Alexandra Skrivanek,

UF alum Alexandra Skrivanek, one of the two finalists from UF chosen for the John A. Knauss fellowship. 

Dreams of drafting federal policies to save our oceans will come true for UF alumni Kathryn Slattery and Alexandra Skrivanek next February.

Slattery and Skrivanek were chosen in June as two of 69 finalists for the John A. Knauss fellowship hosted by the National Sea Grant College Program. 

The year-long educational fellowship places graduate students with different federal legislative and executive branch offices in Washington, D.C. Over the course of a year, fellows are hosted by government organization whose goal is to conserve our oceans through policy change, said Charles Sidman, the Florida Sea Grant Associate Director for Research. 

Fellows will attend an information session in Washington, D.C. this November and meet with legislative and executive offices that will host them until January 2021, Sidman said. The 69 finalists receive a stipend of $60,000 over the course of the program to cover housing and transportation costs, Sidman said.

Originally started by John A. Knauss, the program has four broad areas of focus. Fellows can work on promoting healthy ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture router, environmental literacy and workforce development, and hazard-resilient communities and economies, Sidman said.

“Typically, candidates that are most successful are those with a science background with an interest in policy,” Sidman said. “Or those that come from a policy background to begin with.”

This year is one of the few times that all students from Florida who were nominated for the national fellowship were selected as finalists.The Florida Sea Grant, a state-affiliated program, nominates students to the national program based on a series of interviews and letters.

The Florida Sea Grant has been affiliated with the University of Florida since 1976 and is linked with the UF Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, Sidman said. Students do not have to be in IFAS to apply to the fellowship.

Alexandra Skrivanek, a 27-year-old with a PhD in geology, was one of two UF alumni to be a finalist. After finding out the news in June, she said the first person she told was her mother. 

“I have the opportunity to take all that knowledge that I learned from my time at UF and apply it to this bigger picture that’s socially relevant,” Skrivanek said

Skrivanek found out about the program during her graduate research on the evolution of sea level and climate change and decided to give the application a try in January.

Skrivanek’s main goal during her time in the program is using her science background to increase awareness and inspire action on climate change and how it affects coastal communities. 

“Climate change is a global problem with various implications and very different solutions,” she said. “I’m looking forward to helping conversations on any scale and help communities plan for climate change impact.”