 Knauss Fellow

 

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The Karma Comes Around

“Eat it! Eat it! Eat it!” the class chanted as Captain Whitney dangled a live, bay anchovy over her open mouth. The anchovy, she explained, is an important fish in understanding the food web and water quality in Corpus Christi Bay. This is the sort of shenanigans you’ll witness onboard the Karma (a.k.a. the Floating Classroom): sudent interaction with an unavoidable dose of education. When was the last time you saw a group of middle schoolers chanting with the lecturer throughout a lesson on ecology, adaptation, and marine biology?

I met up with the Karma at the downtown Corpus Christi pier as part of Texas Sea Grant’s on-boarding process, a crash course in understanding what Sea Grant does in Texas and other coastal states around the country. In January I’ll head to Washington D.C. as a Knauss Fellow with intentions of soaking up marine science policy like a sponge, or in this case an overgrown middle schooler getting ready to eat fresh caught anchovies.    

Dr. Russ Miget and Captain Whitney earn the undivided attention of students from grades 4-12 for two-hour trips, three times a day. Each trip handles a wily 25 students and the Karma averages 2400 students annually, but the busy season doesn’t start until after statewide standardized testing in the spring, for fear of distracting the students during test prep. Russ tells me they can handle much more students if the schools would send them in the fall and early winter too, but they just don’t get the numbers. Much of the students are from urban neighborhoods and have never been on a boat, much less experienced the Texas Coast. 

For me however, it was a chance to “Benjamin Button” back to my younger self, joining in with the chanting, “Eat it! Eat it! Eat it!” I decided to do as Captain Whitney and a few brave 6thgraders in this Texas sushi ritual. I kicked my head back, opened wide, and tossed the critter down the hatch. “Tastes like nothing,” I heard the kid beside me tell his classmates. “Tastes like learning!” I told him. He made a screwed up face and stuck his tongue out at me with the anchovy still pasted on. With some coaxing he finally swallowed the fish and said it wasn’t bad. After that the kid wouldn’t stop asking questions about the boat and the bay. I guess science, like anchovies, sounds pretty gross at first but goes down much better when you’re actually in the field.  

-Sepp Haukebo, 2013 Knauss Fellow

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Saturn, Titan, and Time (2012 Fellow April Bagwill)

First, huge thanks to 2012 fellow Kate Segarra (Georgia Sea Grant), Bob Freeman, the Navy, secret service, and Joe Biden for an eventful Tuesday night! The latter two were only an auxiliary portion that made the night better, unbeknownst to them. 

A tradition of the Knauss fellows in the office of the Oceanographer of the Navy is to arrange a Naval Observatory tour for all of the fellows. For future fellows, try not to miss this. It’s one of the BEST 4 hour tours you can imagine (if you’re a science nerd or not) from Bob Freeman. I never thought that so much physics could be as interesting and captivating as Bob makes it. Just when you start to think that maybe you’re done with being intrigued by time and physics, BAM! Bob does it again and tells you something even better!! I will not ruin the fun for you by telling you the things we learned, so you too can be amazed. But if you really need to know, feel free to contact me and I will impart my new found knowledge…as I have been doing this to anyone who will listen.

The tour starts at the Observatory library where we saw books written by Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton! See panoramic photo thanks to Virginia Sea Grant fellow Lindsey Kraatz (link below).

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Next we moved to the building that holds THE Master Clock! Ok, I have to give you a few facts I learned to explain how amazing this is. First, the U.S. has the best atomic clock in the world. Literally. Official world time is based on a weighted mean system of the world’s best/most accurate 200 clocks. The Master Clock at the Naval Observatory accounts for 1/3 of the weighted mean. Basically, we control 1/3 of the world’s time. And we control Network Time Protocol. Yes, internet time. This is a big job that the folks at the Naval Observatory hold.

I never knew how complicated time is; I may never want to think about it again (too much physics for me). And in case you wondered how accurate your cell phone clock might be, Liam Carr (Texas Sea Grant fellow) shows us that yes, it is the same.

 

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The BIG EVENT was being able to look through the Navy’s telescope and see Saturn, Titan, and 3 other moons (names unknown to me, I’m only a biologist). Probably one of the coolest things I will ever do in my life. Unfortunately, I can’t show you a picture. However, if you Google ‘real image of Saturn’ you will see what we saw. Rings and all!

I mentioned at the beginning that SS and JB deserved thanks. This is because JB was coming home (VP’s house is on the Naval Observatory grounds) right at the end of our tour on Marine Two and we got to see!

Overall, along with the general opportunities you get to experience with the Knauss Fellowship, there are days like this that make it an amazing year and an experience you won’t get anywhere else. 

 

A funny thing happened on the way to the Opera

Ok, so I wasn’t on my way to the opera – but I WAS on my way to do my first briefing of a CMTS member for a big meeting.

Right, so, rewind. I work for the Committee on the Marine Transportation System (we coordinate and facilitate communication among our 27 member agencies regarding projects and programs with the marine transportation system (MTS)). One of the things we do is host quarterly meetings with our agency representatives to update them on all the new and fancy things we are doing to help with this coordination effort. One of the projects that has been ongoing for some time has reach a point where the internal (Federal) version is complete, but we are working on creating an external (public) version.

(Side note: it seems like most things have this internal/external dance going on – not entirely sure why but, hey, learn new things every day)

Anyway – the presentation being given at the meeting essentially outlines the steps that need to happen for the public version to be, well, public. As such, I was asked to create a presentation outlining the plan of action and the intermediate steps as well as what the content on the website will look like when it’s finished with all the bells and whistles. So, off I go; complete with presentation and neat-o professional suit and heels to the Federal Maritime Commission’s office (FMC.gov – they do neat stuff) by Union Station.  

Made it there (although almost got off at wrong stop twice), past the 5 fire trucks and the blocked off street – through security and the persnickety metal detectors – all the way up to the 8th floor where I gazed through the glass doors leading from the elevator bank to the hallway beyond leading to the office I needed to be in…. Only to reach for the door handle which read, in bold letters, “In case of emergency, push and hold until alarm sounds.”

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So there I was in my suit and heels – in the elevator bank – unable to descend (because you needed to swipe a card) and unable to pass – although I did debate whether the sign was serious… (I asked later-it was) awaiting my escort and hoping she would come. As it is with waiting – I would swear it had been an hour, when in fact, it might have been a total of 2 minutes.

I was released from my elevator bank prison and proceeded to have a very productive briefing during which felt super cool and well informed. Never fear, even on my best days here in DC – feeling like I might actually have it together – I get locked in an elevator bank. Good thing DC knows how to keep me grounded J