The official website of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellows

 The Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine was formed as part of legal settlements of companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It has a 30-year duration and aims to “enhance oil system safety, human health, and environmental resources in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf regions that support oil and gas production”. 

Since 2015, the Gulf Research Program science policy fellowship program has helped early-career scientists "hone their skills by putting them to practice for the benefit of Gulf Coast communities and ecosystems." Fellows spend one year working on the staff of federal or state environmental, natural resource, oil and gas, or public health agencies in the Gulf of Mexico region.  As a host office for this program, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council) contributes to the professional development of each fellow while benefiting from the fellow’s technical expertise. This mutually beneficial relationship highlights the Council’s commitment to engaging in activities that facilitate the use of Best Available Science in decision-Making. The RESTORE Council has hosted four Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellows since 2015.

Current Fellow

Kathryn Keating, LMSW serves as the Council’s 2018-19 Science Policy Fellow.  Kathryn is a PhD candidate at Louisiana State University (LSU) and an interdisciplinary scholar with a background in Sociology and Social Work.  As a Science Policy Fellow, she engages in a variety of tasks to support the Council’s work around science coordination and facilitation, long-term data management, Best Available Science review processes, and science communication.  

Past Fellows

Dr. Brittany “Brie” Bernik served as the Council’s 2017-18 Science Policy Fellow.  Brie holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Tulane University, and earned her B.S. in environmental biology as a Newcomb Scholar.  As a fellow at the RESTORE Council, Dr. Bernik’s responsibilities spanned grant review, program coordination, and meeting facilitation.  She also developed several science products and participated in Council working groups. Brie now serves as a Restoration Ecologist for the RESTORE Council.

Dr. Kirsten S. Dorans served as the Council’s 2016-17 Science Policy Fellow. With a background in public health, she is looked at the connections between ecosystem restoration and the Council's goal to enhance community resilience. As a fellow, she became involved with the Council’s public engagement work, and helped to facilitate the Council’s collaborations with government, non-governmental, and academic groups that are interested in issues related to Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration and community resilience. Kirsten is now an assistant professor at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. 

Dr. Jessica R. Henkel served as the Council’s 2015-16 Science Policy Fellow. In this position Jessica worked with the Gulf Research Program and the Council to advance coastal restoration and science coordination across several State and Federal agencies. Jessica now serves as the Science Advisor and Coordinator for the RESTORE Council, and as a mentor for current and future Science Policy Fellows. 

Working as a Science Policy Fellow at the RESTORE Council 

Science Policy Fellows work with Dr. Jessica R. Henkel, the Science Advisor and Coordinator, and other staff to support the Council as it implements the use of best available science for Council funded projects and programs. 

Previous fellows have helped coordinate workshops among Gulf of Mexico scientists, assisted with coordination of data management and monitoring across agencies/projects, collaborated with academic groups on research proposals, and presented on Council activities at National conferences. In addition, the fellows help coordinate with other funding entities and fellows, such as the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program (who also has an Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellow). These coordination activities ensure that projects and programs being pursued for funding are leveraged, not duplicated.

Fellows may also: assist Council staff in developing and implementing an adaptive management policy; reviewing grant applications for consistency with proposals and Council goals and objectives; reviewing monitoring and data management plans; and aiding in setting up restoration project-specific data monitoring protocols. There will also be opportunities to facilitate coordination among other Gulf agencies and nonprofit organizations, and attend RESTORE Council meetings across the Gulf. The fellow may also have the opportunity to become involved in public engagement activities.

A small Council staff means no task is too big or small for anyone, so the opportunities for a Gulf Research Program fellow to dive head first into a world where science meets policy abound!