What's it like to be a Communications Intern at CCSE?

intern communications

The word “intern” probably conjures up a sad, almost comical image in most people’s minds. The intern is stereotypically the frenzied office assistant, a poor college student desperate for work experience who schedules appointments and makes coffee runs for an iron-fisted and tyrannical boss, à la Anne Hathaway’s character in "The Devil Wears Prada." Needless to say, my intern experience at CCSE was far from that.

For the last seven months, I’ve been CCSE’s communications intern. All those Facebook posts and tweets you saw, emails you received, blogs you read - yep, that was me. Not only did I learn about Steelhead trout and the world of environmental nonprofits during my internship, but I also gained valuable experience and connections that will help boost my resume and portfolio.

communications intern Cecilia

Working with our director, Chris Lim, definitely made my job an enjoyable and educational experience. We would meet a few times a week to brainstorm ideas for social media strategy, blog posts, and email content, and he was always open and receptive to my thoughts. I was also granted a lot of creative freedom in my writing and graphic designs; for the most part, whatever I came up with was a go, save for a few edits Chris would add. The job’s flexibility gave me lots of room to grow and try new things.

Speaking of which, I did try lots of new things - I had never managed a professional Facebook or Twitter account before, and learning social media strategizing was a huge bonus, seeing as most of the jobs I’m applying to now are looking for someone with that experience. I also gained experience in writing appeals for donations, which is a really important skill for anyone who’s thinking of working for a nonprofit. Throughout all this, Chris, Steph, Aleks, Shane and the rest of the staff were extremely helpful and supportive.

While I’m sad to leave CCSE, I’m excited to see what the next communications intern will do with this position. Like I said, there’s a lot of creative freedom, and I suggest taking full advantage of that! Best of luck to you, whoever you are.

Interested in applying to be our next Communications Intern? Click here for more info. 

CCSE’s Education Programs Inspire Action in Kids

The best way to conserve the environment is to educate the people that live in it. 

An even better way is to educate our children about how their actions impact their surroundings. That’s why we opened our Watershed Education Center in September, and why we teach science-based curricula in elementary schools around the county.

Tosha Punches and Ellen Morris lead our outreach efforts by teaching in classrooms and hosting workshops for kids on-site here at CCSE. 

We want students to grow up hearing about solutions to environmental problems and sustainability.
— Ellen Morris

At our Watershed Education Center opening in September, we partnered with lots of local organizations, like One Cool Earth and STEAM Trunk, among others, to set up exhibits and experiments for kids to take part in. And with our Trout in the Classroom program, kids are able to raise rainbow trout and release them as part of a field trip to a local lake. Through this program, we’ve instilled watershed awareness and conservation ethics within hundreds of students, all the way from Santa Barbara County through northern San Luis Obispo County. 

“We want students to grow up hearing about solutions to environmental problems and sustainability,” said Ellen. “We want to teach them that a ‘greener’ future is possible, and that their actions have the ability to influence it.”

By keeping our educational programs running, we can reach hundreds more students each year, and inspire them to consider the impact their actions have on their environment. And when we raise a generation of mindful, eco-centric citizens, we ultimately make the world a better place. 

The Watershed Stewards Program: A Win-Win for our Community

At Central Coast Salmon Enhancement, we have a constantly growing to-do list. However, as a small nonprofit, we have limited staff and limited time. That’s why we’re incredibly thankful for the Watershed Stewards Program (WSP), an organization that assists communities with habitat restoration for salmonids. We have two WSP members working with us for the next 10 and a half months, and we’re thrilled that they’ve joined us to help restore our watershed creek and steelhead trout habitat.

WSP is an AmeriCorps service program for young people that’s a part of the California Conservation Corps. Every year, the program places about 50 members at different natural resource organizations, where they help with a variety of projects.

Central Coast Watershed Stewards Program

Lauren Malinis and Khaalid Abdullah joined our team in October. They’ll be conducting service projects, leading environmental educational curricula at local schools, and collecting data in the field -- work that will greatly help our research and outreach efforts. It’s a win-win situation: the members receive valuable work and community outreach experience while the surrounding community and habitats benefit from their efforts.

Lauren is excited about gaining work experience. She said she’s trying to get into grad school, studying either marine science or fisheries, and that the WSP program will help her pay for that. 

Khaalid said he gets satisfaction out of knowing he’s benefitting California’s natural resources. “It’s an opportunity to be active in the world and give people knowledge about water conditions in our state. Physically getting the job done satisfies me, knowing I’m doing whatever I can to help the state of California,” he said. 

Working with the Watershed Stewards Program in Arroyo Grande

Are you ready to help keep the Watershed Stewards Program alive at CCSE? So far we have raised $4,000 of our goal of $8,000.

Click here to give - no amount is too small. We are genuinely thankful for your generous support. 


The Power of Citizen Science

Collecting data at a local watershed on the Central Coast

Scientists need good data to work with.

Without it, we can’t continue our projects to ensure the health of our watershed and steelhead trout habitats. And while our staff members at CCSE work hard to collect as much data in the field as possible, we can’t all be in different places at once. That’s why next year, we’re harnessing the power of citizen science using crowd hydrology.

Crowd hydrology empowers locals to act like true scientists -- to read water depth and collect data as they’re walking by streams and estuaries. CCSE members will set up staff plates (signs that measure water depth) in different sites around the county, along with instructions for passerby: text us the site ID, date, time, and water depth reading of the creek. The data sent in the texts is automatically added to an online database that is available to researchers, students, and resource managers for free. It’s that easy.

Crowd hydrology and CCSE

Crowd hydrology engages and informs the public while allowing for important conservation work to continue. Any contribution, no matter how small, will make all the difference.

Your donation of $1,000 will pay for staff installation and maintenance of a sign; $200 alone covers the cost of the sign and installation materials. Recently, CCSE received a $500 donation. If we can double that amount with your help, we’ll have enough funds to start our first crowd hydrology site. No amount is too small.

The staff members of CCSE and your local watershed ecosystem thank you for your support!

I know they farm oysters in Morro Bay, but this is a different species. The native oyster.

While many may not think much of oysters, they play a significant role as filter feeders. Some studies have shown that an individual oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, removing pollutants from the water. As we continue to realize how sick our oceans and estuaries are, the presence of oysters becomes a great value to us and other species.

Ostrea lurida, or the Olympia oyster, was once found throughout the Pacific coast of North America. However, due to pollution and over-harvesting, their range and population has declined. It is the only oyster native to our west coast.

One day we went out with Chris in search of them in Morro Bay and we found them! As we searched for oysters, we also found many other organisms, such as crabs, hermit crabs, sea stars, anemones, and more. Nearby, sea otters could be seen floating on their backs while sea gulls searched for food. There is something very exciting about picking up rocks and seeing a whole other world living underneath. Days like this remind me of why I want to do this work, to continue to learn and preserve these unique species cohabitating this planet with us.

Weeks later, we returned, this time with a data sheet, ready to actually get a count of how many oysters we were finding in this area. I thoroughly enjoyed recording data as well as looking for the oysters on the rocks, once again in awe of all that lives beneath these rocks. I’ve always enjoyed field work and it’s rewarding to be working on something that could potentially help bring more awareness to O. lurida and hopefully lead to a full-on restoration project.


Community outreach at the Outdoor Discovery Festival through our new intern's eyes

Getting hands wet at our macroinvertebrate station

Fabulous weather with a slight breeze, fantastic live music, ziplining over your family and friends, participating in a color run, and discovering more about our awesome environment at numerous tables from various local nonprofits. Sounds like a great time, huh? As a new intern with Central Coast Salmon Enhancement, I helped table at the Outdoor Discovery Festival at Lopez Lake this past Saturday. I hope everyone had a chance to stop by the Central Coast Salmon Enhancement tent. This was my first time attending and definitely won’t be my last! The CSSE tent was a huge success as a parent confirmed when she told her child, “We’ve been at this tent over an hour and it’s time to look at other ones.” Yes, an entire hour and many faces became familiar as the kids came back for a second or even third time. The kids clearly enjoyed our table where they could perform a hands-on exploration of benthic macroinvertebrates (don’t worry, I didn’t know what that was at first either, but I’ll explain below), feed the real and model trout, learn more about the difference between a rainbow trout and steelhead trout, and finally ending in kids becoming “Watershed Allies”!

Look at all the young people who pledged to be a "Watershed Ally"

Look at all the young people who pledged to be a "Watershed Ally"

Now to explain benthic macroinvertebrates, betho means “living on, in, or near the bottom” and macroinvertebrates are organisms that don’t have a backbone and are visible without the use of a microscope. Not too complex, right? So once I heard Michelle, our Watershed Stewards Program intern, say that they didn’t bite then I had both hands in the bucket! Freshwater clams, mayflies, crane flies, snails, and snail eggs were just some of the few things that we all discovered together. It was a great way to connect with local creeks and learn more about what’s under the water’s surface that nourishes our rainbow trout. It was also nice to hear many of the kids say that they had already learned some of these things during our “Trout in the Classroom” program.

Another eye catcher at our table were the live rainbow trout and sharing the story of the 40 lb steelhead that was caught in the Arroyo Grande creek really fascinated people. While people were watching the live rainbow trout swim, the fake steelhead trout were busy munching down on food. The kids sifted through toy insects and pieces of trash, thus learning why it is important to throw their trash away and not litter. Once they threw the trash away, they chose toy insects and threw it into the mouths of our fake steelhead. Once they learned about litter and pollution, kids were signing their names left and right on posters, pledging to become “Watershed Allies”!

There was never a dull moment at the CCSE table and so I’d call it a huge success. I hope I see you all out there next year with your hands covered in benthic macroinvertebrates!