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  • Writer's pictureAllison Adams

Sea Grant Fellowship Insider Views with SFSU RIPTIDES Student Awardees

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

As we master’s degree students make plans to defend our theses and graduate, foremost on our minds is what will happen after graduation. Whether or not we know exactly what we want to do, many of us do not have that dream job or PhD program already in our back pockets waiting for the moment we finish, and so we search for opportunities to gain professional experience. One such opportunity is the California Sea Grant State Fellowship, a program that matches graduate students with hosts in municipal, state and federal agencies in California for a 12-month paid fellowship. At San Francisco State University’s RIPTIDES program, we are fortunate to have four 2020 fellows who have agreed to give us an inside view of their fellowships.

From my conversations with each of them, I found these common threads: they are doing meaningful work that relates directly to their graduate work and their goals for the future; their work is interdisciplinary, for which the RIPTIDES program prepared them well; they highly recommend applying, and taking the time to thoroughly prepare your application.


SFSU lab affiliation: San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Research project: The relationship between turbidity and total suspended solids along the natural salinity gradient of the San Francisco Estuary

Host Agency: Port of San Diego Environmental Conservation Department, San Diego

Fellowship Projects:

  • Providing input with the lens of environmental conservation to mitigation banking in the Chula Vista Bayfront Project.

  • Creating a San Diego wildlife brochure describing key birds and wildlife with conservation tips and translating it into Spanish.

  • Composing official correspondence to local and state agencies such as the California Fish and Game Commission.

Dulce’s Insights: What I'm learning is that science and business can come together to play a big part in restoring wetlands. I get to work on the policy side, the research side, and even the science outreach side. That's wonderful because it aligns with my career goal of being a natural resources manager with a broad interest in how public science and government work together to solve problems. And that's what my studies have truly prepared me for, that everything is so interdisciplinary.


SFSU lab affiliation: Dr. Wim Kimmerer’s Zooplankton Ecology Lab

Research project: Using qPCR to investigate copepod diet in the San Francisco Estuary

Host Agency: Delta Science Program's Science-Based Adaptive Management Unit, Sacramento

Fellowship Projects:

  • Supporting the Delta Independent Science Board with their Science Needs Assessment, Monitoring Enterprise Review.

  • Assisting with ecological science synthesis projects such as zooplankton or food web projects in the Delta.

Cheryl’s Insights: Being a fellow at this organization is valuable because the SF Estuary/Delta has many stakeholders, and the Delta Science Program has been working in the middle of the web of many organizations that are connected by their work in the Delta through strong collaborative spirit and science-led actions and management. My career goals include being a scientist in a conservation-focused organization and working with local communities to develop management plans that are stakeholder-led. So, it's a perfect place to learn as much as I can about working in that capacity.


SFSU lab affiliation: Dr. Karina Nielsen’s Coastal Ecosystems Lab

Research project: Characterizing the local pH environment created by beds of Fucus distichus

Host Agency: Delta Science Program's Collaborative Science and Peer Review Unit, Sacramento

Fellowship Projects:

  • Helping compose the monthly Lead Scientist’s Report, an update on the state's largest water resource inventories.

  • Spearheading the diversity and inclusion initiative, aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion for independent science review boards, fulfilling a law addressing the need for immediate science either to help further an existing project or to help address an immediate environmental threat.

Byron’s Insights: I am drawn to the interdisciplinary side of science involving social engagement within science, and collaborative efforts among diverse contributors, with an emphasis on synthesis. This fellowship fits with my interest in gaining a global sense of the impacts of climate change and how I can combine my traditional science training and background with some of my natural skills of communication, synthesis, and creative thinking, ultimately leading to work in natural resource and water management.


SFSU lab affiliation: Dr. Kathy Boyer’s Wetland Ecology Lab

Research project: Endangered California seablite (Suaeda californica) establishment and use as high tide refuge for wildlife in San Francisco Bay salt marshes (Click here to read an article Kelly co-wrote about this research.)

Host Agency: San Francisco Estuary Partnership, San Francisco

Fellowship Projects:

  • Helping coordinate a new Wetland Regional Monitoring Program for the San Francisco Bay.

  • Helping coordinate a new Technical Advisory Committee, create outreach materials and content, and support the development of our data management system.

Kelly’s Insight’s: I am motivated to continue working with organizations that focus on

conservation and restoration work within coastal and inland watershed habitats. After the fellowship I'd like to work with government agencies on science and policy at the local, state, and/or federal level. My experience at the EOS Center and previous positions allowed me to see the impact that I could have working with state agencies that fund, manage, and regulate the science and policy projects happening throughout California. This fellowship has been the perfect opportunity to gain experience with state and regional management of our coastal wetlands.


  • Give some love to your CV by keeping it current and getting feedback from peers, advisors, or SFSU’s Career Services and Leadership Development.

  • Spend lots of time on the Sea Grant website reading about the State Fellowship.

  • Read up on the host organizations you are interested in (LinkedIn and host websites).

  • Reach out to past fellows for their advice and experiences.


If you have doubts about applying, Byron has offered us these words of encouragement:

“We've done some really hard work in grad school, and we always feel like we could be doing more, but just remember that we've actually earned the right to be considered in these conversations. We sometimes may get impostor syndrome or get a little nervous, but being on both sides of it, remembering how it felt before and after, I realized that you're literally the same person before and after, so have some faith in and be really proud of yourself! Anybody from EOS who applies and takes the time to seriously work on the application would be a strong candidate.”

Applications are now open for 2021. The deadline is July 27, 2020, 5:00 PM PST.

Other past fellows from SFSU: 2019 Jillian Burns, Dan Hossfeld; 2018 Julie Gonzalez; 2017; Kerstin Kalchmayr, Melissa Kent, Tricia Lee; 2014 Evyan Borgnis, Karen Kayfetz, Rosa Schneider; 2013 Hayley Carter, Andrea Dransfield

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