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 has had a science policy fellowship program. This program, “helps 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. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) has hosted two Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellows since 2015.

Current Fellow

Dr. Kirsten S. Dorans serves as the Council’s current Science Policy Fellow. With a background in public health, she is looking at the connections between ecosystem restoration and the Council's goal to enhance community resilience. As a fellow, she has been involved with the Council’s public engagement work, and has 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. 

Past Fellows

Dr. Jessica R. Henkel served as the Council’s 2015 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 an Ecosystem Science Specialist for the Council.

Working as a Science Policy Fellow at the RESTORE Council 

Science Policy Fellows work with Dr. Alyssa Dausman, the Science Director, and other staff to support the Council as it allocates funding to approved restoration projects. 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, but not duplicated.

In the future, fellows may be involved in activities such as helping ensure that restoration projects are being implemented based on the best available science; 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. 

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!