University of Minnesota Student Selected for Prestigious Sea Grant Washington D.C. Fellowship

Jul 21, 2021

ST. PAUL and DULUTH, Minn. — The University of Minnesota Sea Grant program announces that the 2022 Minnesota finalist for the National Sea Grant John A. Knauss Policy Fellowship is University of Minnesota graduate student Naomi Blinick.

Sea Grant’s Knauss Fellowship Program for ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources matches exceptional nationally selected graduate students with host offices of the federal government for a one-year, non-renewable, paid, policy fellowship in Washington, D.C.

“Naomi is an ideal candidate for a Knauss Fellowship,” said Minnesota Sea Grant Director John Downing. “She has an enormous breadth of experience including working as a certified scientific diver, a marine and freshwater biologist, a wildland firefighter, and also conducted research on fisheries bycatch in Mexico.”

Sea Grant’s 2022 finalists for this prestigious annual fellowship are an impressive group of 74 talented, early-career professionals who represent 27 of the 34 Sea Grant College Programs nationwide.

Blinick is a graduate research fellow at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center at the University of Minnesota. Her master’s research is about quantifying how food webs in Minnesota’s walleye lakes are different when invasive zebra mussels are present, and how those differences affect mercury levels in walleye and perch.

It’s important to me that research doesn’t happen in a vacuum. For it to be actionable, we need to ensure that policy decisions are informed by science,” said Blinick. “The Knauss Fellowship will give me real-world exposure to how these decisions are made, and allow me to participate in the process.”

Legislative fellows are selected to work in the United States House of Representatives and U.S. Senate in either personal or committee offices. Executive fellows are placed in federal agencies with Great Lakes and marine-relevant policy missions.

“I bring a broad background, gained from conducting scientific fieldwork all over North America. I consider myself a generalist and have dedicated my career to understanding as many systems as I can,” Blinick said. “I’ve witnessed first-hand several of the threats that our aquatic systems are facing. I’ve seen large-scale coral bleaching, albatross carcasses packed with plastic debris and lakes carpeted in zebra mussels. The consequences of our policies are not theoretical to me. They’re tangible.”

Blinick and the other 2022 Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship finalists will be matched with their host in the fall of 2021 and begin their year-long fellowships in February of 2022.

Additional Information

Minnesota Sea Grant is one of 34 nationwide federal-university partnerships whose mission is to enhance the practical use and conservation of Great Lakes, coastal, and marine resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment. MNSG is part of the National Sea Grant College Program, administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The application period for the 2023 Knauss Fellowship Program begins in the fall of 2021. Applicants must apply through their state Sea Grant program. Contact Minnesota Sea Grant for Knauss Fellowship application details.

The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center is a multidisciplinary research facility based at the University of Minnesota that strives to develop research-based solutions to reduce the impacts of aquatic invasive species in Minnesota by preventing spread, controlling populations, and managing ecosystems; and to advance knowledge to inspire action by others.

Funding for Blinick’s master’s research project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the MAISRC and the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.


Naomi Blinick, National Sea Grant Knauss Fellow Finalist, “Naomi Blinick” is pronounced “Nay-oh-me Blin-ick.”

John Downing, Director, Minnesota Sea Grant; Professor of Biology, Department of Biology and Scientist, Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota Duluth,, 218-726-8715

Marie Thoms, Communications Manager, Minnesota Sea Grant,, office: 218.726.8710, mobile: 907.460.1841, @MNSeaGrant.

Image credit: Katie Matzen.


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