For immediate release
July 22, 2020


Sea Grant Announces 2021 Finalists for the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program

Three stellar finalists to represent Pennsylvania Sea Grant and Commonwealth Universities

collage of 2021 knauss fellowship finalists
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(Harrisburg, PA) – Pennsylvania Sea Grant joins the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Sea Grant College Program in announcing the finalists for the 2021 class of the Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program. This year, 74 finalists representing 27 of the 34 Sea Grant programs have been chosen, including Sandra Demberger, Katie Lample, and Brian Redder, from Pennsylvania.

Knauss finalists are enrolled in or have recently completed Masters, Juris Doctor (J.D.), or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs with a focus and/or interest in marine and coastal science, policy or management. The 2021 Knauss finalists will become the 42nd class, spending one-year appointed to federal agencies or legislative offices in Washington, D.C. to receive hands-on experiences in transferring science to policy and management.

Knauss finalists are chosen through a competitive process that includes several rounds of review at both the state Sea Grant program and national levels. Since 1979, over 1,400 fellows have completed the program, becoming leaders in science, policy, and public administration roles.

“We are excited to welcome three exceptional Knauss finalists from Pennsylvania to the class of 2021,” said Dr. Sean Rafferty, Pennsylvania Sea Grant research director. “This is an opportunity like no other. NOAA and Sea Grant benefit from the unique skills and expertise of each finalist, including fresh perspectives toward addressing critical marine policy and science challenges. For the finalists, it is an opportunity that can launch careers at NOAA, Sea Grant, and other federal agencies.”

Pennsylvania’s finalists bring unique experiences, formal education, and field experiences to the program.

Sandra Demberger received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a Hydrology Concentration, from the University of Delaware, Newark, DE, and just completed her Master of Science in Environmental Science, at Villanova University, Villanova, PA. Sandra says, “My first coastal experience was in my high school biology class when we travelled to Slaughter Beach, Delaware to conduct a horseshoe crab survey. This species is vital to shorebirds, particularly the Red Knot which needs crab eggs to fuel its 9,000-mile migration. Our data collection contributed to a citizen science database, which local managers used to define beach closures to minimize bird disturbance. This experience was pivotal, as it revealed how research informs policy and natural resource management. My horseshoe crab fieldtrip led me to a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, an internship with an environmental state agency, over two years with an environmental nonprofit, and now a master’s degree in the same field. My passion for the environment has evolved from supporting fieldwork to a vision of translating research into tangible large-scale policy and management. I am pursuing a career coordinating strategic efforts between scientists, government, and the public to improve coastal resiliency. With years of practical experience, I have learned that I do not want to make a career working in the marshes, I want to make a career working for marshes and other coastal and marine natural resources.”

Katie Lample received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from Drexel University, and a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, both located in Philadelphia, PA. Katie became interested in a career in environmental resources during a three-month undergraduate research program studying skinks in Equatorial Guinea. After college, an internship as a farm educator in New York City got her thinking about how land use decisions and policies are made, and what implications those decisions can have on environmental justice and equity. This led her to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, studying city planning, focusing on land use and environmental planning. She says, “My time at the University of Pennsylvania has indeed given me fundamental planning tools in data analysis, urban design, mapping and community engagement. My planning education has ingrained in me an equity-driven perspective, and my work experience has prepared me to meaningfully translate ideas between diverse disciplines and communities. I am certain that successful climate planning and policy must acknowledge the integration between social equity, spatial design and scientific principles, a task my interdisciplinary strengths have prepared me to take on. The Knauss fellowship would push me to develop a familiarity and fluency of federal law and policy that is critical to preparing to make valuable contributions in the field of marine policy and coastal management throughout my career. Moving forward I hope to focus my work on coastal resilience, water infrastructure and resource management as I now understand these to be some of the most pressing and complex facets of the climate crisis. I intend to contribute towards federal marine policy that cultivates conditions conducive to all life, tipping a hat to the nuances of culture, equity and ecology.”

Brian Redder graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY, with a B.S. in Environmental Chemistry and B.A. in Mathematics; and minors in Environmental Science and Policy, and Geology. He received a Master of Science in Forest Resources from Penn State University, State College, PA, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University dual majoring in Soil Science and Biogeochemistry. “My current work in my PhD program at The Pennsylvania State University revolves around water quality and the preservation of our nation's waterways. By combining elements of math, chemistry, geology, and biology, I work to understand sources of pollution to rivers and streams and calculate how much of a certain pollutant will end up in lakes, oceans, and estuaries. My work so far has focused on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, specifically the area surrounding the Susquehanna River. However, poor water quality is a problem in every corner of the country, and my research aims to identify and reduce the amount of pollutants making their way into oceans and harming aquatic ecosystems. Participating in this fellowship would teach me to combine my technical training in water sciences, effective communication skills, and interest in policy decisions affecting our environment in order to protect and preserve our water resources. My career goals revolve around my desire to communicate science to a broader spectrum of audiences including lawmakers, corporations, agencies, and the general public.”

This fall, the finalists will participate in a virtual placement week to get to know each other and interview with potential host offices, which can include executive branch appointments in offices like NOAA, the Department of the Interior and the National Science Foundation, as well as legislative placements on Senate and House committees and in legislative offices. More information about the program is available at

Pennsylvania Sea Grant is one of 34 National Sea Grant College Programs, administered through NOAA. For over 50 Years, the National Sea Grant College Program has promoted the ecological and economic sustainability of coastal and Great Lakes resources through the development of science-based research, education, and extension programs.

In Pennsylvania, Sea Grant is administered and supported by NOAA, Penn State University, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Together, the national and state Sea Grant programs enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment. Learn more about our work in Pennsylvania by visiting

Placement of 2021 Knauss finalists as fellows is contingent on adequate funding in Fiscal Year 2021.

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