From April 4th-6th 2023, a community of solvers from around the world gathered to share and advance knowledge and solutions to critical challenges at the ocean-climate nexus as part of Ocean Visions’ 2023 Biennial Summit.
Ocean Visions spoke with Summit attendee and Knauss Fellow De’Marcus Robinson to learn about his experience.
Ocean Visions: Can you tell me briefly about your educational journey and how you got into ocean sciences? Could you describe your work in the Knauss fellowship and how that opportunity led you to attend the Summit?
De’Marcus: I went to undergrad at Florida A&M University where I majored in environmental science with a concentration in toxicology. My major introduced me to environmental science & policy issues. During undergrad, I also took various internships in marine science, first doing marine microbiology and then coral reef research. These opportunities prepared me to pursue a PhD at UCLA in the field of oceanography doing research in oxygen minimum zones. During my final few years, I decided that I wanted to learn about ocean policy, so I applied to the John A Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship where I am now an Ocean Policy Fellow with the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), within the Executive Office of the President.
So far my work with CEQ includes: collaboration with federal agencies and departments across federal ocean projects, including the release of the Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP), stakeholder engagement on Ocean Justice strategy, and participating in meetings for federal interagency coordination and working groups. The OCAP represents the first-ever United States plan to harness the power of the ocean to mitigate and adapt to climate change. I am particularly interested in the ideas for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) coming from an ocean biogeochemistry background. I wanted to learn more about CDR, so that is what led me to the Ocean Visions Summit.
Ocean Visions: From a policy perspective, what was the most interesting take away from the Summit?
De’Marcus: The most interesting take away was the opportunity to see what works and what does not work. There are many overlaps from comments and suggestions at the Ocean Visions Summit that also have been written in OCAP, so it is great that at this early stage there is a consensus of understanding of what is needed to go forward that will feed into future conversations.
Ocean Visions: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for stronger policies as it relates to advancing solutions in the ocean-climate space?
De’Marcus: The Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP), provides many opportunities to draw from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, along with the opportunity to create new initiatives and policies as it relates to ocean-climate solutions. For OCAP, federal departments and agencies outlined the actions that they can initiate to create solutions for ocean sustainability, technological advancement, and community engagement for ocean-climate policies to mitigate and respond to climate change while creating opportunities for economic growth.
Ocean Visions: Who were you able to make connections with and why do you think those will be of value to both your and their career?
De’Marcus: Having the opportunity to connect with a wide range of folks at the summit was a value for me because I rarely interacted with industry coming from a world of academia. It gave me a better perspective on the conversations occurring that may be different from academia and policy. I have a personal goal of writing a book, so I also enjoyed having a conversation about non fiction books and how that can introduce people to the ocean world.
Ocean Visions: Can you tell me about some of the most interesting or compelling ideas you heard at the conference? Which ideas gave you the most hope?
De’Marcus: There were so many great ideas at the conferences, and it would be interesting to see the data and any results for scalability.
Ocean Visions: Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t gotten to ask yet?
De’Marcus: My only thing to add is to make sure to check out the Ocean Climate Actions Plan!