USC Sea Grant Bids Farewell to Linda Chilton

ByUSC Sea Grant

Linda Chilton, USC Sea Grant’s Education Programs Manager, is leaving USC Sea Grant in February 2024 after having been a valued member of the Sea Grant team for over 15 years. 

During these last two decades, Linda has worked in both formal and non-formal education to develop project-based learning, field experience projects, and region-wide community-supported science efforts, all of which have positively impacted countless people across Southern California and beyond. Although it is impossible to fully list Linda’s extensive resume here, it includes major highlights and programs such as: assisting in the development of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE)-West (now the COSEE Education Foundation); working with LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Thinking for Students); leading USC Sea Grant’s Island Explorers (curriculum and field components); developing the Harmful Algal Blooms Watch project and Urban Tides Community Science initiative; running Catalina’s High School Summer Science Program for many summers; and supporting student opportunities and internships both virtually and in-person.



Linda’s incredible dedication to student learning and accessibility to science for all students was recently brought to light during the unanticipated school shutdowns due to COVID in 2020. Linda pioneered the pivoting of many educational platforms and programs to serve students online and continue to provide equitable access to resources across many schools within the greater Los Angeles region. These programs, including Storytime with a Scientist and LA STEM, reached over 45,000 students.

“Linda has developed an outstanding education program at USC Sea Grant, one that is highly regarded for elevating STEM education throughout the region, state, and nation,” says Phyllis Grifman, Executive Director of USC Sea Grant.


Linda has also been a leader in our collaborative work with Indigenous Communities in the Southern California region, ensuring that Traditional Ecological Knowledge is included in initiatives such as the Los Angeles Marine Protected Area Collaborative, which empowers diverse communities to engage in marine protected area stewardship for a healthy ocean in the Los Angeles region.


In addition to students, Linda has mentored many educators in her time with USC Sea Grant. “[Linda] is and has been an amazing role model and mentor in the field of ocean education,” says Dr. Dieuwertje Kast, Director of STEM Education Programs in the USC Joint Educational Project. “We have worked on so many projects together that focus on leveling the playing field for students of color in marine biology like the USC Sea Grant Parent Child Education Program, E.E. Just, the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, and more…She opened up so many doors for me and it’s part of the reason I am so successful in the field of STEM education today. I will be forever grateful and I wish her the best as she takes these next steps.” 


In 2022, Linda Chilton received the prestigious National Marine Education Association’s (NMEA) James Centorino Award, honoring one member’s distinguished performance in marine education, including outstanding leadership, program development, and participation in marine education organizations over the past five years. The NMEA congratulated Linda for her leadership and for serving as a ‘connector’ over her extensive career, bringing together researchers and educators to promote enriched marine, coastal science, and environmental learning for students and adults. 

The NMEA further shared that Linda’s contributions were amplified “through her long participation in several local, regional, and national education initiatives such as serving as a long-time member of the Southwest Marine and Aquatic Education Association (SWMEA) and NMEA and serving as the chair of the Sea Grant Education Network (SGEN). Linda is an ardent supporter of Traditional Knowledge and indigenous people and served as a co-chair of NMEA’s Traditional Ecological Knowledge group.”


“Linda Chilton is an amazing marine science educator and mentor. She has partnered with so many local and State educational organizations and has been very active and involved in the National Sea Grant Association Educators Network,” says Dr. Linda Duguay, USC Sea Grant’s former Director. 

Linda is an inspiration to all of us as an educator, a partner, and a friend,” said the staff at AltaSea in the Port of Los Angeles, with whom Linda has worked closely over the years on collaborative educational programming. “We will miss her insight in everything we do.AltaSea is dedicated to accelerating scientific collaboration, advancing an emerging blue economy through business innovation and job creation, and inspiring the next generation, all for a more sustainable, just, and equitable world.


As is visible in the photos shared here, Linda is everywhere. In one week, she can be found in classrooms, in kayaks, in snorkeling gear, leading students on a hike on Catalina, in the lab, in the intertidal, on the beach, giving a lecture…everywhere. She never stops moving and never misses an opportunity to teach. Her passion for equal opportunity and access to environmental education and coastal access is unparalleled. She is a force of nature, or rather a “force of education,” and our program will not be the same without her. 

“Linda is a beacon of knowledge and inspiration for coastal environmental education,” says USC Sea Grant Director, Dr. Karla Heidelberg. “For over 15 years, she has been directly impacting, inspiring, and educating Southern California youth, teachers, and communities about the importance of oceans and coastal ecosystems and has created waves of positive change for both USC Sea Grant and the National Sea Grant Network.”

We wish Linda the best in her next chapter!