Sea Grant’s Community Engaged Interns make lasting impacts

From surveying locals on subsistence fisheries in Alaska offsite link to connecting communities with resilience resources in Virginia offsite link, Sea Grant’s Community Engaged Internship (CEI) provides undergraduate students across the country with opportunities to participate in research and outreach that can make a difference in their communities. The 10-week paid summer internship program engages students from historically marginalized, underserved, and Indigenous communities in place-based projects with Sea Grant, and students gain exposure to a variety of careers in marine and coastal sciences.

Daniela Loera stands holding a bucket next to a giant pipe running along the beach. Residential homes and palm trees are pictured in the background.

Daniela Loera, a University of Southern California Sea Grant 2021 Community Engaged Intern, completed her summer internship with an emphasis on informing policy and engaging communities about their influence on beaches through beach cleanups. In the photo, she is conducting a beach clean-up at a local Southern California beach as part of her internship. (Image credit: Daniela Loera)

In 2022, 85 CEI Interns developed place-based projects in conjunction with 27 Sea Grant programs, allowing them to conduct research, outreach, education, and communication activities that involved local experts in addressing coastal and marine issues of environmental, economic, or social importance. In addition to their projects, interns are offered culturally relevant mentorship and professional development opportunities alongside a national cohort of students.

One such intern from University of Southern California Sea Grant created an ArcGIS StoryMap offsite link to inform community members about the amount and types of plastic that pollute Southern California beaches. Daniela Loera offsite link, a first-generation college student at California State University San Marcos, was inspired after realizing there were no plastic reduction regulations in place in her local community. Loera shared her analysis of marine debris collection data with community members, beachgoers, and local leaders, informing the City of Oceanside in passing the "Skip the Stuff" Ordinance to help businesses reduce the use of single-use plastics.

After graduating in 2022, Loera will pursue a master's degree in sustainable urban planning. She aspires to be a role model for Latinx youth interested in science by diversifying the face of the professionals that represent the environmental field and by staying engaged in her local community.