Environmental Sciences Graduate Student Awarded Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship

September 24, 2021 | News, Student Success, UToday, Alumni, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Meredith Troxel

A University of Toledo graduate student was chosen as one of four students in Ohio for the 43rd class of the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship through the Ohio Sea Grant.

Kaitlen Lang, a master’s student in the Department of Environmental Sciences, will move to Washington, D.C., for one year, beginning in 2022, and will be involved in key environmental issues in the legislative or executive branches of the U.S. government.

Kaitlen Lang’s research focuses on the efficacy of invasive species policy in the Great Lakes — specifically, successful management of the invasive grass carp in Lake Erie.

“I’m really excited about all the opportunities that the Knauss Fellowship provides,” Lang said. “To be in an immersive environment, meeting and connecting with people in Washington, D.C., is such a great opportunity to further my personal and professional development.”

Lang, an Auburn Hills, Mich., native, graduated in 2016 from Central Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and natural resources. She is in her final year of graduate school at UToledo, studying ecology and organismal biology.

Her research focuses on the efficacy of invasive species policy in the Great Lakes, specifically determining if management of invasive grass carp has been successful at suppressing their population in Lake Erie.

Grass carp are a large species of fish that originated in Asia that were introduced to the United States in the 1960s. Grass carp feed on the same vegetation that many other fish and waterfowl species use for habitat and food resources.

“If you leave invasive species unmanaged, the problem may snowball and end up affecting the Great Lakes economy,” Lang said. “Invasives may pose a threat to local fishing, hunting and recreational activities.”

Growing up, Lang was drawn to being outside and in the water. When it came time to deciding her career, she wanted to continue her passion for helping to conserve our environment so that more children can feel the joy she felt.

“I really valued the little pockets of nature that I was exposed to as a child,” Lang said. “I went to college with the perspective of ‘How can I make a career out of being outside?’ ”

Thanks to her time at UToledo, Lang is prepared and excited for the next step in her career. Dr. Christine Mayer, professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the Lake Erie Center, was instrumental in preparing Lang for this opportunity.

The two met at a Great Lakes stakeholder event, before Lang was a student at UToledo. Lang enjoyed learning about Mayer’s expertise and their conversation played a critical role in Lang’s decision to continue her education at UToledo. Mayer also introduced Lang to the Knauss Fellowship.

“Chris has been invaluable to my career,” Lang said.

“It has been a pleasure working with Kaitlen and I am very happy that she has won this prestigious opportunity to contribute to natural resource policy at a national level,” Mayer said, “As a M.S. student, she took ownership of her thesis project and worked very hard. She will put those traits to good use in Washington, D.C., as a Knauss Fellow.”

Lang’s biggest takeaway from UToledo is that science is collaborative and that managers can make the best decisions when everyone works together.

“Something I will take with me into my next position is how we can bring people who are not normally at the table to the table,” Lang said. “I want to include people with different perspectives, jobs, backgrounds and world experiences.”

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