North Carolina Sea Grant
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December 12, 2018 | Marisa Incremona



Katie Mosher, 919-515-9069,

Clockwise from top left: Incoming Knauss fellows include Jill Hamilton, Chrissy Hayes, Alicia Cheripka and William Thaxton.

Four Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship finalists nominated by North Carolina Sea Grant will serve for a year in the federal executive and legislative branches in Washington, D.C. Alicia M. Cheripka, Jill Hamilton, Chrissy Hayes and William Thaxton will start their placements in February 2019.

Funded by the National Sea Grant College Program, the fellowship honors John A. Knauss, a Sea Grant founder and former dean of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. Graduate students serve with agencies in the nation’s capitol, focusing on federal policies and processes that affect ocean, coastal and Great Lakes issues.

Alicia M. Cheripka graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a master’s degree in marine biology. Her thesis project included creating a model to determine how various marine protected area network configurations affect species. She will work as an International Liaison for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Ocean Acidification Program.

“In addition to planning symposium and training events, I will be working with other national and global organizations on the status of ocean acidification as well as monitoring methods,” Cheripka says. “This placement is sure to broaden my knowledge across marine disciplines and give me a lot of experience working collaboratively with a wide range of constituents. I could not be more excited.”

Jill Hamilton graduated from Duke University with a master’s degree in environmental management, concentrating in coastal environmental management. Her thesis explored international aid for small-scale fisheries, and considered how future aid efforts could align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She will serve in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Marine Conservation.

“I will be involved with international negotiations and discussions related to high-seas fisheries, marine biological diversity, and marine debris, among others,” Hamilton says. “The world’s oceans are interconnected and international by nature, and I am excited to gain a first-hand look at the policy processes addressing these shared ecosystems, species, and resources.”

Chrissy Hayes earned a master’s degree in environmental management, concentrating in coastal environmental management, from Duke University. Her studies focused on the performance of small-scale fisheries development. She will serve in NOAA’s Office of International Affairs.

“I will be contributing to NOAA’s international engagement on key issues, including Arctic environmental protection, United Nations involvement, and ecosystem-based management,” Hayes explains. “I am absolutely thrilled with the dynamic and inviting team at NOAA Headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C., and I look forward to a challenging year to learn and grow.”

William Thaxton completed his master’s degree in biology at East Carolina University this fall. He explored the effects of climate variability on several commercially important marine fishes in Beaufort Inlet. As part of his fellowship, Thaxton will focus on ocean and natural resource policy in the office of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii.

“Meeting the staffs of 19 congressional offices during placement week was an incredible experience, and I could not be more excited about my particular placement,” says Thaxton. “My goal is to remain on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant, and I am confident that this fellowship will provide me the experience and network to make that happen. More than anything, I am excited to use my knowledge of science to serve the people, land and ocean of Hawaii.”

Some fellows go on to careers across the country, while others remain in Washington, D.C., after the fellowship.

For more information about the fellowship, go to The deadline for 2020 Knauss fellowship applications is Feb. 22, 2019.

To read more about the incoming North Carolina Knauss fellows and to see photos, visit: 


North Carolina Sea Grant: Your link to research and resources for a healthier coast

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