2525 Correa Road, HIG 238
Honolulu, HI 96822
Growing up in Hawai‘i, Mele Coleman always loved the outdoors and wildlife. Her interest in conserving Hawai‘i’s natural resources took shape while a student at Kaiser High School, where she established an environmental club that conducted beach and stream clean-ups and promoted recycling. The club’s success is due in large part to the help it received from Youth for Environmental Service (YES), a non-profit organization that at the time was led by Hawai‘i Senator Brian Schatz and supported in part by the University of Hawai‘i (UH) Sea Grant College Program. During her junior year of high school, Mele decided that she wanted to pursue a career that would allow her to protect Hawai‘i’s marine resources.
While studying marine biology at UC Santa Cruz, Mele took a class in marine conservation, which had a strong influence on her career goals. After graduation, she returned to the islands to serve as a naturalist and researcher for Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund (HWF), a Maui-based, non-profit organization focused on marine conservation. Through her work at HWF and participation in a coastal advocacy group, Mele gained insight into how conservation is not only effected by good science and sound policy, but also is affected by law and politics. Further, she saw that the most effective advocates for the environment are those who understand the interactions among all of these factors. This led her to apply to graduate programs that she felt would allow her to develop the skills necessary to become an effective advocate for marine conservation, and ultimately to attend the UH William S. Richardson School of Law where she will graduate this May with certificates in Environmental Law and Ocean Policy.
As a 2013 Knauss Fellow with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Program Planning and Integration, Mele utilized her marine biology and legal skills daily as a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Specialist. She assisted with various aspects of NOAA’s internal efforts to adequately, consistently, and efficiently comply with NEPA. Mele described the Knauss Fellowship as an “amazing opportunity” to gain marine policy experience and learn about NOAA, where she hopes someday to work as an attorney.