Delaware Sea Grant nominee Becomes Finalist for Prestigious John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship


Christine Hirt earned her Master of Marine Policy degree at the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) by studying the social issues surrounding offshore energy development, specifically contributing to research on public perceptions, attitudes and support for the Block Island Wind Project in collaboration with her advisor, Jeremy Firestone, and others.

Hirt describes her research into the social impacts and perceptions of the nation’s first offshore wind energy facility as having implications for the development of additional large offshore wind projects, such as the two planned for Maryland and potential future projects along the northeast coast of the United States.

This attention to understanding the different ways our country’s ocean resources can be used and the impact those uses have on coastal communities has led to Hirt’s next opportunity.

On July 11, the National Sea Grant program announced Hirt has been selected as a 2019 finalist for the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, which provides graduate students with unique, firsthand experience in the policies and processes of the federal government and how federal policy decisions affect ocean, coastal and Great Lake resources.

Hirt has been engaged with the intersection of science and policy since her undergraduate days. She wrote a thesis “on the politics of erosion and preserving environmental and historical sites,” and between her undergraduate and graduate student careers worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory studying the relationships between storms and electrical grid resiliency to inform planning and policy.

“I strive to bring various stakeholders and disciplines together to create resilient and environmentally sustainable policy solutions that are socially acceptable and economically viable for the problems that our coasts face today,” Hirt said. “My background in both science and policy has provided me with a unique skillset, making me an excellent candidate to pursue my ultimate professional goal of working to solve today’s critical national marine issues.”

As one of 69 Knauss finalists, Hirt will attend the placement event in Washington D.C. this fall, where she will meet and interview with a number of potential host offices in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. Because of her interest in national maritime and coastal management and offshore renewable energy development, Hirt is hoping for a placement at either the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management or the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As part of the 40th anniversary Knauss class, Hirt will be joining the ranks of over 1,200 professionals who have participated in the program previously, gaining valuable insight and experience in their fields.

“The Knauss Fellowship symbolizes opportunity: the opportunity to use the tools and skills I have to inform real policy and decision-making, the opportunity to learn more about interagency collaboration, which I hope to be doing in the future, and lastly, the opportunity to work for the government in service of the public,” Hirt said. “I look forward to utilizing my unique background and skillset to develop effective policy solutions for today’s marine issues.”


Additional Delaware Sea Grant Fellows

The announcement of Hirt’s selection as a finalist marks her as the third student this year to receive a prestigious fellowship through a Delaware Sea Grant nomination. As a Coastal Management Fellow through Sea Grant, CEOE graduate student and research assistant Alexis Cunningham will start work in August for the Coastal States Organization (CSO) in Washington, D.C., where she will also be working with the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM). The project will be focused on leading CSO's and ASFPM's efforts to promote and improve the Community Rating System (a tool to achieve coastal flood resilience), including bridging the gap for communities that do not have sufficient capacity to join or advance in the system.

Amanda Zahorik will start in Sea Grant’s Ocean Acidification Graduate Research Fellowship program in September. Through hands-on experience in translating research to coastal and marine stakeholders, this program is designed to develop researchers to respond to the anticipated imminent threat of ocean acidification. Research is focused on improving scientific understanding of ecological consequences of acidification in regional coast waters, and research may range from natural science to social science. The program also offers a professional mentor to participants to guide them through this development process.

For a full list of the fellowships currently sponsored by Delaware Sea Grant, visit their official website. For a complete list of the 2019 Knauss Fellowship finalists, visit the National Sea Grant website.