NRRI student researcher heads to D.C.

Man in white lab coat holds small tube next to larger tube filled with material.
January 3, 2019

NRRI gives graduate student research opportunities that lead to Knauss Fellowship in Washington, D.C.

A passion for freshwater and environmental justice landed Daniel Takaki a prestigious fellowship in Washington, D.C. next year. After completing his Master’s thesis research at NRRI on an innovative and inexpensive bioreactor to treat sulfate contaminated water, Takaki is ready to put science into action at the highest levels of government.

Becoming a Knauss Fellow is an honor that only 60 advanced degree students across the U.S. achieve, and Takaki is representing Minnesota through the national Sea Grant program. He was chosen to work as a Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Blue Planet Policy Fellow, to be a liaison between scientists and policy makers about climate change impacts to coastal areas.

“We’ll be studying how communities are responding and adapting to sea level rise and major storm events, and then inform policymakers so they can be proactive,” said Takaki. “It’s really exciting for me.”

His path to freshwater research started at Villanova University, Penn., as an undergraduate student. Takaki spent time in Panama with the Villanova Chapter of Engineers Without Borders to work with a community to develop a drinking water system. There he acquired a deep appreciation for the importance of scientific research coupled with impacts to people.

Takaki chose UMD’s Water Resources program for his Master’s degree because of the research Chanlan Chun was doing at NRRI to find solutions to sulfate in freshwater resources, understand impacts to wild rice growth and the cultural importance of native wild rice.

“I grew up near Lake Michigan and feel very connected to the Great Lakes,” he said. “Minnesota’s program was really unique and allowed me to study across many disciplines including engineering, chemistry and policy. Plus, if you want to study freshwater, this is the place to do it.”

The Knauss Fellowships are housed within the Executive and Legislative Branches of government. Takaki’s work is tied to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and similar international agencies. He’s looking forward to increasing his ability to communicate science to a wide array of audiences, the travel opportunities involved and networking with legislators and scientists from a variety of disciplines.

The Knauss Fellowship began in 1979 and is funded by the National Sea Grant College Program.