An East Carolina University graduate student is one of 66 from across the United States awarded a 2019 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship.
William “Chris” Thaxton, who will graduate with a master’s degree in biology in May, earned bachelor degrees in biology and chemistry from ECU in 2016 as an EC Scholar.
The Knauss award, presented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Sea Grant, recognizes students who are completing masters, juris doctor or doctor of philosophy programs with a focus or interest in marine science, policy or management.
The 40th class of Knauss Fellows will begin work in February.
Thaxton, who grew up in La Grange, will be moving to Washington, D.C., for his fellowship year where he will work on ocean and natural resource policy for Sen. Brian Schatz from Hawaii.
“I love science, but my real passion is using science to find the balance between the needs of people and nature,” Thaxton said. “All of my experiences so far have been mostly ‘doing’ science. The Knauss Fellowship is an intense, yearlong introduction into how science is actually used in federal policy.”
Thaxton said he is especially passionate about the topic of climate change and how sea level rise will impact coastal development.
“There is a lot of confusion, fear and uncertainty surrounding the topic,” Thaxton said. “Science can either relieve or exacerbate these issues depending on how it’s communicated. North Carolina’s peculiar history with sea level rise policy piqued my interest in the subject as an undergraduate, and I’m excited at the opportunity to see firsthand how climate-related issues are being discussed at the federal level.”
Thaxton first learned about the Knauss Fellowship while completing a 10-week Hollings Scholar internship with NOAA four years ago.
He credited ECU’s Dr. Tim Runyon and Dr. Rebecca Asch in helping mentor his interests and research.
In the future, he would like to work as a legislative staffer on Capitol Hill, expanding the skills he expects to develop as a Knauss Fellow.
-by Crystal Baity, ECU News Services
Cole Dittmer contributed to this story.