Launching into a New Year of High School Internships
by Danielle Garcia, Director of STEM programs

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This month Ocean Institute officially welcomed a new group of 20 students into its yearlong high school internship program. After a competitive application and interview process, interns were offered positions in one of four departments at Ocean Institute: Public Programs, Husbandry, Citizen Science, and the R/V Sea Explorer.  These extraordinary young people range from 14-18 years of age and come from high schools as close as Dana Point and as far as Riverside.  Each intern is encouraged to choose a department and ultimately design a project based on their personal interests in marine science.  During their 80-hour internship, they will learn the responsibilities associated with each specialty and complete an independent research project within the department.  The internship culminates with a symposium next June during which each intern will present their research and findings to their peers and the Ocean Institute community.

Prior to applying for the internship, students are invited to participate in Ocean Institute’s Marine Science Career Internship Academy in the summer. During this weeklong experience, participants learn about different aspects of marine science and possible careers that exist in the field.  Ocean Institute science instructors act as teachers and mentors as interns gain real experience in field research and increase understanding of current environmental issues.  After the academy, students who go on to participate in the internship program propose a research topic, design their own experiments, then collect and analyze data under the guidance of Ocean Institute staff. Previous research topics include observing the behavior of dolphins from the R/V Sea Explorer, monitoring invasive species in the harbor, designing enrichment devices for aquarium animals, and leading educational public kayak tours.

The projects provide not only a valuable deep-dive research experience, but also give interns insights on educational pathways and careers they may choose to pursue. During the 10 years that the MSCIA and the high school internship program has been offered, Ocean Institute has enjoyed observing many of these young scholars transition from learner to leader. For example, Kelsey Remmes became a husbandry intern in 2007.  Her two-year internship led her to be hired as an aquarist at Ocean Institute in 2009 and she is now working at the Quarantine Center for Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Buffalo, NY. Kelsey attributes her interest and success in the field to OI’s internship program:

“The internship program provided me with guidance, experience, and valuable insight which has allowed me to be successful in the field of Marine Science.  I am eternally grateful for the opportunity the internship program afforded me as I continue my own path in a rewarding and fulfilling career.” 

Andrew Calof, who recently finished his third year as an intern on the R/V Sea Explorer says,

“Of all the experiences I had over my three years of interning, the feeling of awe I felt when I saw my first dolphin megapod stampede is one I will not soon forget.”

Although students who participate in this internship program are quite diverse in their interests and backgrounds, they all have at least one thing in common- a passion for the ocean and a desire to pursue a future career in science in the future!  We are so excited to see where our current intern class takes their passion.  Stay tuned for updates on their progress throughout the year.

Find out more about our High School and College programs here.