January 1, 2016

Meet 2015 MIT Sea Grant Knauss Fellow Ben Carr

Benjamin Carr was a 2015 MIT Sea Grant Knauss Fellow placed in Washington DC with the Council of NOAA Fellows.

A native of Stafford, New York, Ben will receive his Ph.D. in Marine Biology from Boston University in 2016. He received his Master’s degree in Marine Biology from the Boston University and his bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University. After graduating from Cornell, he worked as a Research Assistant for the Center for the Environment housed in Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources, before becoming the Head Technician at the Ohio State University Aquatic Ecology Lab. Ben then returned to salt water and as a Research Associate II in the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Physical Oceanography Department before heading to graduate school in Boston.

Where were you placed in your fellowship?
I served as the Executive Secretariat to the Council of NOAA Fellows. The Council of NOAA Fellows is made up of Senior Scientists and Senior Leaders; research scientists, lawyers, and advisors dedicated to advancing NOAA science and recognized as world leaders in their respective fields. I oversaw the daily operations and organization of the council, including all outreach, correspondence, NOAA-wide and external communications as well as interactions with NOAA leadership, and represented the Council of NOAA Fellows at the NOAA Research Council meetings.

What is one thing that stands out from your time as a fellow?
I was able to host an inter-agency one-day workshop in November with about 60 senior scientists from 11 agencies from across the government, including NASA, EPA, DOD, USGS, and USDA among others. It was great to hear these super bright, extremely talented scientists talk about science in their agencies and forming stronger cross-discipline standing and ad hoc working groups and think tanks to push science in the Federal government forward.

What experience or skills have you gained as a Knauss fellow and how do you expect those to help with your future career?
I understand, to a small degree, the inner workings of the federal government, or at least NOAA. I saw how policy and research agendas are set, and when to follow the proper chain of command and when it might be best to side step. In addition, they fervently adhere to Robert's Rules of Order, something I had to learn quickly.

What have been the greatest opportunities that have come out of the Knauss fellowship experience?
As the Executive Secretariat to the Council of NOAA Fellows, I attended the biweekly NOAA Research Council, which has representation by an individual from every one of NOAA’s line offices. I had the opportunity to provide input, and to suggest tasks that the Council of NOAA Fellows could work on as a think tank. By about half way through my fellowship, I was on a first name basis with Dr. Rick Spinrad, NOAA’s Chief Scientist. I also had the chance to meet and have my photo taken with Dr. Kathy Sullivan, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, at a talk she gave at the Commerce Building downtown. The Legislative Knauss Fellows also provided all of us in Silver Spring with an amazing tour of the capital.

Why would you recommend that others apply for this fellowship?
It is unlike anything you have ever done as a graduate student, it is applying your reasoning and skill set to the problems of law, statistics, policy, enforcement, treaties, etc. etc. Every one of us had a different experience, so there is an office looking for a fellow that is right for you.

What surprised you most about your experience as a fellow?
Living in DC, it is unlike any other city I have lived, including state capitals, and other major cities. It’s only ~60sq miles but it can take hours to get anywhere. The semi-logical street layout is a boon, but it can still be super frustrating to take 45 minutes to go 4.2 miles.

After Knauss
I just started a new position at Oceana, an environmental NGO in Washington DC, as their marine scientist for fish, fisheries, and protected species, working as a member of the Responsible Fishing campaign. I am currently engaged in Oceana’s efforts to reduce overfishing, minimize bycatch, and identify and establish scientifically based catch limits that allow for both sustainable catches of fishes but sustainable coastal fishing communities.

Applications for the 2017 Knauss Fellowship are closed. For more information about how to apply check out our fellowship page.

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2015 Sea Grant Knauss Fellow Ben Carr meeting NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathy Sullivan.