Anna Rothstein: The Coral Program's 2024 Knauss Fellow

Headshot of a woman in a white sweater and black shirt smiling at the camera
Anna Rothstein is the 2024 Knauss Fellow for the Coral Program.

In February, we welcomed our 2024 Knauss fellow, Anna Rothstein. Anna is sponsored by University of Southern California Sea Grant, and received her M.S. in Ecology and Evolution from San Jose State University.

Anna's love of coral reef ecosystems began where you might not expect, the snowy suburbs of Minnesota. Her introduction to the underwater world, and perhaps more importantly, to the world of Jimmy Buffett, can be attributed to her AP Biology teacher in high school. Her teacher's fervor and zest for the natural world enticed Anna to join the SCUBA Club, where students convened once a week before school to learn about SCUBA diving and reef fish identification. Each summer, the club had the chance to put their diving, identification, and Jimmy Buffett singing skills to the test on an actual dive trip. Anna got her first real job to finance her way on these trips, which soon became the highlight of her year, and the rest is history!

A worn, black and white journal covered in colorful fish stickers, labeled “Anna Rothstein Dive Log.
Anna's original, well loved, official dive log from 2011.

During her undergraduate years, while she attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, Anna developed a deep appreciation for a different marine environment. Her research during this time not only immersed her in the birthplace of marine ecology—the rocky intertidal zone—but also fostered a profound admiration for the interconnectedness of species and their environments. While studying abroad in Turks and Caicos at the School for Field Studies in 2016, she was able to apply her love of marine ecology to coral reef ecosystems. This trip also opened her eyes to the current state of coral reef health in the Caribbean, and cemented her belief that doing what she could to save these precious ecosystems was her calling.

In grad school, Anna's research took her to West Maui, Hawai'i, where she became fascinated with understanding the ecology of less-studied coral reef environments like crevices and tunnels. These areas are often overlooked in standard coral reef monitoring efforts due to how difficult they can be to access. However, when combined, they actually make up a majority of the reef's surface area and are, therefore, incredibly important to understanding how reefs holistically function. This project introduced her to various reef managers and researchers on Maui, and she was able to participate in the Scripps Institute of Oceanography's 100 Island Challenge monitoring efforts.

A scuba diver swims over a coral reef while writing on a dive slate.
Anna studying the ecology of coral crevices in Maui, Hawai'i. Or, as she likes to say, “administering a coral reef colonoscopy” or “coraloscopy”.

Throughout her time in academia, Anna always struggled to understand the relevance of her science and yearned to see how her research could translate into actual change. Therefore, various mentors recommended she check out the Knauss fellowship. Now, she not only witnesses how coral reef conservation is managed at the federal level, but also contributes to the development of coral reef conservation, management, and policy.

For more than 40 years, the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, administered by NOAA's National Sea Grant College Program, has provided graduate and professional school students with experience in host offices throughout the executive and legislative branches of government. During the year-long program, fellows learn firsthand about ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resource management and policy. The Coral Reef Conservation Program has hosted many Knauss fellows over the years, and this year is no different.

Anna will support the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (the Task Force) and the various coral reef efforts of each Task Force working group. She is assisting in planning the 48th annual Task Force meeting in Silver Spring, MD this spring, as well as the 49th meeting in the Northern Mariana Islands this fall. Currently, she is working on a Coral Emergency Funding document, which will serve as a resource in the event of coral emergencies by providing information on available assistance. Anna will also have the opportunity to gain insight into coral reef conservation on an international level by participating in the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) and the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Finally, Anna will be working on communications products for the Watershed working group, all while trying her best to go viral while creating posts for CRCP's social media channels!

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