Internships Blog

Garden Education Internship at EnrichLA

By: Lilah C., Spring 2022

Hello! My name is Lilah, and I am a junior at USC getting a B.S. in Environmental Studies. I have spent this spring working with EnrichLA which is an organization that builds community gardens at elementary schools in Los Angeles. So far, EnrichLA has built around 160 organic gardens, reaching around 60,000 students a year. Not only do these gardens provide additional green spaces in urban areas, but through the Garden Ranger program, they also provide hands-on education about natural sciences and environmental stewardship. 

My main role as an intern for EnrichLA is to assist the Garden Ranger at Weemes Elementary School near USC. Every Monday I go to the garden, and we work together to plan lessons and teach students about topics such as soil health, plant anatomy, pollinators, and climate in an engaging hands-on way. I am also in charge of maintaining the garden by weeding, picking up trash, and watering plants. For me, the most rewarding part of this internship is seeing how much of a positive impact being in the garden has on the kids. Seeing their endless positivity, curiosity and enthusiasm has been a great inspiration to me.

Outreach Intern at USC Sea Grant

By: Rose A., Spring 2022 

Hello! My name is Rose, and I am a senior in the Progressive Degree Program (pursuing both a masters and a bachelor’s in environmental studies). This semester, I interned with USC Sea Grant, a branch of the national Sea Grant program that works on issues at the intersection of human activity and the U.S. coastline 

As an intern, I have been involved with outreach and education about Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as well as tidepool research. Sea Grant collaborates with the Long Term Monitoring Program and Experimental Training for Students (LiMPETS) Program to use citizen science to collect long-term data on tidepool health. For this program, I have mainly been doing human impact surveys to determine the long-term effects of different human activities on our tidepools. In terms of outreach and education, I have been developing educational materials and working on an outreach program to get information about MPAs out to a wider audience.

I have really enjoyed the internship. My supervisors have been very accommodating and communicative, and although most of the internship has been on zoom, I have greatly enjoyed being able to go out to our LiMPETS monitoring sites to conduct research. The internship has also taught me a lot about effective ways to collaborate with other organizations and I have made many great connections along the way.

Climate Tech Venture Capital Research with Skysource

By: Alexis M, Spring 2022

Hello everyone, my name is Alexis, and I’m a third-year student here at USC. I am majoring in Environmental Studies, and sustainability has been a passion of mine for many years. It has been an honor to intern with Mr.David Hertz who is the founder of Skysource. Skysource is a company that has utilized technological innovation to improve climate resilience. The WEDEW machine which stands for Wood-To-Energy Deployable Emergency Water is one of Skysource’s recent projects. This innovation involves the use of biomass as fuel to capture water from the atmosphere and transform it into potable water for local communities, while generating serviceable energy throughout the process. 

I have been working with Mr.Hertz this semester on a related project researching climate tech startups from the perspective of a venture capitalist. Throughout the semester I have been able to identify around 100 startups with great potential to make waves in the realm of environmental technology designed to combat climate change. Ranging from DAC technology to innovation that targets ocean acidification and novel energy storage techniques, this experience has been nothing short of inspirational and motivating. I have firsthand gotten the chance to see what entrepreneurs have in store for the implementation of climate change technology in the coming years, and I am hopeful about how investment in these technologies furthers the environmentally beneficial missions of talented climate tech entrepreneurs.

Since I worked remotely this semester, please enjoy a picture of my favorite workspace where I did research from this semester.

Restoration Internship with Friends of the Ballona Wetlands

By: Sean T, Spring 2022 

After two years of online internships and working from home, the chance to serve as a restoration intern for the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands (FBW) was a refreshing opportunity. Every Monday and Wednesday morning I made my way to the Ballona Wetlands in Playa del Rey with my fellow USC interns ready for whatever tasks my supervisor, Patrick, had planned. On any given day we could be removing invasive species, propagating native plants, or doing transects for data collection. While it might sound like back-breaking work, I can assure you that it was some of the most rewarding work I have ever been involved in. My name is Sean, and I am very proud to have contributed to FBW’s selfless mission.  

The Friends of the Ballona Wetlands have been actively taking care of L.A.’s last undeveloped native wetlands since 1978. FBW is a nonprofit that works to restore the Ballona Wetlands, runs educational programs with local schools, and ensures that the wetlands remain undeveloped. This unique coastal ecosystem helps protect against sea-level rise, supports native biodiversity, such as the endangered El Segundo Blue Butterfly, and acts as a natural water filtration system.  

The people at the Ballona Wetlands were inspirational and working with interns from other colleges was a welcomed experience that supplemented my team-working abilities and introduced me to like-minded peers. The restoration internship with FBW allowed me to get real fieldwork experience and have a tangible positive impact with my time.

Sustainable Business Intern with the City of Glendale’s Green Business Program

By Emily D., Spring 202

Hi! My name is Emily, and I am a senior with an Environmental Studies major and Consumer Behavior minor. This semester I have been interning with the City of Glendale’s Green Business Program, working alongside my supervisor to help businesses in Glendale become more sustainable.

As an intern, my main role is to research best methods for increasing sustainability practices of local businesses. My supervisor conducts on-site assessments of these businesses and records a variety of energy and other sustainability related items such as appliances used, cleaning supplies, and HVAC systems. After the initial assessment, I research alternatives or substitutions that the business can make, for example upgrading their HVAC system, using more environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, or replacing lighting systems to save energy. Due to the pandemic, I have not been able to attend in person assessments but have held follow up meetings with clients over zoom, which I thoroughly enjoy as I am able to see what practices/measures that we suggested get implemented. 

One in person project I worked on focused on electric vehicle charging stations for one of the companies we work with. For this project, I surveyed three Glendale locations used by the companies for electric vehicle charging in their office parking structures offered, and took photos and notes on the charging rate, how many spaces are available, and if they had any Tesla superchargers. After collecting all this information, I drafted it into a document and included photos and maps with directions to the spaces in the lot. My supervisor then forwarded this to the client who will use this information packet to encourage their tenants to use electric vehicles which ultimately helps reduce emissions.

My Internship at City Plants

By: Alejandra E.G., Spring 2022 

Hi! My name is Alejandra, and I am a junior studying Environmental Science and Health at USC. When I was accepted to intern at City Plants, a nonprofit-public collaborative focusing on environmental equity through trees, I was so excited. Being from South Los Angeles made me incredibly aware of the need for programs, like City Plants, in under-resourced communities that often experience disproportionate environmental impacts. What is amazing about City Plants are the connections to the local government as well as nonprofit organizations that focus on community development. 

Since I was interning for the spring semester, I had the opportunity to help organize and implement City Plant’s annual Arbor Day celebration. My very first day of my internship, I was invited to a team planning meeting with LA Parks and Recreation at the site of the future event. The City Plants team is a group of passionate, kind, and hardworking people. It was great to meet them in person on my first day, which made it much easier to do remote work and have online meetings with them for the rest of the semester. I was able to research local organizations and community hubs that would be interested in participating in the event as well as help with constituent services.  

On April 9th, we held our Arbor Day celebration, and it was a huge success! Meeting new people on the team, as well as others at the event who work for US Forest Service, LA Parks, and community members was the most fun and fulfilling part of my internship. Learning that we had more volunteers than anticipated was the best news. The day was long, but it was one of the best days of my semester because it centered on environmental equity, community, and tree planting. Through my internship so far, I was able to connect with others who are as passionate about the environment and was also able to learn about the process and hard work that nonprofits do all year to support the communities around them.


Policy and Research Intern at TreePeople

By Casey C., Spring 2022 

Hello all, my name is Casey and I’m a senior in environmental studies at USC. During the Spring 2022 semester I have been interning with TreePeople, a group founded with a focus on urban forestry—planting trees in urban neighborhoods to promote social, environmental, and physical benefits within the community. TreePeople understands that communities of color and low-income communities are often the hardest hit by environmental injustice, and a large part of their work involves developing climate resilience in these communities.

I work with TreePeople’s Policy & Research team, which focuses on Green, Blue, and Brown infrastructure to represent projects in greening, waters, and soils within Los Angeles.  At the beginning of my internship, my work largely coincided with the start of FY2022. I looked at the City of Los Angeles’ budget and analyzed past budget allocations for various environment, infrastructure, community investment spending; I updated the contact information for local NGOs and partner organizations for TreePeople’s P&R mailing lists; and I helped write emails and documents for partner organizations with the goal of informing these groups of new research and policies on the table for the city of LA. I have since updated TreePeople’s policy-related website content, edited scientific research reports, and sat in on webinars and LA City hearings.

My current work involves conducting case study research for Living Schoolyards projects that seek to increase green space in schools. I also help to draft support letters to advocate for environmentally focused legislation like AB 2566, a community-focused bill promoting urban greening in schools, as well as for increased environmental budgeting for the City of Los Angeles.

Restoration Intern at the Ballona Wetlands

By: Stella B., Spring 2022

Hello! My name is Stella, and I am a senior majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Marine Biology. This semester I have been interning with Friends of the Ballona Wetlands in Playa Del Rey. This organization is a small non-profit with a mission to champion the restoration and protection of Los Angeles’ last coastal wetland and educate our diverse community as stewards of nature. To do this, Friends of the Ballona Wetlands creates community restoration and educational programs, hosts tours to promote conservation and sustainability, works with other NGOs, and participates in activism.

All the work I do as a restoration intern with Friends of Ballona Wetlands is outdoors. My responsibilities include transplanting native plants into the wetlands, removing invasive plant species, watering newly planted native plants, learning about the native species in the area, taking transects of the vegetation in the wetlands, and inputting data from those transects into spreadsheets. I have really enjoyed the scientific work we have done while taking transects.  By recording the vegetation in certain areas, we can compare data over time to see if and how the vegetation in the wetlands is changing. This record shows whether our efforts to restore the native species of the wetlands are successful and making a difference.  

My favorite part of the internship is being out in nature and learning about the surrounding environment here in LA. Coming from a small town in the Rocky Mountains, I am used to being in nature. Because of my upbringing, living in LA these past four years has been difficult for me. The never-ending concrete sometimes seems to suffocate me. It is refreshing to be able to spend my mornings surrounded by greenery and learning about the species that come together to create such an ecologically important area. 

Legislative Intern at California CoastKeeper Alliance

By: Hannah C. Spring 2022 

Hello everyone! My name is Hannah and I’m a current junior pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability and Society. This semester I have been interning with the California CoastKeepr Alliance, an organization dedicated to protecting clean and healthy water along the coast of California. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside the executive director of CCKA to advocate for statewide policies enhancing water quality protection. To do this, CCKA works with other state Waterkeeper organizations to set forth policies regarding water quality, marine protected areas, and environmental injustices.

Most of my work with CCKA included researching background information on current water policies and collecting data on bill proposals. I wrote an online article on water injustice for CCKA website, focusing on why all California communities should have access to swimmable, fishable, and drinkable waters. Early in the year, I provided research on a Cleanup and Abatement account to ensure that funding for the program is being utilized for its intended purpose. Another project I assisted with was the Laguna Beach MPA to strengthen water quality protections from urban runoff and sewage contamination. Ultimately, my favorite policy work I aided dealt with environmental injustices. The first was to implement water budget-based rates to conserve water as well as shield lower-income communities from higher prices when water rates rise; the second objective was to address water quality issues concerning environmental justice communities and/or tribal communities. I really enjoyed working with CCKA and appreciate the experience I gained this semester especially strengthening my knowledge of California water policies surrounding.

Advancing Environmental Education in LA with TreePeople

By: Caroline E., Spring 2022 

Hi everyone! My name is Caroline, and I am a junior majoring in environmental studies with a specialization in applied analytics. This semester I have been working with the education team, Generation Earth (GE), at the environmental non-profit TreePeople. The goal of GE is to educate and empower middle and high school students to be a part of the solution to environmental concerns in their communities. Generation Earth does this by guiding students through environmental action projects and lessons, leading free workshops for educators on environmental topics like waste and water, and offering other resources to strengthen environmental service-learning capabilities in LA County.

My work included updating the GE sticker design, researching sustainable merchandise options, directly reaching out to schools in LA County to introduce them to GE’s offerings, researching and finding a location for the GE Summer Institute workshop for educators, compiling potential environmental field trip locations to offer as a resource for teachers, and helping to draft and organize GE’s budget. 

I attend weekly virtual meetings with my team where I hear about the work that goes into each role and the variety of responsibilities that each member of the team takes on. I have really valued working with a group of such passionate people who are committed to making a true impact. The most rewarding aspect of this internship for me was the trust my team has put in me with different projects, as I have learned how to be confident in my ideas and successfully bring my own contributions to a professional setting.


This is the final version of the GE sticker design that I updated.

Kelp Biofuel Project with The Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies

By: Jessica M., Spring 2022 

Hello! My name is Jessica, and I am currently working on achieving a B.S in Environmental studies alongside a minor in Marine Biology. I love learning about the chemical and physical processes of the ocean. For the past semester of Spring ‘22, I had the privilege of interning for the Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies on the Kelp Biofuel Project among many talented scientists.

The Kelp Biofuel Project seeks to understand the genetic variation of kelp, specifically giant kelp, to one day be able to efficiently cultivate it in large-scale aquacultures and turn it into carbon-neutral biofuel. Although seaweed has been farmed for centuries, this project is unique because it has what is now known as the “Kelp Elevator.” The Kelp Elevator takes advantage of the chemical and physical properties of the ocean to cultivate kelp efficiently in the open ocean. At night the Elevator moves the giant kelp to the bottom of the ocean to gather nutrients, while at daytime it moves the kelp back up to the surface so it may photosynthesize. This process is called depth cycling, and it maximizes growth by using ideal conditions depending on the time of day. 

 While I do not work with the Kelp Elevator directly, I work in the lab with the gametophyte stage of the kelp, the haploid stage of the kelp life cycle. Earlier I created artificial seawater with PES to keep the gametophyte alive by replacing the water from the tubes that held the gametophyte so they can gain the necessary nutrients to survive. I also took microscopic photos of the gametophyte to see its growth over time. I now can tell the difference between male and female gametophytes! Overall, the internship has been very fulfilling and has helped me grow as a person and a professional. 

(Picture taken by my lab mentor, Allison, who taught me how to make artificial seawater.) 

Garden Education Intern at the Garden School Foundation

By: Brandi A., Fall 2022 

Hi! I’m Brandi and I am a senior majoring in Environmental Studies at USC. This semester I had the pleasure of working with the Garden School Foundation (GSF) at the 24th Street Elementary School location. GSF provides garden-based education to children at elementary schools in Los Angeles. The garden education includes teaching gardening, cooking, and environmental sustainability. A new project is the Cafeteria to Compost program where interns teach school kids about composting during their lunch time, showing them which foods can be composted and made into dirt which can be used in the garden! 

I work under the supervision of a GSF Garden educator and spend many days doing regular garden maintenance like weeding, watering, trimming, and turning soil. I also help with garden classes and prepare worksheets, foods, or crafts for the day. On days when students come to the garden I help with teaching and try to make being in the garden a fun experience. Occasionally I help with the Cafeteria to Compost program and teach the kids what leftovers could be tossed into compost buckets to be taken back to the garden rather than the trash. After a few weeks of collecting leftovers, we create large compost piles. Overall, the experience has been very rewarding and wholesome, and I enjoy it very much.

My favorite part of working with the Garden School Foundation was being able to go in person and interact with coworkers or children every day. I really love talking with the students and explaining different aspects of gardening. I show them how plants grow, explain the ecosystem of the garden, and even how to cook with fresh plants. I enjoy going into the garden, it feels very fulfilling. It was nice to see the students get excited about garden education and I loved it.

Lab Intern with The Wrigley Institute’ Kelp Biofuel Project

By: Allison P. Spring 2022 

Hello all! My name is Allison, and I am a senior here at USC working towards a B.S. in Environmental Studies. This semester I had the privilege to continue working alongside brilliant researchers and fellow lab interns with the Kelp Biofuel Project at the Wrigley Institute. The project explores the viability of macroalgae, particularly brown algae (like giant kelp), as a source of carbon-neutral biofuel and tests a new aquaculture technique that would make large scale open ocean farming possible. 

Kelp is naturally found in nearshore habitats, making farming in the open ocean challenging since it requires lots of nutrients and sunlight to grow and thrive. To successfully cultivate kelp in the open ocean, it has to be cycled between different depths, being near the surface during the day in order to get all the sunlight it needs, and then lowered to the deeper nutrient abundant layer at night to maximize growth. This is what we call depth cycling and with the aid of The Kelp Elevator (that autonomously depth-cycles the juvenile kelp attached to it in the ocean) we have been able to begin testing the viability of growing kelp in the open ocean. 

When I first joined the lab in Fall 2021, most of my work consisted of general upkeep of our seed string kelp cultures (water changes, making of artificial seawater, and enrichment media) but after the deployment of the elevator, priorities in the lab shifted. I still help with general upkeep of kelp we have in the lab but with the addition of some managerial responsibilities. This semester I’ve been responsible for training several new interns in lab protocol, including how to make artificial seawater (ASW), autoclaving, and how to make ASW + PES (enrichment stock. We also began new experiments for understanding the genetic variation of kelp and explore the potential for growing kelp with favorable traits for efficiently cultivating it in large-scale aquacultures.

The most rewarding part of my internship so far has been the ability to get first-hand experience with scientific research. Being an active participant in the development of the lab protocol and experiments provided me a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow as a scientist. 

Community Empowerment at the Better Watts Initiative

By: Isabella M., Fall 2021 

My name is Isabella, and I am a junior majoring in Environmental Studies and International Relations. I spent this semester interning with the Better Watts Initiative, a community based organization addressing social and environmental injustices in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. The Better Watts Initiative, despite its youth, is founded in resistance movements that have existed and persisted in Watts for decades with the important addition of art and media as a source for outreach and education. Among its many focuses, the organization aims to bring more attention to the extremely dangerous lead contamination of the water in many Watts’ residences, and to expose how past studies have overlooked the contaminated soil quality of many parts of Watts. 

Interns from different backgrounds and studies have constituted the BWI team through its establishment. My role coming into the organization was to be a grant writer. Although I had no previous experience in grant writing, other members of BWI were more than willing to share their knowledge and past experiences with local institutions. Driving to Watts every week and spending time with the amazing team taught me so much about the power of community unity and the value in effectively communicating knowledge. Spending time at WLCAC (Watts Labor Community Action Committee Center) I also learned the history of the environmental justice movement in Los Angeles and how the same marginalized groups have been fighting for equity for decades. I am so honored to have been part of an organization that is continuing and strengthening the fight against environmental injustices in Los Angeles.


Preparing for a fund-raising event at Watts. 

Water and Energy Innovation Internship with Skysource

By: Andy Z., Fall 2021

Hello everyone, my name is Andy and I am a senior double majoring in Environmental Studies and Business Administration. This semester I’ve had the opportunity to intern with Skysource, a social impact enterprise aimed at creating deployable atmospheric water solutions to address various aspects of global water issues in a sustainabile-circular approach.  

I started my education at USC as an Environmental Studies major spurred by the scene of ocean plastics while I was scuba diving in Southeast Asia. Following a catalog of interesting courses in the Environmental Studies Department, I discovered a newfound interest in social innovation at the intersection of sustainability and private businesses. My internship experience with Skysource so far has been a perfect avenue to explore that new interest and learn about the field via hands-on experience, all the while supporting meaningful projects.

Building off of Skysource’s cornerstone project, Wood-to-Energy- Deployable Emergency Water (WEDEW), Skysource is in the process of developing a merger with All Power Labs, a renewable energy company based in Berkeley to form a new enterprise called Resilience Labs. Currently, Skysource is gathering investors to kickstart the merger and I have been supporting the process by building data-driven financial models via carbon accounting calculations to demonstrate the potential environmental and financial benefits. I have thoroughly enjoyed the hands-on experience I’ve gained while working on the WEDEW project and I am excited to further pursue my growing interest in social innovation projects centered around sustainability.

Interning with Friends of the Ballona Wetlands

By: Cat B., Fall 2021

Love the outdoors, and environmental restoration? I suggest you venture to the Ballona Ecological Reserve. 

My name is Cat, and I have spent the last few months working with the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands (FBW). This spot sits along the mouth of the channelized Ballona Creek, nestled between the strand and the winding boulevards of Playa Del Rey, and it once belonged to the Tongva. 

It’s been a rough few decades there. The site is one of the last undeveloped wetland areas in the Santa Monica Basin. The Friends of the Ballona Wetlands, founded in 1978, fought long and hard to protect this area from development. This nonprofit achieved much more than that— in 1990, FBW settled a lawsuit with the successful outcome of saving areas of the freshwater wetlands. Since then, state and volunteer support have allowed the wetlands to expand and improve. Restoration helps wildlife, and it has allowed the endangered El Segundo Blue Butterfly to return to this seaside haven.

How do I help? I drag wheelbarrows of invasive iceplant out of the reserve so that native plants can re-establish deep roots. I perform transects that provide the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands data to track their efforts. I’ve written a local plant identification guide, and worked in the nursery to raise new plants. I assist with community events. And it all feels right. 

I feel myself at the wetlands, and I think you will too. Find their events here. We’d love to show you something worth saving. 

Seaweed Aquaculture Education with USC Sea Grant

By: Audrey K., Fall 2021

Hi! My name is Audrey and I’m a senior majoring in Communication and minoring in Environmental Studies (this year I also started the Environmental Studies Progressive Degree!). This semester, I am working as USC Sea Grant’s Education and Special Projects Intern. USC Sea Grant’s work focuses on the theme of the “Urban Ocean,” which means working on issues related to our life on a highly developed coastline in southern California. Their mission is to solve these problems and improve quality of life in coastal regions. 

My internship work focuses on the education department’s new Ocean Farmers project. USC Sea Grant received a grant to develop this project with the Aquarium of the Pacific (AOP) and Holdfast Aquaculture. The goal is to educate visitors about seaweed aquaculture and assess how people learn through play opportunities for children at the aquarium. We want them to learn about seaweed farming as a profession and view seaweed as a food source. Lessons will be taught through activities, where families and other visitors can learn about what seaweed ocean farming is in the first place and what it looks like. I have researched the ways we eat and use seaweed around the world (past, present, and looking toward the future), what ocean seaweed farms look like, and the clothes farmers wear and the equipment they use. I have also helped conduct interviews with people in the seaweed aquaculture industry, which have provided us with firsthand accounts of what their work is like. I am now organizing the information into documents (with images!) that will serve as a resource for AOP staff and volunteers. It has been my priority to ensure that my research and these documents reflect the diverse ways people eat and use seaweed and the relationships they have with it, and use inclusive, culturally sensitive language when describing them.

Although many of us have adapted to remote work, it continues to be a challenge. However, I am grateful for the weekly check-ins with my supervisor to discuss project priorities and all things seaweed, as well as the opportunity to meet and learn from AOP staff and people working in the seaweed industry!

Interning at the 24th Street Elementary Garden

By: Amaya S., Fall 2021

Hello everyone! I am Amaya, a Senior pursing a B.S in Environmental Studies, and a M.A in Environmental studies with the USC progressive degree program. This semester I have had the great opportunity to intern with the Garden School Foundation, at 24th Street Elementary. The Garden School Foundation is non-profit organization that focuses on enhancing traditional science curriculums with garden-based experiences at Title 1 schools. With the help of Garden School Educators K-5 students are able to have experiences such as garden tasting, cooking classes, and seed planting. This environmental justice imitative is so important as it allows children to have hands on education to encourage environmental stewardship in places with a major lack of greenspaces. 

The 24th Street Elementary Garden is about 1 acre of replaced blacktop with numerous plant beds and native California plants. During the pandemic many of the staff that maintain the garden were unable to be on site and the garden had just about turned into a forest. The massive overgrowth created an unproductive garden that was unsafe for the children to be in. With this internship, I was able to help reclaim the Garden. This initiative included lots of weeding, especially in the back of the garden. Plant beds also needed to be cleared with irrigation lines set up. This allowed the kids to fully participate in their garden classes and seed the new beds. While reclaiming the garden took a lot of hard work, I am glad to have worked with the Garden School Foundation to restore their hands on garden-based education. 

Marketing and Communications Internship with Population Media Center

By: Cheyenne C., Fall 2021

Hello, everyone! I am Cheyenne, a senior majoring in Environmental Studies. During the past few months I have had the opportunity to work with Population Media Center as a Marketing and Communications Intern. PMC primarily focuses on climate change and sustainability-related challenges that are directly linked to the growing world population. 

At the beginning of the semester, I discussed my goals with me mentor, Mary, and mentioned to that I wish to strengthen my research and writing skills. Fortunately, writing blog posts for PMC’s website has allowed me to do exactly this! My first published post discusses how climate change will impact mental health while explaining the different ways a person may be vulnerable. I chose this topic because not only am I passionate about climate change mitigation but I also care deeply about mental health-related challenges. My second post is about the need for the world, especially the Global North, to adopt an ecocentric worldview which would require a complete shift in personal values. I firmly believe that in order for the world to fully take responsibility for climate change everyone must feel a deep sense of connectedness to Earth so they are willing to sacrifice and make long-term behavioral changes.

Assisting PMC’s team and working alongside my mentor Mary has been a very rewarding experience that has helped me grow in many unexpected ways. I look forward to finishing the year off interning for them!


Interning at the Ballona Wetlands

By: Murad J., Fall 2021

Whether it be analysing transects or carrying freshly pulled ice plants to the dumpster, the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands, FBW, allow for students passionate about their environment to help restore it to a healthier, better functioning ecosystem. FBW was founded in 1978 to protect the wetlands from being covered by development and anthropocentric construction. Just south of Marina Del Rey, in Playa Del Rey, the wetlands are constantly being worked on to save an ecosystem that is near to being lost along the western coast of the United States. From the saltwater to the freshwater wetlands, invasive species are a plague that must be cured and sea-level rise is an opponent soon to be defeated.

My name is Murad and through my work, with the FBW I hope to change the course of our decaying coastal ecosystems and help use science and fieldwork to restore the beautiful ecosystem that is the Ballona Wetlands.

My work for the FBW stretches from the field office to my home office, covering very different aspects of conservation and restoration. At home, I take the transect data we have collected and input it into an easily readable format for it to be analysed, and in the field, I wheelbarrow bags of ice plant we had just picked to be disposed of. I also search the wetlands for other invasive species, such as euphorbia, and make sure that our wetland ecosystem remains more native than non-native. Ultimately my work there motivates me to keep helping our environment and brings me to hope that we can undo the environment-related issues humanity has brought. 


Interning with TreePeople

By: Rachel C., Fall 2021

Hi everyone! My name is Rachel, and I am a senior at USC pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Studies. This semester I have been lucky enough to intern with TreePeople, an environmental advocacy group based in Los Angeles that works to promote sustainable urban ecosystems through education, advocacy, and support. A major part of what they do is provide free trees to residents, businesses, and schools.   

For my internship, I chose to work with two departments: forestry and education. On the forestry side I help with organizational and volunteer work. This involves attending TreePeople’s tree distribution events, handling trees, and keeping track of trees and attendees data. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it to know that LA’s urban ecosystem is steadily growing. I also created a giant resource list for the process of getting and caring for a tree all over Los Angeles County, which involves endless emails and phone calls. With the education department, my biggest project has been gathering data to be used in arcGIS maps of unduplicated pupil counts. This is to map out and track where the most vulnerable students are, and therefore where TreePeople should place their focus. My biggest takeaway from my work is that while resources are available, they are not necessarily easily accessible. Trees are surprisingly political, and there is no one straightforward process to get them. 

I am glad to be a part of such meaningful work, and it is bittersweet that my internship with TreePeople is coming to an end!

Research and Policy Internship with California Coastkeeper Alliance

By: Isabel K., Fall 2021

Hi everyone! My name is Isabel and I’m a senior Environmental Studies major with a Bachelor of Science concentration in Environmental Policy. This semester I have had the incredible opportunity to work with California Coastkeeper Alliance. CCKA is an amazing organization made up of mostly lawyers whose goal is to ensure access to clean water for all Californians. They tackle California’s water crisis through policy work and litigation. Although I have been working with CCKA remotely, I have been able to sit in on staff and board meetings and meet a lot of the talented people that make CCKA successful.

Most of my work this fall has been research, data collection, and data aggregation. One of the larger (and more challenging projects) was using different ArcGIS files and government sources to create master lists of census data for various senate and assembly districts which was then organized into ranges based on the pollution burden of those given areas. Pollution Burden was calculated by the California government and measured the demographics, education, income, and exposure to poor air quality of any given census area. The goal of collecting and organizing that data was to provide a solid reference point for future legislative goals of CCKA when speaking to assembly members and constituents in those areas. After completing that research and data organization I have been spending my time researching the impact of harmful pesticides called “neonics” on bees and water in California. This week I finalized that research and created a brief that provided historical background, current findings, and suggestions for actions individuals can take in tackling this harmful issue. The purpose of my brief was to create something not only informative, but also accessible and digestible.


I have loved working with CCKA this semester and have enjoyed utilizing both my research skills and my data analysis skills, as well as getting to put my ArcGIS skills to some use!

Interning with City Plants

By: Brandi A., Fall 2021

Hello everyone! My name is Brandi Aldana and I am a senior pursuing my B.S. in Environmental Studies with a minor in ceramics. I spent this fall semester working with City Plants, a local non-profit funded by LADWP, whose goal is to increase tree canopy and natural shade in Los Angeles. The program is also partnered with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Los Angeles Beautification team, Koreatown Youth and Community Center, Northeast Trees, and TreePeople. These organizations work together to provide trees to LA residents and help plant them in various locations in Los Angeles. 

For my internship I helped to create flyers that were posted on social media, I canvassed for and helped at community planting events, and I am currently working on an end of the year fundraiser for the organization. Although much of my work is remote, at an in person planting event I met an Urban Forestry Specialist who works with Northeast Trees and have been able to work with them as well to create informative flyers that teach the community about their trees. I learned that I really enjoy helping others learn about the local environment in fun ways, and want to make the community excited to learn or get involved. 

Although the semester is coming to an end, I plan to stay connected to help these organizations with flyer creation. I am very grateful for the team that I worked with and look forward to continuing to help out as much as I can before the end of the year. 

Environmental Education with the Garden School Foundation

By: Chloe S., Fall 2021 

Hi! My name is Chloe and I am currently a senior majoring in Environmental Studies. For the Fall ‘21 semester, I had the privilege of interning with the Garden School Foundation at 24th Street Elementary. GSF is a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles dedicated to providing K-5 students with environmental education and green space exposure through the establishment of gardens on elementary school grounds. Garden School Foundation has implemented natural science education, food tasting and cooking classes, and composting programs in each of the eight Title I schools in which they reside. Students gain experience interacting with nature as they learn about how their actions impact the environment around them. 

Throughout the semester, I gained experience in all aspects of Garden School Foundation’s work. Twice a week I went to 24th Street Elementary, the location of GSF’s first and largest garden, to tend to the garden and help educate the kids. Before classes started in the garden, I spent a lot of time weeding, watering plants, and planting seeds to get the garden back to the way it was pre-Covid. As the semester progressed, I was able to take part in cooking and education classes, helping guide students in learning about life cycles, healthy eating, and food waste. I also gained leadership experience during our monthly Community Garden Days, where I led a group of volunteers in garden tasks. I am excited to continue working with GSF to make a valuable impact on the lives of 24th Street’s students.

Kelp Biofuel Project with The Wrigley Institute

By: Allison P., Fall 2021

Greetings and salutations! My name is Allison Peña and I am a senior majoring in Environmental Studies here at USC. This semester I had the opportunity to intern for the Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies on the Kelp Biofuel Project, gaining valuable experience in a research, field work, and lab setting. 

Research conducted under the Kelp Biofuel project seeks to study the viability of macroalgae, particularly brown algae (like giant kelp), as a source of carbon-neutral biofuel and testing a the feasibility of new aquaculture technique for large scale open ocean farming. 

Kelp is naturally found in nearshore habitats, making farming in the open ocean challenging: it requires lots of nutrients and sunlight in order to grow and thrive. In order to successfully cultivate kelp in the open ocean, it has to be cycled between different depths- near the surface during the day for the sunlight it needs, and then lower at night to maximize growth, we call this depth cycling.

In comes the Kelp Elevator, made of fiberglass tubes and stainless steel cables, it acts as an anchor for the juvenile kelp in the open oceans. The entire structure is raised and lowered autonomously. The juvenile kelp tied to the horizontal pipes of the kelp elevator don’t come from natural populations. We grow our own nursery in the lab, starting from spores. 

 This is where I come in. This semester I was responsible for the upkeep of our seedstrings kelp cultures including making their artificial seawater and preparing their nutrient enriched media. While not always as exciting as diving out to the kelp elevator, the work has been just as fulfilling. My experience in the lab has led to both professional and personal growth. In fact, some of the baby kelp I helped raised have been deployed onto the kelp elevator and I couldn’t feel prouder of myself and the work that I was able to contribute. It has been a great privilege to be able to grow and gain the valuable experience I have alongside all the great scientists working on the Kelp Biofuel Project.  

Interning at the Ballona Wetlands

By: Sabreen L., Spring 2021

Hi! My name is Sabreen and I’m a double major in Earth Science and Environmental Studies at USC. This semester I have been lucky enough to intern with the Manager of Habitat Restoration for the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands in Playa del Rey. The Friends of the Ballona Wetlands, FBW, was founded in 1978 with the goal of getting the area designated as a state ecological reserve. Over the years, the ecological reserve has expanded to 600 acres, although FBW mainly focuses on restoring a small fraction of this. Previous to the 1970’s, the area had a long history that includes being used as an oil field, a thoroughfare for train tracks, and a privately-owned horse stable. Even today, you can still see the damage done by these activities.    

My internship has consisted of a number of different activities. A portion of my current work is organizing photographs that local birders have taken in the area which has opened my eyes to the immense diversity of birds that can be found within the boundaries of Los Angeles.

The majority of the work is on-site. Some days we focus on invasive species removal, removing plants like acacia and ice-plant. Other days are focused on cultivating the native species which include transplanting plants that are too big for their pots, weeding, watering and planting when the plant is large enough. No matter what I am doing, every day at the Ballona Wetlands holds new discoveries. So far, I have seen numerous hawks, a white-tailed kit, a few bunnies, a swarm of bees, an entire possum skeleton, and a sleeping owl.

A Legislative Internship with the California Coastkeeper Alliance

By: Casey C., Spring 2021

Hi all, my name is Casey and I’m a junior environmental studies major at USC. Through the Spring 2021 semester I have been interning with California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA), an environmentally focused non-governmental organization. CCKA collaborates with other California Waterkeeper organizations in an effort to protect the state’s water resources, with CCKA primarily focusing on the language of new bills introduced to the state legislature.

CCKA began meetings with California legislators in February to garner support for three bills proposed in the CA State Assembly and two bills proposed in the CA State Senate. The main focus is AB 377: the California Clean Water Act. AB 377 seeks to eliminate state water quality impairments by 2050 by closing Water Board permitting loopholes, more closely ensuring compliance with water quality standards, and funding clean-up efforts for impaired waterways.

I provide support for these meetings by generating background policy information on the legislators, compiling their active environment-related bill proposals, and consolidating data from impaired water bodies to determine pollutants, pollutant sources, and level of impairment for county water bodies. I have been lucky enough to sit in on some of these policy discussions, meeting Asm. Muratsuchi, Asm. Levine, Asm. Bloom, Asm. Petrie-Norris, and Sen. McGuire in the process. At these meetings, I see the time management of Waterkeeper directors as well as their knowledge of the legislation they are advocating and how they can relate most bills to specific issues within a legislator’s jurisdiction.

Environmental Advocacy and Research with Orange County Coastkeeper

By: Mayra B., Spring 2021

Hello everyone! My name is Mayra and I am currently a senior studying Environmental Studies at USC. I have been working with Orange County Coastkeeper this semester as an Environmental Advocacy and Research intern. Orange County Coastkeeper is a non-profit whose mission is to keep bodies of water in Southern California clean and accessible. They have a variety of community programs that help educate and engage Orange County residents. OC Coastkeeper is also heavily involved with the community opposal against the proposed Poseidon desalination plant in Huntington Beach. This is an ongoing fight, so many of my projects have revolved around this project.

I have been involved with various different projects throughout my time with OC Coastkeeper and all of them have required some level of research. I worked on outreach materials to help inform O.C. residents on polluted water bodies and the Poseidon project. I have also taken the lead with our Stop Posiedon instagram page, uploading posts to help inform followers on why a desalination plant is not needed. All interns were assigned to help submit public comments to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Board (organization overseeing the permitting process of Poseidon), and we also are planning to submit oral comments at the upcoming public hearings. I have also done more data focused research on impaired bodies of water by identifying and extracting data to help inform OC Coastkeeper on the state of bodies of water in the Angeles National forest. 

All my work this semester has been remote, although interns have the opportunity to do some in-person work through OC Coastkeeper’s MPA Watch program (I have not been able to do this as it is not accessible for me to go to Orange County often). I have enjoyed getting to learn about water issues that impact all of Southern California and learning about ways to help raise awareness through research, social media and advocacy.

Improving Environmental Justice with the Better Watts Initiative

By: Megan W., Spring 2021

I am interning for the Better Watts Initiative (BWI), a partnership of local nonprofits, organizations, medical institutions, and academic representatives that work to address the staggering environmental and health justice challenges that plague the historic Watts community in South Los Angeles. Watts is an environmental hot zone bordered on all sides by major transportation and goods industries that pollute toxic chemicals into the neighborhood, affecting the community’s health, development, education, businesses, crime rates, tourism, and overall well being.

Lead poisoning is the unseen side effect of nonexistent environmental mitigation from the City of Los Angeles’ elected officials. When ingested, lead is a toxic compound that attacks the central nervous system, affecting executive functioning, mood regulation, cognitive ability, and brain development. Studies have shown links between lead poisoning and increased arrests for violent crime. Stringent soil sampling shows Watts to be one of the most environmentally toxic neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and its non-reversible effects on residents are damaging to fatal.

In order to share the story of legacy lead and highlight the environmental, health, and racial injustices happening within Watts, it has been key to learn about the neighborhood’s history. Among the trips taken to the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) community arts center, Mudtown Farms community garden, the historic railroad right of ways, and hours of listening to prominent community leaders share their stories, I have gained valuable insights that are helping me to create a GIS map that exposes industries that have intentionally polluted toxic chemicals into Watts’ schools, parks, and public spaces alike. Ringing true to the creative, regenerative force that is Watts, through arts, sciences, and storytelling, BWI will serve as the foundational representative for the community’s needs for years to come.

Environmental Innovation and Justice with Skysource

By: Cameron A., Spring 2021

This semester, I’ve been interning with Skysource, an environmental non-profit based in Venice Beach. Their purpose is to provide disadvantaged communities with a sustainable, reliable source of renewable energy and clean water through an amazing biomass-powered energy generator they invented called the Wood-to-Energy Deployable Emergency Water (WEDEW). Since Skysource is looking for investors to fund the deployment of this device around the world, my job is to create financial models that show how the WEDEW could produce a return on investment.

In the process of researching financial data, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with Skysource’s non-profit partners in prospective locations around the world. Last week alone, I spoke to a non-profit based in Nakivale, Uganda, and a venture capitalist in Israel to help gather more information to develop the return-on-investment model that I’m working on, which was super neat. I’m learning a lot about the inner workings of eco-entrepreneurship and stakeholder outreach, and it’s been really helpful to explore different potential career avenues in the private and non-profit sectors that I had never considered before.

With every potential WEDEW location I’ve researched, I’ve learned about other exciting sustainability efforts in these areas, which have really opened my eyes to different environmental challenges and solutions. For example, one of our investors is planning to use a WEDEW to power a regenerative agriculture operation to farm mushrooms in northern California. Another investor plans to use a WEDEW to provide stable energy for a Native American Reservation that cannot rely on power lines due to increased wildfire risk. There are so many different ways to improve climate resilience, and my time at Skysource has really broadened my understanding of just how many different exciting opportunities there are to make a difference out there.

Developing Sustainable Practices for Local Businesses

By: Hetal P., Spring 2021

Hi! I am Hetal, and I am Junior pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability, Energy, and Society. This semester, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to intern for the Los Angeles (LA) Green Business Program. The LA Green Business Program is a program that aims to support businesses in becoming more sustainable. Specifically, the program works with businesses to implement sustainable practices such as water conservation, energy efficiency, and green technologies.

Through my role as an intern, I delve into the research and development of sustainable practices and technologies, to be presented to clients. Across topics such as LEED certification, electric vehicle charging stations, bicycle tire recycling, nuclear fusion energy, and more, I have leveraged my research and analysis skills to evaluate these opportunities, and assess their importance to the businesses at hand. Furthermore, I compile the findings into easy-to-follow research documents to be presented to my supervisor and clients. As a supplement, I also create video presentations for specific projects that compile these findings into an engaging visual for clients. While my role is currently remote, creating digestible visuals and documents for the clients helps to ultimately communicate effectively. 

Using this research and findings, I am able to help formulate ideas to make businesses more sustainable. Through implementing environmentally-conscious practices, these businesses can take the next step in becoming Green Business Certified. This certification demonstrates that a business is sustainable across several categories, including water, transportation, solid waste, pollution prevention, wastewater, and community. By supporting more businesses to become certified, the program can ultimately help make Los Angeles a more sustainable city. I am thoroughly excited to continue my work with the LA Green Business program and making a meaningful impact!

The Science of Emissions Reporting- Working with The Climate Registry

By: Alyssa L., Spring 2021

Hello, my name is Alyssa and I am a senior studying Economics and Environmental Science & Health. I am currently virtually interning for The Climate Registry as the GHG Reporting Policy Intern for the Spring 2021 semester. The Climate Registry is a non-profit organization that helps a variety of organizations throughout North America measure, report, and verify their carbon footprints in order to manage and reduce their emissions.

My main project is to assist The Climate Registry with developing background knowledge and best practices for reporting renewable natural gas and biogas emissions, which are both developing industries that may be vital to our transition to a clean future, to aid with drafting a guidance document for member organizations. However, I have also been assisting with smaller projects such as conducting research on the Biden administration’s plans for the Clean Power Plan, creating a self-checklist for member organizations to determine their greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and strategies, and developing a growing spreadsheet of specific greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies for different sectors.

Overall, my work consists of a lot of research on how certain processes impact greenhouse gas emissions and how to help member organizations decrease their carbon footprints. From this I’ve been able to develop my research and writing skills as I deliver summary reports of my research to my manager explaining my findings. I have also been able to use the background knowledge taught to me in the classroom setting to dive deeper into understanding greenhouse gas accounting and best practices for my internship.

Environmental Education Internship With USC Sea Grant

By: Cheyenne C., Spring 2021

Hello, everyone! I am a junior majoring in Environmental Studies at USC. I am currently interning remotely for USC Sea Grant, which is a program committed to solving the various challenges of the “Urban Ocean” in Southern California. By managing both local communities and their surrounding environment, this organization specifically works on issues that arise as a result of having such a developed coastline. One of the most critical issues in densely populated cities like LA, where there is not much land for growing crops, is figuring out how everyone can have access to fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. I have been working specifically on raising awareness of this problem. 

Throughout this past semester, I was actually able to create my own project that will be shown to nearby middle school students. Right now South Central LA is in the middle of a food desert, an area where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is extremely limited. I have created a guided learning style presentation that is about five minutes long and helps the students understand what a food desert is and the effects of living in one. It also explains what is being done to combat this situation (changes made by organizations, local activists, and politicians) and what they can do at home to ensure a healthy and affordable lifestyle (such as using an at-home aquaponics system). To create the video, I used a software called Doodly that has allowed me to illustrate my various ideas in an entertaining yet informative way for the students.

Environmental Research and Public Education With Orange County CoastKeeper

By: Sean T., Spring 2021 

Hi! I am Sean, a junior in the Environmental Studies program minoring in marine biology. This semester I am working with Orange County Coastkeeper (OCCK) as a research and advocacy intern. OCCK is a non-profit clean water organization that has been an active steward of the region’s water resources for the past 21 years. OCCK works with both the public and private sectors to advocate for the protection of water resources for the benefit of present and future generations through a community based approach. 

This semester I have been fortunate enough to virtually contribute to OCCK’s mission. I have utilized my knowledge in Photoshop to create both educational and recruitment flyers for OCCK’s Santa Ana River Mouth Project after spending time researching local regulations and investigating the best ways to communicate environmental messages to the public. The project aims to spread awareness about off-leash dog walking regulations and works to protect local endangered wildlife populations. Recently I have been contributing to OCCK’s Poseidon Project, centered around fighting the permitting of a desalination plant in Hunting Beach. This project has required a lot of research and reviewing of recorded public hearings. My research was then used to inform public comments I submitted to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Board. Currently, the focus is now on compiling information to speak live at an upcoming public hearing.    

I am thoroughly appreciating my time as an intern at OCCK and especially enjoy any chance I get to design flyers or handouts! My fellow interns have been amazing and have created a virtual environment that promotes collaboration between us. The variety of projects has helped develop a multitude of different professional skills and has provided insight to the many avenues used to promote the protection of water resources. Excited to see what’s to come! 

An LA Girl’s Growing Knowledge of Southern California

By: Audrey K., Apring 2021

Hi, my name is Audrey and I’m a junior majoring in Communication and minoring in Environmental Studies! I’m really interested in a possible career in environmental education, so I feel fortunate to be Orange County Coastkeeper’s Environmental Education Intern for the spring 2021 semester. Coastkeeper is a local non-profit in Costa Mesa, with a mission to protect Orange County water resources so that they are “swimmable, drinkable and fishable for present and future generations (Orange County Coastkeeper).”

When they operate normally, the education staff provide hands-on experiences, field trips, and classroom lessons to students at low-income elementary, middle, and high schools free of cost. During the pandemic students are experiencing the field trips, water quality testing, and presentations virtually. I’ve been able to observe some virtual classroom presentations and a field trip to the Back Bay Science Center. The BBSC staff filmed short videos of what it would look like to enter the parking lot, gave a tour around the classroom students would have learned in, and did a virtual touch pool demonstration—it was as fun as it could be in an online setting! It can be difficult to get students to participate in an online class, as I’m sure we all know, so I participate in the chat to help encourage the students to share their own thoughts and ask questions.

I also help create social media posts for the education department. I’ve researched aspects of Orange County’s water systems, like how the county collects stormwater. My favorite posts are the ones about OC’s marine protected areas (MPAs). I came into this internship with an appreciation for MPAs, and because of my work on these posts, it’s growing into a great love. I even went to Crystal Cove State Marine Conservation Area one day because I kept thinking about it after I finished the post.

I’m learning to manage myself more than I probably would in-person—my time, my work schedule, and how I go about my tasks—and I’m taking charge as the primary communicator so that my supervisors are aware of everything I’m doing. In creating social media posts, I’ve gained experience with making complicated information understandable to everyone in Coastkeeper’s community. I’m grateful I have this opportunity to learn so much more about Southern California!

Trees and Environmental Justice in Los Angeles

By: Kathleen V., Spring 2021

Hi! My name is Kathleen Verendia and I am a Junior majoring in Environmental Studies! For the past two semesters I have been interning at City Plants, a non-profit organization that aims to increase tree canopy in Los Angeles City. Each year, City Plants provides around 20,000 free trees to residents and businesses in Los Angeles. Throughout my time at City Plants, I have assisted with communication outreach and social media. 

This semester, my main project has been to help plan our social media campaign for Earth Month. We are partnering with Don Francsico’s Coffee, and will be having a fundraiser for City Plants that begins on April 1st and ends on April 22nd. In addition to our partnership with Don Francsico’s Coffee, we are working with Wade Holland, Abby Wren, Farmers Insurance, and Miss Coco Peru.  

I created a pitch deck back in February for us to present to Don Francsico’s Coffee and other partners. The pitch deck included what everyone in the partnership will bring to the table. For example, Don Fransciso’s Coffee will be providing us with free coffee to give away all through April, Wade and Abby will be sharing about City Plants through their creative platforms, and Miss Coco Peru will help with the raffel and spread the word about our fundraiser. The pitch deck included an outline of what will be posted in April on social media and when specific events will happen. After our presentation of the pitch deck to the Earth Month fundraiser partners, I updated the pitch deck to have an in depth outline of our social media strategy. The outline included scheduled instagram posts and captions, as well as dates for the different events City Plants will be hosting.

When I am not preparing for the Earth Month Fundraiser, I help plan and promote other City Plants outreach events such as our instagram story contest. In addition to my usual outreach projects, I  started a tick tok for our mascot, Leafy! You can check it out through this link!

Environmental Outreach in Orange County

By: Devon C., Spring 2021

Hey everyone, my name is Devon and I am a senior studying environmental studies with a minor in marine biology. This semester, I am working with the Orange County Coastkeeper (OCCK), a nonprofit organization set to help save the freshwater and saltwater ecosystems in Orange County, California. Their main mission is to protect regional water resources so that they can be swimmable, drinkable and fishable for the future. They work with the public and private sector to achieve this mission.

I have been assisting them in this mission by creating flyers and researching the Poseidon Desalination Plant in Long Beach, California. The flyers are made to protect the Santa Ana River Mouth from any anthropogenic forms of pollution or interference. This is due to it being a nesting ground for the Snowy Plover and California Least Tern. These two species are being impacted by humans and their dogs so it is important to have public campaigns to make sure that people are obeying the laws set in place. The other project that I am working on is the Poseidon Desalination Plant. Here, I am looking up information on what Poseidon has done in other locations around the US and how that has hurt our ecosystem and the people living in it. We are trying to bring this information to the public as well as the California Waterboard to make sure they keep Poseidon in check and make sure they do things properly.

I have learned a lot of things about the way the organizations try to reach out to the public to help environmental causes. There are many different methods of trying to reach the public. In my two projects, I have engaged in formal, legal and informal communication methods. I have enjoyed realizing that people want to review subject matters in different ways and at the end of the day, what matters is trying to inform the public.

Kelp Biofuel Research with the Wrigley Institute

By: Andrew H., Spring 2021

Hi, I’m Andrew Huang and I’m currently a junior majoring in environmental studies and minoring in applied data analytics. I’m super interested in biological and physical oceanography, and for the past year I’ve been interning with the Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies on the Kelp Biofuel Project. The goal of this research project is to study the viability of macroalgae--specifically, brown algaes like giant kelp--as a source for carbon-neutral biofuel that can be cultivated in large scale aquaculture.

Seaweed has been farmed for centuries, but what sets this project apart from other endeavors in growing macroalgae is what has become known as the “Kelp Elevator”. Wrigley’s kelp team has been investigating the effects of what is known as “depth cycling” on the growth rate kelp. Kelp grows in the sunlit mixed layer zone of the ocean, where other primary producers (like phytoplankton) compete for limiting nutrients for growth. However, by growing the kelp on a rig that can be sunk down to depths where nitrogen concentrations are greater at night, the kelp elevator essentially “fertilizes” the crops. Current work has demonstrated this to be significantly effective in promoting accelerated growth. If the proof of concept of the kelp elevator holds water (and it seems like it does), the goal is to expand the depth cycling technique to large scale farming operations in the ocean. The kelp project also aims to develop and test the growth of sterile kelp individuals on the elevator, as this is necessary to prevent introducing kelp as an invasive species in larger scale aquaculture.

Unfortunately the effects if Covid-19 has prevented me from doing lab work and helping with spore cultivation. However, I have been able to shift my focus to data analysis and visualization. Recently what I have been working on is visualizations for hydrographic data--measures of water parameters like fluorescence (chlorophyll concentration), temperature, dissolved oxygen, and light, in the water column, which are used to predict available nutrients for kelp under depth cycling conditions. After figures are generated, trends are observed and will be  described in a report--basically something similar to a quarterly report for the project. It’s definitely not as glamorous as working in a lab or diving in the field and outplanting samples, but it’s been really good to get the experience wrangling with data and studying the trends in depth profiles of each parameter has been somewhat of a crash course review in biological oceanography. It's science!


Interning with Tree People- The More Trees The Better

By: Veronica G., Spring 2021

Hello, friends! My name is Veronica and I am a senior majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Urban & Sustainable Planning. In my second semester of this program, I had the amazing opportunity of interning with TreePeople. For those who aren’t familiar with their work, TreePeople is a non-profit organization based in Beverly Hills’ Coldwater Canyon Park that provides an array of services for communities in LA: educational videos and resources on trees, water, soils, waste reduction, etc., in-person volunteering opportunities planting trees, research, community outreach, and much more.

I was lucky enough to work with TreePeople’s Community and School Greening Specialist, Michelle Bagnato, on converting their City Plants and LADWP-sponsored Fruit & Shade Tree Adoptions into COVID-safe Curbside experiences. I assisted her with transferring all the data into a new online system that their partners at City Plants implemented to streamline the process of adopting trees. This allowed staff to social distance while still being able to distribute as many trees as possible, and it helped residents pick up trees in a safe and efficient manner.

As the semester progressed and I became more familiar with the Adoption process, I began reaching out to community organizations in low-canopy areas to coordinate adoptions in their neighborhoods. By the end of my time with TreePeople, Ms. Bagnato and I had distributed over 600 fruit and shade trees to City of Los Angeles residents.

I felt lucky to be a part of this program, especially at the time that I did. I worked with Michelle both online and in-person once it was safer to do so. As the adoptions became more frequent, I couldn’t help but feel the joy and satisfaction that only doing hands-on projects that helps our local communities can bring. This internship taught me skills in community outreach, support service, and event management, as well as social media and design, and I had the added bonus of learning  more about the trees that we were giving out (Did you know that the leaves of Sweet Bay trees could be used for cooking? Amazing!). I plan to continue developing these skills throughout my career and will forever be grateful to the TreePeople family for allowing me the opportunity to help bring trees and joy to the neighborhoods that most needed it.  (In the picture- getting ready for a tree adoption event.)

Marine Restoration Internship

By: Stella B., Spring 2021

Hi all! My name is Stella and I’m a junior at USC, majoring in Environmental Studies with a Minor in Marine Biology. This past semester, I have been working with Orange County Coastkeeper as a Marine Restoration intern. Orange County Coastkeeper (OCCK) is a small non-profit clean water organization whose mission is to protect the region’s water resources so they are swimmable, drinkable and fishable for present and future generations. To do this, Orange County Coastkeeper works implements programs in restoration, advocacy, conservation, education, enforcement, and research. Within their restoration department, Orange County Coastkeeper is currently working on a restoration project aiming to increase populations of native Olympia Oysters in Newport Bay as well as Alamitos Bay. Most of my work thus far has had to do with this project!

On normal days, I help write grants, write Instagram posts on specific wildlife in the Newport area and statuses on our restoration project, transfer information into excel sheets, and edit pages of the OCCK website. Because of restrictions concerning COVID-19, my work has been mostly online and not that of the usual marine restoration intern at this company since I cannot conduct extensive research in the field with my coworkers frequently. However, I have been lucky enough to participate in a socially distanced beach clean-up, conduct MPA watch surveys, and attend an event regarding OCCK’s current oyster restoration project.

Although most of my work this semester with Orange County Coastkeeper has been remote, I have thoroughly enjoyed it! The beach clean-up event I attended was extremely eye-opening to the volumes of trash that litter our beaches in Southern California. We found the usual suspects; copious amounts of styrofoam, straws, plastic bags, microplastics, etc. However, I was most surprised at the amount of large, unexpected items we picked up such as a large pillow, a singular knee-high boot, shampoo & conditioner bottles, and hairbrushes. Overall, between my boss Katie Nichols and myself, we collected around 25 pounds of trash within an hour and a half. It was also interesting to see the reactions of people who passed by us while we collected trash. Most people stopped to talk to us, curious about what we were doing and were appreciative of our efforts. I never realized that beach clean-ups could be a great opportunity to educate community members and give them resources to participate in events that will further help the place they call home.

Promoting International Environmental Awareness with Population Media Center

By: Isabel K., Spring 2021

Hi guys! My name is Isabel Klein and I’m a junior Environmental Studies and my concentration is a BS in Environmental Policy. Over the course of this semester I have had the pleasure of working with Population Media Center. I’ve also been studying remotely from NY. PMC is an amazing organization that works internationally to address women’s reproductive, education, and overall rights, environmental issues centered around population, using media and storytelling. In many countries their viewership has been very high and has often resulted in men and women alike changing how they perceive women education and family planning.

Most of my work involves research, and exploring potential topics that are important to talk about and share with PMC’s amazing donor community via newsletter (as well as anyone who may come across PMC’s website). So far, I’ve been able to research the protests happening in India, environmental and women’s rights actions being taken by the Biden Administration, as well as inspiring women influencers sharing their stories. One of the coolest parts of my internship is getting the opportunity to sit in on staff meetings and really gain insight and a “behind the scenes” point of view into just how much work goes on in nonprofits. Another fun opportunity I had was getting to have a “coffee-chat” with another member of PMC of my choosing and I was able to meet with Ms. Kriss Barker who runs all of PMC’s international projects. In a few weeks I’ll also be helping run a webinar event that PMC is hosting and I am incredibly excited to help out!

My time at PMC has definitely  strengthened my research and writing skills and gives me the opportunity to learn a lot and then articulate it. I also helped draft a training document for donor software which was interesting, especially because I wasn’t super familiar with it myself! I’ve learned so much about a wide variety of issues and I’ve been able to see just how successful PMC’s approach has been. It was definitely a new perspective and lens to cast on Environmental issues and constantly challenges me to take my environmental studies lens and mesh it with one centered around women and reproductive rights.

Learning about Environmental NGOs and Making Earth Month Matter With City Plants

By: Brianneth R., Spring 2021

Hello! My name is Brianneth, I am a 3rd year at USC pursuing a BA and a MA in Environmental Studies. I have been working at City Plants this semester as a Policy Intern. City Plants is a private non-profit organization with the City of Los Angeles. Our mission is to grow a greener future for all of Los Angeles by engaging Angelenos to plant and care for trees throughout the city with FREE shade trees.

Due to the small team size, I have had the opportunity to wear many hats. I have gained insight into all an organization must do to not only keep the doors open but also reach ambitious goals. I attend City Plants Partner meetings and Community Forest Advisory Committee meetings; showing me the importance of strong communication between stakeholders and organizations to achieve common goals. This internship has taught me that a holistic approach to environmental initiatives is key in being successful.

One of my first independent projects was researching fundraising models used by other urban forestry organizations across the country and assessing their applicability to City Plants. I developed a collection of organization names, their fundraising methods, sponsor benefits, along with other factors. From there, I analyzed the information collected and recommended promising approaches to the organization director. Currently, I am working to market our Earth Month raffle fundraiser at USC along with contacting radio stations to air our public service announcements.

While my entire internship has been remote, I keep in close contact with the team through weekly meetings and messaging tools. The current circumstances taught me to take initiative, be independent, and to let my creativity flow free. I have deeply enjoyed learning about the fundraising and administrative aspect of running a non-profit organization. The City Plants team is always working on numerous projects that are getting Los Angeles closer to the greener future we all need and have a right to.

WaterTalks- Tree People Outreach Project

By: Fotis R., Spring 2021

As I trek through life, I want to help resolve our most pressing concerns, and working at TreePeople, this semester, has been just that.

My name is Fotis and I am an Environmental Science major concentrating in marine biology, also passionate about the intersection of urban living and the natural realm – a relationship we witness everyday. TreePeople, an LA-based environmental advocacy group committed to helping millions of people who struggle with water inaccessibility and poor urban infrastructure, gave me first-hand experience understanding these issues. As an intern, I explored the extent of heat, flooding and a lack of trees in communities, through a new project called WaterTalks, and learned how individuals’ lives are affected by them in this expanding metropolis.

One of the main components of this project was community outreach and, in an online world, TreePeople needed to use alternative means of engaging the public to uncover the struggles they face daily. Calling people and asking them to participate in a needs assessment survey and share personal accounts of their experience in the city, I quickly learned the importance of giving community members a voice. There were times when phone calls turned into heart-wrenching dialogues with individuals from truly underserved communities.

TreePeople also hosted weekly online community sessions to have multi-faceted conversations with willing community members. I quickly became curious as to how the notes from these conversations were later used and, luckily, got the opportunity to organize them and input them into an ArcGIS platform. That final step created the notes that would guide future water and environmental policies and, although commonly overlooked in environmental progress, I realized the importance of these technical steps.

Overall, this experience has immensely widened my perspective on Los Angeles’ water management system and extent of  community underrepresentation. TreePeople is a coalition of incredibly passionate and dedicated people whose work to help the lives of Angelinos is commendable. I have learned an incredible amount and see this experience as a stepping stone for the future of environment change.


  • Yael Nahmias (Wolinsky)
  • Environmental Studies Program and Department of Political Science
  • 3518 Trousdale Parkway
  • VKC, Room 327
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0044
  • University of Southern California