What is the Center for Ocean Solutions?

Beth Kerttula resigned her seat yesterday for a fellowship at Stanford. (Photo by Skip Grey/Gavel Alaska)

Beth Kerttula resigned her seat on Monday to take a Stanford University fellowship. Rep. Chris Tuck, to her right, will take over as House Minority Leader. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Rep. Beth Kerttula’s position will be the first for an elected official at the Stanford University Center for Ocean Solutions.

As KTOO has reported, the Juneau Democrat is going back to her Alma Mater as a Visiting Fellow at the center, which is a collaboration of marine research organizations connected with Stanford as well as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. The research institute specializes in ocean exploration and ocean exploration technology.  The Stanford center also works with other universities and government research agencies.

It’s a major change for Kerttula, who has been advocating for her district, her state, her party for the past 15 years.

Now she’ll be in a non-partisan position.

I’ll have to learn those boundaries.

The Center for Ocean Solutions wants that legislative background, says Executive Director Meg Caldwell. She is also director of Stanford Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program.

Kerttula will be the only visiting fellow at the center who can bring the views, insights, and experience of a state lawmaker to coastal research.

We can’t replicate that here. That’s an incredible sort of resource for us.

Before she ran for office, Kerttula worked for the state of Alaska on oil, gas and other coastal issues in the attorney general’s office. She says that coastal  experience cannot be over-estimated, because it’s “a critical piece of understanding a lot about the way our nation treats oceans and the ability to bring that information back to other policy makers was really the key in terms of my going back to Stanford.”

Other fellows at the center are scientists. Caldwell says Kerttula’s background as a legislator will help make their research more useful to decision makers.

“Beth is going to be able to help us understand the perspectives of decision makers in elected positions and the unique challenges and constraints that they have,” Caldwell says, “and how we can be more effective in engaging with them, in sharing our research findings.”

Kerttula describes her role as a conduit between legislatures and science policy makers, bringing them together to discuss ocean policies.

Years ago, Kerttula pushed the first bill on cruise ship pollution through the Alaska legislature, and at the time it was the toughest in the nation.  While she has continued to work on coastal legislation, “one of the frustrating things for me has been the lack of information and science that we get at the legislative level. So my hope is to sort of be this interface between policy makers and scientists and be able to help us get great answers for what happens (to) our oceans,” she says.

Not only is Alaska the largest state in the nation, it also has thousands of more miles of coastline than any coastal state.

“With Alaska, we are the coastline for the country,” she says. “And with the Arctic opening, these issues just really have gone to the forefront.”

Kerttula’s fellowship at the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions begins Feb. 3.  At the end of the first year, she has an option to renew for a second year.

Then, she says, she will bring back a new perspective on ocean policy that will certainly have an impact on Alaska.

Recent headlines