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Elizabeth Benyshek
Erik Brush
Ryan Jones
Becca Lensing
Hanna Odahara
L-R: from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (Elizabeth Benyshak, PhD; Erik Brush, PhD; Ryan Jones, PhD; Becca Lensing, PhD), from Hawai’i Pacific University (Hanna Odahara, MS)

Five recent graduates from Hawai‘i universities begin prestigious marine policy fellowship in Washington, D.C.

(Honolulu, HI) – Four graduate students from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and one graduate student from Hawai‘i Pacific University were selected out of a highly competitive field of applicants nationwide to spend one year focusing on critical marine policy issues in Washington, D.C. as 2024 NOAA John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellows.

The Knauss fellowship is a one-year paid opportunity for current and recent graduates from advanced degree programs to be placed in federal government offices and apply their scientific knowledge and experiences to lasting careers in the sciences, policy, and public administration.

These five fellows (Elizabeth Benyshak, PhD; Erik Brush, PhD; Ryan Jones, PhD; Becca Lensing, PhD; and Hanna Odahara, MS) are representing the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program alongside approximately 80 other fellows from 30 of the 34 Sea Grant programs across the country. The 2024 class of fellows features students and recent graduates from 66 universities, including 12 minority-serving institutions, and will join a network of over 1,600 individuals who have participated in the program since its inception in 1979.

“Knauss fellows over the years have consistently and thoughtfully applied their unique knowledge and skillsets to developing solutions to issues that affect people across the nation,” said Jonathan Pennock, PhD, director of the National Sea Grant College Program. “We look forward to welcoming the incoming class of fellows and have no doubt that they will continue the tradition of serving through science.”

Elizabeth Benyshek, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
PhD, Earth Sciences
Legislative Fellow
Host Office: U.S. Senator for Georgia Jon Ossoff

Erik Brush, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
PhD, Zoology
Executive Fellow
Host Office: NOAA Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping

Ryan Jones, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
PhD, Zoology
Executive Fellow
Host Office: NOAA National Ocean Service Policy and Constituent Affairs Division

Becca Lensing, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
PhD, Oceanography
Executive Fellow
Host Office: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, Ecological Services

Hanna Odahara, Hawai‘i Pacific University
MS, Marine Science
Executive Fellow
Host Office: NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

While the five fellows representing Hawai‘i will gain invaluable knowledge and experience working directly on the nation’s most pressing issues in the legislative and executive branches of government, they will also bring a unique perspective on natural resource management and community engagement to their host offices and other fellows. Their experiences are varied and range from cutting-edge research on coral reefs and bleaching events, engaging policymakers and resource managers, research on loko i‘a that directly impacts how fishpond stewards manage traditional aquaculture systems, studying fish species that are incredibly common yet poorly studied in Hawai‘i, to the study of plate tectonics and geophysics.

In addition to their impressive research accomplishments, they all have a passion for and have contributed countless hours to community engagement, public service, science communication, and outreach.

The University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program is part of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s prestigious School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. It supports an innovative program of research, education, and extension services directed to increasing sustainability of coastal and marine resources and resilience of coastal communities of the state, region, and nation. Science serving Hawai‘i and the Pacific since 1968.