Go to the Hill | The current of UCSB

Few scholars have the opportunity to present their ideas and concerns to Congress. But Mae Rennick, a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara’s Halley Froehlich Lab, will soon.

Rennick has been selected to receive the 2022 Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award from the Ecological Society of America (ESA). She joins 43 other graduate students from across the country to take part in virtual tours of Congress later this month.

“Mae’s research is really applicable when it comes to the science-policy interface,” said Halley Froehlich, assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “This award is so well deserved and provides him with a great opportunity to learn and connect to national policy efforts.”

“It’s an honor to be recognized for my work in politics and my ideas on how to align the federal government with the goals of ecological research,” said Rennick. “I am very pleased to speak to California officials on behalf of ESA and discuss ways in which science and policy can be mutually beneficial. This experience will undoubtedly enhance my understanding of federal politics, strengthen my research and , will hopefully get more funding for ecological research in the future.

Offered annually, the award provides graduate students with hands-on science policy training and experience, including interactions with congressional decision makers, federal agency officials, and environmentalists who work in science and public policy. .

“Basically what happens is that ESA connects graduate students with their national or regional representatives to discuss how national funding can support research and science initiatives to create sustainable systems. and environmentally beneficial,” Rennick explained. Program participants receive policy and communications training, including information on the legislative process and federal science funding. They also hear firsthand from environmentalists currently working in federal agencies about their political careers.

Rennick’s specialty is in aquaculture, particularly sustainable seafood systems, and through her work at the Froehlich Lab, she is helping to develop an action plan for the State of California’s aquaculture. It’s a burning question, she said.

“There is a lot of interest in creating a sustainable seafood system using aquaculture,” she said. “There’s also a lot of interest in federal funding and how to support research to create sustainable systems.” His particular interest lies not only in how to make aquaculture environmentally sustainable, but also in how we can maintain our seafood supply and make seafood accessible.

“I’m interested in talking about long-term funding…and that’s the niche the government can fill,” Rennick added. “They really have the ability to support initiatives and long-term goals, which will be needed to achieve a sustainable seafood system.”

Currently, Rennick explained, California has a relatively small aquaculture industry, limited to only bivalves, molluscs, some algae and some freshwater fish. Although the time is ripe for expansion, much work remains to be done to develop scientific guidelines that ensure expansion is sustainable and does not conflict with existing fisheries (commercial and tribal) and areas. marine protected areas that dot California’s coastal areas.

Rennick will address Congress on February 16 and 17 during “Virtual Hill” tours organized by ESA.

“It is very gratifying and encouraging to see our graduate students at ESA engage with the science-policy interface and hear directly from policymakers about the importance of receiving critical information about ecological systems that matter to their constituents” , said ESA President Dennis Ojima. “The valuable practical experience and listening skills will enable them to engage successfully in the political field.”

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