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Community college students intern to save the environment along the coast

A handful of San Diego community college students are hard at work saving the environment this summer.

They were accepted as interns at the San Diego State Coastal Marine Institute Laboratory. The lab is located near San Diego Bay on the site of the old Naval Training Center. Scientists and students use it to perform research that helps them better understand the environmental problems affecting the Southern California coastline and find a variety of solutions to protect critical coastal environments.

The summer program was created by Jessica Griffin, a Ph.D. candidate from San Diego State University (SDSU) studying marine ecology. The program targets underserved students who would not otherwise have access to resources and support in marine research opportunities.


She hopes more students will pursue careers in the field.

“As climate change becomes more severe, habitat destruction continues, and coastal pollution, especially in urban areas is still a big concern. I think there’s going to continue to be a demand,” Griffin said.

Shayne Jensen and Grace Luzbetak are students from Miramar College who are interning for nine weeks. Luzbetak is working with Griffin on an experiment to save sea grass along the coast.

M.G. Perez
Jessica Griffin, San Diego State Ph.D. candidate, works with Grace Luzbetak, an intern from Miramar College. They are conducting an experiment on the protection of seagrass along the San Diego coast, San Diego, Calif. June 22, 2022.

Seagrass helps stop underwater erosion, slows down destructive storm surges, and serves as a nursery for baby crabs and spiny lobsters. Clams are possible filters to clean away algae that kill seagrass.

“It's becoming such a huge problem that future generations will be left with and we need to do our part now to stop these effects that it’s having,” she said.

Luzbetak says she will use her experience to prepare her for a professional career.

Jensen is transferring from Miramar College to SDSU this fall where he will finish his studies in marine biology with plans to go on to graduate school. He’s been a life-long conservationist.

“If we can do our part, then I think we should," he said. "Maybe it’s not biology but if you’re doing something to make the world a better place. I think that’s really important to consider when choosing a career.”

M.G. Perez
Shayne Jensen, a Miramar College student, is shown above. He is transferring to San Diego State this fall to study marine biology. Jensen is working on an experiment involving predators of the California spiny lobster. San Diego, Calif. June 22, 2022.

By next summer, there is hope that even more community college students from across the county could be accepted into the internship program. Administrators have applied for state money in the form of something appropriately called a California Sea Grant. The grant is worth $75,000 to be used for research and compensating students.

Paul Detwiler is a marine science professor at Mesa College who also worked to get more underserved students access to the research lab.

“It allows them to literally get their feet and hands wet doing field work and science in the laboratory and getting those direct real-world experiences,” said Detwiler.

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