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2022-23 CEB Interns

Alison Nicolai – 4th year UCI Student, Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Minor: Global Sustainability

I have been interested in conservation biology since I was in high school and first realized I wanted to be involved in the sciences. This internship has provided me with a perfect opportunity to learn more about the field and about myself. This internship has truly helped me narrow my scope, and realize what in the conservation field I am specifically interested in. I have discovered through this program that I am hoping to go into informal science education, such as through a zoo, aquarium, or national park! There have been numerous programs I have been able to participate in through this internship that have cemented my interests and proven to myself that I can do what I am interested in. I highly recommend this internship to anyone who has an interest in conservation, especially if you aren’t sure exactly what you want to go into!

Andrea Ibarra – 4th year UCI Student, Major: Earth System Science; Minor: Civic and Community Engagement

As a kid, I would often listen to my relatives talk about their harvest and the steps they needed to take to ensure that their crops would grow. I was always fascinated when they would be able to predict when it would rain just by looking at the shape of the clouds. Their knowledge sparked my interest in nature and the science behind it. I would often read and watch documentaries about nature, allowing me to understand the importance of protecting the environment. My interest was furthered when I started learning more about environmental injustice and how it affected a lot of communities. This led me to major in ESS and ultimately apply to the CEB internship program. This internship allowed me to use the knowledge that I have gained throughout college, and applied it in the field. I have enjoyed going to the field and helping with monitoring, planting, removing invasive species, as well as other things. CEB allowed me to learn more about the local environment, science education, and research. But most importantly I have been able to meet the wonderful people behind these projects, and I am thankful for the opportunity of working along them.

Bill Deacon – 4th year UCI Student, Major: Pharmaceutical Sciences

In my early years, I spent my days watching Animal Planet, reading about wildlife, and relaxing at the local nature preserve with my friends. More recently, my time has been dedicated to studying medicines as a Pharmaceutical Sciences major, as well as my other involvements. After working in a laboratory studying herbal medicines collected from remote locations, my passion for nature and conservation was reinvigorated. I jumped at the opportunity to become a CEB intern and work in conservation and restoration. It was the best decision I could have made. Every bit of my CEB work has been tremendously rewarding. I thoroughly enjoy getting outside to work on restoration projects and research projects to help preserve the nature around us, as well as helping to spread the passion to younger students with our partnerships to lead environmental science field trips. Some of my favorite moments have been teaching younger students how the Crystal Cove Marine Protected Area is monitored, and studying how drought conditions are affecting the native coastal sage scrub plant community. While I will graduate this year and move on to pharmacy school, I am certain that I will continue involving myself in conservation projects and encouraging others to do their part to protect this wonderful planet.

Chloe Pak – 3rd year UCI Student, Major: Biology

I was led to the field of conservation and restoration by my lifelong interest in animals and nature. As I went through grade school, my childhood love and wonder for living things developed into a curiosity for biological systems and a keen interest to explore and understand the natural world. I have also become passionate about sustainability, conservation biology, and learning about what we as scientists and earthlings can do to bring our planet back to its rightful state of harmony and balance. Through the CEB internship, I have had the chance to explore how my interests, skills, and passions could translate into careers in ecological conservation and research. I have also learned about the effort and hours that are required to execute restoration projects and conduct research in the field. Since CEB lies at the intersection of a wide variety of projects and organizations through other departments on campus and organizations elsewhere in Orange County, I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet people in a wide variety of jobs, participate in all kinds of projects, and explore and study gorgeous natural spaces. As I near the end of my undergraduate career, I hope to further explore careers in wildlife biology and research, and I am thankful to CEB for providing me with experiences and knowledge that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

Crimson Frankum – 3rd year UCI Student, Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

My field of study is primarily biochemistry, but one of my professors helped cultivate my interest in botanical ecology by showing me just how weird plants can be. I was always the person who went to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Parks to see the plants grown for each habitat. So I followed that professor’s advice and I applied for CEB. Over the course of two years in the program I have helped design two multi-year experiments, learned to use R, taught elementary school field trips, and written a thesis on fungal pathogens in oak forests. I enjoy studying wildlife trails, collecting bugs and bird sightings with 5th graders, and planting new forest, with CEB, Crystal Cove, and Project Grow. This experience has changed how I plan to use my degree. I want to stay involved in the study of ecosystems, climate, and restoration, whether using genetic testing to ID fungal pathogens, using separatory filtration to find microplastic levels in soil, or teaching kids how to repair damaged Riparian habitat. While I–like many other biology majors– still hope to lead lab research one day I applaud CEB for encouraging us to get our hands dirty in the meantime.

Edward Nguyen – 4th year UCI Student, Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Going into college as a general biology major, I often found myself questioning whether or not I wanted to pursue a career in ecology or health sciences. After being introduced to and interning with this year’s CEB cohort, I learned that my passion lies within preserving the natural world. I appreciate how this program pairs us with different nearby organizations and encourages us to dive deeper and explore the vast selection of environmental work being done around the area. Working on multiple projects throughout the quarters, like participating in habitat restoration with Project Grow and facilitating educational tours for students of all ages, helped me see that conservation is a necessary, but underappreciated field. Through CEB, I gained valuable knowledge and assets that I will take with me in my future endeavors, whether it be spreading awareness about the importance of nature or repairing ecosystems one at a time.

Elaine Pritzlaff – 3rd year UCI Student, Major: Environmental Science and Policy

Growing up I spent all my free time outdoors. My family encouraged me to grow my passion by visiting protected parks and learning all about nature. Having the opportunity to explore allowed me to fall deeply in love with the environment. My work with CEB has allowed me to do a variety of things. Most of my time has been spent working in research and informal science education settings, and my favorite has been working on the Marine Protected Area Science Cruise. I’m happy to spend another year as a CEB intern. The CEB program has been instrumental in the growth of my passion for ecology and has aided in the development of my future career plans. I am so grateful for all of the CEB faculty as well as my fellow interns.

Jonathan Ly – 4th year UCI Student, Major: Biology

Conservation was always a topic of interest when I was growing up so I took AP Environmental Science in high school and that exposed me to all the different sciences. Then, at UCI, I was in Calteach which has a big emphasis on teaching about conservation and environmental justice issues. Educating more people about the environment and the problems that our generation faces felt important and it was cool to see people get passionate about the topic too. It really reignited my interest in conservation and from there I also heard about the CEB internship. As a CEB intern, it has just given me a wide breadth of different experiences. I have really enjoyed the research side: learning how to operate specific equipment like the SPAD, gathering observations out in the field, and being able to talk with professionals and other interns about their future plans and how they got to where they are. On the other side, I have also learned how informal education works, being able to help out the teachers in Crystal Cove in the parks and at Newport beach. I have really enjoyed my time meeting and working with everyone in CEB and it has given me a better idea of what I want to do in the future.

Kenneth Balderas – 3rd year UCI Student, Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 

I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I arrived here at UCI. I knew I liked biology and science but I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue with those interests. I was also interested in learning about the natural world around me and enjoyed spending time outside. I would watch documentaries and do any outside activity I had the opportunity to do. From hiking and camping to kayaking and horseback riding I enjoyed experiencing my environment. Combining these interests allowed me to find the path I am passionate about and am currently pursuing which is to become an environmental scientist. In doing this CEB internship I acquired many hours doing field work and learned so many things about what doing fieldwork as a scientist means. I loved using scientific methods that allowed me to learn about my local ecosystem. I also discovered that I enjoyed participating in education and outreach which is something I didn’t think of before. Overall, this internship blazed my passion for conservation and environmental science and allowed me to gain valuable field experiences that I can use for the future while also meeting amazing people along the way.

Linda Nguyen – 4th year UCI Student, Major: Psychological Sciences; Minor; Biology

I found my passion for sciences in high school and in freshman year of college I felt a bit lost. I decided to join CEB in my Junior year as a way of trying out something new. This is my 2nd year with CEB and this internship has been one of the best experiences in my 4 years of university. I have made so many friends and connections along the way and I would not have been able to find what I love doing if I did not put myself out there and join this internship. CEB is probably one of the most valuable pieces of my resume and I believe the experience and knowledge I have gained through working in CEB is going to be something I will be using in my future career.

Paola Maciel – 4th year UCI Student, Major: Environmental Science and Policy

I’m often asked what I study at school and what industry I would like to work in by my friends, family, and peers. Although I typically respond with “ecology”, “climate change”, “environmental science and policy”, or “restoration biology”, my true answer is more intricate than that. What I am really trying to learn, and what I really want to work on, is improving the quality of life of future generations. To elaborate, I would like to work on projects that restore ecosystems, eliminate environmental hazards, and improve environmental health. In order to ensure the health and overall quality of life of future generations, we must ensure that the environment surrounding us is healthy and thriving. I hope to use my passions in energy, restoration, and data analysis to work on my goal to improve the lives of future generations through my career. 

As an intern for the Center for Environmental Biology, I continue to learn how to identify various plant species, collect data for research analyses, analyze data through programming, and maintain restoration/experimental sites in various locations across Orange County. In addition to this, the internship consistently introduces me to a vast network of people who also work and study in conservation and restoration biology. Overall, this internship expanded my experience, knowledge, and skill set for research in conservation and restoration biology. As a result, I am confident that I have the skills necessary to make steps toward improving the quality of life of future generations through environmental science and research.

Rashid Alam – 4th year UCI Student, Major: Biology

Growing up, the way my family bonded was through exploring and enjoying nature. I have fond memories of visiting national parks, and going on long drives viewing different landscapes. While I only just enjoyed nature before, through the CEB internship I was able to immerse myself in efforts to restore these environments and educate others about them as well. Not only that, but the experiences I received during this internship helped me build skills that I hope to carry with me as I move forward to the future.

Renee Trampush – 4th year UCI Student, Major: Earth System Science

biography in process…

Tara Morisato – 3rd year UCI Student, Major: Political Science; Minor: Global Sustainability

When I started college, I found myself in a vastly different environment, surrounded by people and plants I couldn’t name. The CEB acquainted me with Californian flora and fauna at last – sometimes at the edge of campus, other times in expansive wilderness that few people will ever see. It’s an honor to learn from and contribute to the environmental well-being of these places. 

When I return home for the summer, I know I’ll have a new array of tools to help the ecosystem I grew up in. I never expected to participate in such tasks as data collection and research site maintenance, but those technical skills have certainly sharpened my understanding. My eyes are trained to identify so many species that I have come to know – poisonous plants, invasive plants, edible plants… the list goes on! What I’ve learned about the local wilderness tells a universal story of stewardship in the face of environmental misuse. Through the CEB internship, I realized I would love to incorporate environmental advocacy into my future career. I have also made wonderful friends who seek a similar adventure. I recommend this internship to anyone who finds inspiration in the outdoors and feels curious to learn more.

Theresa Nguyen – 4th Year UCI Student, Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

From high school, I developed a passion for environmentalism from the lens of racial and social justice. Learning about ecological processes in my classes, I wanted experience that not only related to my studies, but also had a direct impact on the community. CEB has given me many unique field work opportunities to research and restore our habitats, and I have especially enjoyed outreach where I share my love of the environment with students and volunteers. In my second year as an intern, I completed my senior thesis on CEB’s post-fire oak monitoring project using the research skills I developed from collaborating with my fellow interns on research projects and presenting our findings at an annual workshop. I am thankful to CEB for giving me the chance to meet a cohort of amazing interns and faculty that have taught me so much about research and teamwork. As I graduate UCI, the skills I fostered as a CEB intern will help me as I aspire to conduct research related to environmental racism and other issues that affect communities of color, and to teach people ways to be more environmentally conscious.