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2019-20 CEB Interns

Viktoriya Anashkina

Viktoriya Anashkina – 4th Year UC Irvine Student, Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Minor: Business Management

Since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by environmental processes that occur seamlessly around us. The ecosystems appeared to run like clockwork with an undisruptable force. Studying environmental biology at UC Irvine opened my eyes to just how complicated and fragile the ecosystems actually are and how important it is for us to preserve and protect the environment and its natural inhabitants. The Center for Environmental Biology has given me an incredible opportunity to apply the knowledge obtained in a classroom and expand my skill set in a laboratory, as well as field settings. From designing an experiment to collecting and analyzing data, this program allowed me to see firsthand what it takes to be a part of conservation and restoration efforts. I am grateful to be working with a unique group of people and local partners, such as Crystal Cove State Park, Back Bay Science Center and Irvine Ranch Conservancy, who have the same goals and passions to study and revive the damaged ecosystems and wildlife habitats. I am excited to enter the workforce having the hands-on experience that CEB provided me with and hope to be able to directly impact our precious environment in a positive way.

Stephanie Castañeda

Stephanie Castañeda – 4th year UC Irvine student, Majors: Earth System Science & History

This is my second year as an intern for the Center for Environmental Biology. I am most interested in conserving and restoring native ecosystems in areas that have been affected due to anthropogenic causes. Throughout my time here, I have learned how to work collectively in a group to actively or passively restore an area using a specialized protocol, design an experiment, collect and analyze data, handle specialized machines, and involve communities in the science research. I am eager to expand my skills in environmental conservation and restoration, along with science education this year. I am also looking forward to applying these valuable techniques in my Earth System Science career path.

Danika Ferguson

Danika Ferguson – 4th year UC Irvine Student, Major: Biological Sciences

I have always been interested in nature and the great outdoors, but my specific interest in plants stemmed from a botany class I took at my community college. In my third year I applied to be a CEB intern because I wanted to be a part of a group that shared my similar interests in plants and protecting nature. Now in my final year at UCI, I have taken part in ecological restoration projects with CEB and all it has offered me a lot of new experiences and opportunities; CEB has also introduced me to a lot of awesome people that I enjoy spending time with. In the future, I hope to continue with restoration as a hobby and go into plant biology drug discovery or perhaps microbiology as a career path.

Jennifer Grenier

Jennifer Grenier – 3rd year UC Irvine Student, Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Minor: Korean Literature and Culture

This is my second year participating in the UC Irvine Center for Environmental Biology internship. Being an intern helped me gain many skills which benefit me not only in fieldwork but in my classes as well. I have learned effective methods of community outreach pertaining to restoration work and now have the opportunity to teach others these skills. I have also learned how to be a better researcher by assisting in study designs, data collection, and data analysis. This year I am especially excited to continue working on projects I joined last year, like restoring the Bowl at Crystal Cove State Park and restoration of the Newport Valley with Back Bay Science Center. Having these experiences have made my classes more rewarding as I now have practical experience to back up the theories. The experiences I have had with the UC Irvine Center for Environmental Biology is something I am very grateful for.

Neda Ibrahim

Neda Ibrahim – 2nd year UC Irvine Student, Major: Biological Sciences

From an early age, I have had a deep appreciation for the outdoors. I spent my days hiking and camping, and was interested to know if there was a field or occupation that would allow me to work on these things(?). As I learned about the challenges facing our environments, I became more eager to find solutions to those problems and conserve what was left. The Center for Environmental Biology has introduced me to ecological restoration and has helped me increase my skills in plant identification. I have had the opportunity to participate in hands-on field research in different areas of Orange County including Crystal Cove State Park and the UC Irvine Ecological Preserve. CEB stands out from the rest of my education in that it has allowed me to apply concepts and learn practical skills in ecology. I am grateful for the hands-on experience and knowledge I have gained about ecological restoration and conservation through CEB, and look forward to learning more!

Vanessa Lara

Vanessa Lara – 3rd Year UC Irvine Student, Major: Environmental Engineering

The state of our environment today is enough to make anyone want to do their part to help make a change. I believe that being a CEB intern has helped me do my part in helping the state of the environment. Working with the Center for Environmental Biology in the stewardship of the restoration and conservation of the local environment has been very fulfilling. I have been given amazing opportunities to gain and develop skills first hand in the field of restoration through this internship. My work as a CEB intern has also granted me the wonderful opportunity to connect with the local community in the position of a leader and educator in environmental sustainability. One of the various projects I’ve been able to work on through this internship allowed me to help educate AP Environmental Science students on a class field trip to Crystal Cove. This was especially rewarding to me because it was in my own high school AP Environmental Science class that I became passionate to begin a career in the field of Environmental Engineering. I’m very grateful for this memorable experience this internship has been and I continue to look forward to the rest of my time in it.

Alex Lou

Alex Lou – 3rd Year UC Irvine Student, Major: Biological Sciences

Going into my third year as a student at UCI, I knew it was time for me to get involved with some type of internship or research. Seeing my friends around me get into research labs, and hearing their stories of unique labs experiences inspired me to search for a research opportunity. While most of my friends were interested in research geared more towards medical-school students, I was searching for research focused more on environmental sustainability and ecology. When I discovered CEB, it was actually by complete chance, after I approached a few students who were tending to some of the native CA plants near ALP. They told me about the internship and the amount of ecological work they do, and I was hooked from the beginning. Joining the CEB internship has been one of the best decisions of my college career, as I have gotten to further my own understanding of California natural history while also getting to explore Southern California’s beautiful open spaces.

Grace Marquis

Grace Marquis – 4th Year UC Irvine Student, Major: Biological Sciences

Coming from a family of active outdoorsmen and advocates of Leave No Trace, the idea of restoration and ecology has always been a part of me. I began backpacking and rock climbing to pursue the outdoors in a more personal manner from a young age. The joy of science, specifically biology, piqued an interest for me early on and led me to becoming a Biological Sciences Major at UCI. As a fourth-year student, I am preparing to graduate and am reflecting on the wonderful experiences I have had as a CEB intern. The vast number of projects, ideas, and people that I have met through this program has created an incredible foundation for my career goals. From here, I hope to continue on with restoration but on a much smaller scale- Microbiology. The active field research and educational outreach projects have provided me with a new skill set in order to try to connect ecology and restoration with microbiology.

Kylie McGuire

Kylie McGuire – 3rd Year UC Irvine Student, Major: Earth System Science

Joining the CEB internship program is easily the best decision I’ve made during my time at UCI. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to pursue work related to the environment — plants and dirt have always made more sense to me than people, and I feel that in the coming years, working to protect the environment in the face of climate change will be crucial. As an intern, I’ve especially enjoyed assisting with DroughtNet, a study on the effects of drought on coastal sage scrub ecosystems, working with Project Grow at Newport Back Bay on riparian restoration, and starting to work on writing a thesis paper with the guidance of my CEB supervisors. My work with CEB has been my first experience with research – and I’ve really fallen in love with the thrill of scientific discovery. I’m still figuring out what my future will look like, but I can easily see myself continuing to do work, be it in a lab or out in the field, to learn more about how the Earth works and how to protect it. Whatever I end up doing, I’m thankful that my internship at CEB has helped me make strong connections, become a better leader, and learn to (to quote The Magic School Bus’s Ms. Frizzle,) “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

Irvin Medina

Irvin Medina – 5th year UC Irvine Student, Major: Public Health Science; Minor: Global Sustainability

Growing up I have always been passionate about nature, wildlife, and the ocean. My curiosity for nature & wildlife stemmed from when my parents took me to my first whale watching tour when I was in kindergarten. From there my passion was fueled by the wonders and mysteries our planet had to offer. As I grew much older, my passion for the environment grew immensely when I took an animal diversity & ecology course in community college. I even took a botany course to satisfy my thirst for knowledge, before transferring to UCI. Becoming an intern for the Center of Environmental Biology has exposed me to the field of ecology and conservation that I could only have imagined. Participating in this program has been rewarding because it makes me feel like I’m doing my part in restoring and protecting my community. While also educating future generations & hopefully inspiring them to better the health of our environment. Being a part of CEB has exposed me to several experiences that I am grateful for. Such as participating in a Marine Protected Area cruises, helping to restore the Bowl at Crystal Cove State Park, and helping to restore upper Newport Beach. Having to participate in these projects has made my final year so enriching that I cannot wait to get into the field and hopefully obtain a career.  Becoming a CEB intern has been the best decision that I have made in my academic career & I never get tired of bragging about what I do as an intern.

Ryan Nguyen

Ryan Nguyen – 3rd Year UC Irvine Student, Major: Biological Sciences

Ever since the age of 12, I have been greatly involved in a boy scouting program that has essentially made me who I am today. In this program, we did all the things a young, curious boy would enjoy: camping, hiking, kayaking, ropes course, rock climbing. I spent a lot of my years in scouting participating in outdoor activities while experiencing the beauty of nature and learning the importance of keeping our environment healthy. However, once I began my undergraduate at UCI, I was unable to keep up with these outdoor adventures that I was once fond of. I decided to apply and eventually begin my journey as an intern for the Center of Environmental Biology (CEB) in order to spend time outside once again. CEB has offered me the opportunity to immerse myself in field ecology work as well as be an active contributor to many ongoing research projects. My favorite study to work on is the DroughtNet project, where we are gaining more insight on how to effectively restore Coastal Sage Scrub ecosystems with the onset of warmer, drier weather conditions. Currently, I hope to pursue a career in healthcare as a Physician Assistant. However, in my older years of life, I hope to become an influential figure in environmental law, and to further ecological preservation and restoration through law and policy. Being a CEB intern has been a rewarding experience and has laid out the foundation for my journey in ecology.

Tamara Salazar Bernardi

Tamara Salazar Bernardi – 3rd Year UC Irvine Student, Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology;  Minor: Political Science

Starting at an early age, I had an appreciation for the world around us. I grew up gardening and raising animals with my parents, who would do this as a way to connect back to their homeland of Peru. I was also born in Peru and at the age of two, I immigrated to the United States. Being an undocumented latinx individual has not only resulted in a set of challenges, but has made me a stronger person. That is part of the reason I chose to take a risk and participate in CEB, not fully knowing what to expect or if this program was for me. This was one of the best decisions I could have made. Being a part of CEB has made such an impact on not only my career but also has impacted the way I view my surrounding environments. My appreciation and love of the environment has grown so much that I hope to change the way others view our world and educate others on how we can take care of our beautiful planet.

Danielle (Dani) Schaeffer

Danielle (Dani) Schaeffer – 4th year student, Major: Earth System Science; Minor: Biological Science

Preserving the environment along with the plants and animals that reside within it has always been a passion of mine. CEB has given me the opportunity to work in restoration projects with local partners across Orange County. Each project has allowed me to contribute to experimental design, engage with the community, and learn valuable skills I can use towards my future career. I have become more comfortable in collecting data, presenting scientific information, and using specialized equipment. Being an intern has been a rewarding experience where I get to collaborate with many faculty members and other interns who also have a passion for restoration ecology and improving our environment. It is fulfilling to be part of a team of environmental advocates where our efforts do make a difference in the world. I am grateful to be part of the CEB program.

Maria Fernanda Valenzuela Escudero

Maria Fernanda Valenzuela Escudero – 5th Year UC Irvine Student, Major: Earth System Science

This is my second and last year as a CEB intern since I will be graduating soon. I am thankful I was accepted into the program because CEB has given me the skills, tools, and experience I needed in my transition to Environmental Science, which I am sure I will be using in my professional career. Some of these skills are land management, collecting plant density and soil moisture, water monitoring, following protocols, research methods, public speaking, and more.

Through CEB, I am constantly learning new things and, since I this is my second year, I was able to take on more responsibilities, become a better leader, and connect with the environmental community. I have had the opportunity to lead several activities with this year’s new interns and I am in charge of my own lands management project that aims towards preserving the population of the native species of Southwestern Pond turtles at the San Joaquin freshwater marsh.

I look forward to participating in more projects and apply the knowledge I gain through these years. Thank you.

Kathy Vo

Kathy Vo – 3rd year UC Irvine Student, Major: Biological Sciences; Minor: Global Sustainability.

Growing up in the Bay Area, I have always had a love for the rich diversity of the outdoors. It wasn’t until some lucky educational opportunities that I began to realize the severe impact of human life on our environment. It then became deeply personal to me to work towards reducing our collective human footprint through advocacy and concepts of sustainability. The CEB has enabled me to further explore sustainability through an ecological perspective and help our Earth in tangible ways that would not have been possible on my own. Through contributing to various hands-on research projects and collaborating with a team of passionate individuals, I have realized the long-term impact of something as simple as planting a seed or removing an invasive species from a degraded ecosystem. I have also been able to engage with local partners in land management, such as UC Irvine Nature and the Crystal Cove Conservancy, and develop my skills as a researcher, educator, and leader. This internship has solidified my desire to work on preservation of our health and environment through science, particularly through the detailed lenses of microbiology. Ultimately, my goal is to ensure that humans and nature can coexist beneficially for future generations to come.

Jenny (Zhaoyi) Wei

Jenny (Zhaoyi) Wei – 3rd Year UC Irvine Student, Majors: Environmental Science and Policy & Earth System Science

As I grew up in a city with 80% forest cover, nature always has a mysterious power of attraction to me. Since I was young, I prefer to spend my leisure time outdoors rather than indoor activities. Meanwhile, by watching documentaries and reading news, I am plagued by severe environmental damages and species extinction we face every day. My curiosity and concern about ecology lead me to become a member of the CEB internship. CEB provided me an excellent opportunity to increase my experience and practice skills. Through various projects that provided by CEB, I gained gain field and laboratory experience, improved communication and teamwork skills, and strength the interest in ecology. In addition to field and lab work, weekly CEB class and outreach development day expanded my understanding of research design and educational strategy. I wish I could apply the skills I learned to CEB internship and future career.