My name’s Brandon Hopper and I’m currently an undergraduate Environmental Studies student at UC Santa Barbara. I grew up in San Clemente, California where I formed a connection with the ocean through surfing and diving. I have interned with Surfrider in the past, but I am currently working with a local non-profit, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. Channelkeeper is an organization that works to protect and restore the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds through science-based advocacy, education, field work, and enforcement.
As Channelkeeper’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) Watch Intern, I assist our Education and Outreach Director in implementing the MPA Watch Program for our organization. MPA Watch is a network of programs that support healthy oceans through community science by collecting data in and around our marine protected areas. The MPA Watch Program trains volunteers to observe and collect data on human uses of coastal and marine resources both inside and outside of marine protected areas.
What is a Marine Protected Area? As defined by the World Wildlife Fund, MPAs are areas designated and effectively managed to protect marine ecosystems, processes, habitats, and species, which can contribute to the restoration and replenishment of resources for social, economic, and cultural enrichment (MPAs have varying levels of protections and allowed uses, from “no-take” zones to those that allow some forms of fishing).
The MPA Watch Program is currently implemented by 13 different organizations along the coast of California. These organizations mobilize hundreds of volunteers who contribute data that is valuable to the management of our marine protected areas and ultimately the health of our oceans.
Some of my internship duties include:
- Conducting weekly MPA Watch surveys at local beaches
- Performing weekly data entry and quality control work
- Providing assistance and training of volunteers during monitoring events
- Assisting with MPA Watch outreach
- Conducting presentations for students
- Assisting with Channelkeeper outreach and fundraising events
- Assisting with other Channelkeeper events such as local creek/beach cleanups and water quality monitoring.
The vast quantity of environmental problems that the world is facing can often seem overwhelming. However, this internship has taught me that small actions taken by a large amount of people can create significant progress towards solving these problems. Community science programs like MPA Watch allow everyday people to collect scientific data that makes an impact. More than 24,000 surveys have been submitted by MPA Watch volunteers to date, which shows how many people care about California’s marine ecosystems as well as the potential for community science programs.