The Sea Grant 101

Niches and division of labor enable us to focus on one thing and, hopefully, do it well. I’m reminded of the importance of professional niches every time my cable goes out and I can “rely” on a specialist who “knows” how the system works. Then I get to sit and marvel at the mystery of how the cable ever worked to begin with.

“In D.C., it’s hard to realize what’s needed at the local level,” said Nikola Garber, Assistant Director for Administration in the National Sea Grant Office. “That’s why having state Sea Grant program on the ground is important.”

The Sea Grant niche, history, and budget were all covered in the Sea Grant 101 session lead by Nikola, better known as Kola.

Sea Grant Niche

When Sea Grant was a sparkle in Athelstan Spilhaus’ eye, he proposed a program that incorporated the imagination and foresight of the Land Grant Colleges Act (1862), but “applied to the exploitation of the sea.” (“Notice the word ‘exploitation’ in that description, not conservation,” said Kola.)

When the Sea Grant College Program Act was passed in 1966, the National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) collected and selected research projects for funding. Today, “it’s as much a top-down as bottom-up,” Kola said, adding that NSGO’s role is in coordinating the programs and keeping us compliant with federal requirements.

That’s where our network comes in.

The Sea Grant Network

And WHAT a network!

The National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) evaluates the state programs, makes sure federal and match money gets spent properly, and administers funding competitions for national strategic investments, and all of this with, currently, consists of only 15 people.

Then there’s the Sea Grant Advisory Board that advises National Sea Grant Office on issues. The Sea Grant Association is a non-profit group that helps to spread the Sea Grant word on the hill.

All of these groups add up to a unique NOAA program.

Knowing is Half the Battle

So now I know a little more about the inner workings of Sea Grant. And I think of it as not knowing everything the cable guy knows, but maybe knowing enough to operate the remote.

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