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Getting to Know WHSG Knauss Fellows: Andrew Villeneuve

Hometown: Rockville, Maryland
Area of research focus/interest: My master’s work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst focused on understanding how evolution and physiology interact to give populations within a species different sensitivities and responses to climate change. I used a marine predatory snail called the Oyster Drill, native from Cape Cod south to Florida, as my study species. Broadly, I am interested in knowing how climate change is altering marine ecosystems as a whole by first understanding how species react to stressors.
What are you doing during your Knauss Fellowship? I am working for NOAA Fisheries in the Office of the Assistant Administrator, specifically in the office of the Chief Scientist for Fisheries. I have two portfolios, one under the Senior Science Advisor Lindsey Kraatz and the other under the Senior Policy Advisor Candace Nachman. For the science side of my portfolio, I have been working on a variety of projects that help Fisheries leadership design agency strategy and communicate this to the public and Congress. This has included completing a bibliometric analysis of scientific papers published by Fisheries scientists to determine research trends within the organization, developing better frameworks for alerting leadership on impending, high impact scientific publications, and writing a series of communications materials on the importance of fisheries surveys for a Congressional audience.
For the Policy side of my portfolio, I have largely been working on Arctic issues. This has included serving as a Secretariat member for the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) during the development of the 2022-2026 Arctic Research Plan and helping organize workshops to solicit Alaska Indigenous input into the research plan of the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated HIgh Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO).
What has been the most difficult part of being a Fellow during the Covid crisis/How about the most positive? By far the most difficult part about being a fellow during COVID is not being able to work with my coworkers, supervisors, and fellows in-person. There is so much that should occur “in the hallways”, so to speak, from solving work challenges to bonding with my fellowship cohort, that we miss out on by working remotely. On the positive side, I am amazed at how well I have been able to face these work challenges and collaborate with people across the country and the world. The Knauss experience is a steep learning curve, compounded by remote work, and I feel confident that I can take on any new work situation after this experience.
What’s one thing you’ve learned during your time in Washington, D.C. that has surprised you? I have not worked from D.C. this fellowship year (instead, I’m enjoying the scenery of Burlington, Vermont). That being said, it has been a wonderful and humbling experience to work with colleagues in Alaska and learn how important collaboration is to effecting change, both within government agencies and between scientists, managers, and communities. Every management and conservation issue involves many stakeholders and groups with sometimes conflicting viewpoints, and the source of conflict within many of these issues can often be attributed to stakeholders being left out of the conversation or poor communication between groups attempting to achieve the same goals.
What was the last thing you read? Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. I greatly enjoyed Annihilation, and was excited to jump into another of VanderMeer’s surreal science fiction novels. I’m looking forward to reading Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams next.
Got any podcast recommendations? I don’t listen to podcasts much anymore since I don’t have a commute, but How to Save a Planet is an informative, uplifting, and well researched series about climate change solutions, and Outside/In is an excellent nature podcast.
Who has been your inspiration? E.O. Wilson
What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever visited and why? Madagascar. Incredible landscapes and biodiversity.
What is something about you that people would be surprised to learn about you? I am an aspiring fiction writer.
What’s your favorite quote from a book/movie or TV show? “Life, uh, finds a way” - Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park, is an all-time classic for biologists.
What are your plans post-fellowship? I am applying for PhD programs at the moment to continue working in research, but I am keen to integrate my policy experiences from the Knauss fellowship into my future work!
What would be your number one recommendation to a younger version of your self? Know when to march to the beat of your own drum to make you happy and when to seek the guidance of mentors who can direct your energy on paths most likely to lead you to your goals.
Cats or Dogs? Fish