College Station, Texas — Texas Sea Grant welcomes four new undergraduate interns this summer as part of the Community Engaged Internship (TXSG-CEI) Program. This program provides opportunities for students from underrepresented and minority communities to receive experience and mentorship in coastal and marine subject research and practice. CEI internships require the completion of a project that extends the knowledge of community stakeholders to address coastal issues of environmental, economic, and social importance.
Marisa Gonzales, Skyler Nix, Amanda Pollakis and Kaitlen Vargas have been selected as Texas Sea Grant’s 2023 Community Engaged Interns. Each student is pursuing their bachelor’s degree within the Texas A&M University system.
Gonzales is a senior at Texas A&M University at Galveston, where she studies marine biology and works in the Seafood Safety Lab. “I am extremely honored and excited to have been selected as an intern at Texas Sea Grant for the summer of 2023,” says Gonzales. “I am very eager to learn and help educate and connect with others!”
Nix, a sophomore, studies ecology and conservation biology at Texas A&M University in College Station. “This summer, I hope to immerse myself into the coastal conservation efforts in Texas, learning on the ground and connecting locally with communities,” Nix says. “My goals are to expand my own sense of community, make conservation more mainstream, and foster an appreciation for and empower action to protect wildlife,” said Nix. “The Community Engaged Intern position will be my first role focused on marine conservation, so I’m very eager to apply my previous experiences to this opportunity!”
Both Gonzales and Nix will be working with Julie Massey, Texas Sea Grant’s Distinguished Extension Agent for Galveston County. Together, they will explore how Texas Sea Grant connects coastal science and coastal communities.
Pollakis is a senior at Texas A&M and is pursuing a degree in environmental studies. Pollakis will be paired with Pat Cruz, Texas Sea Grant’s Aransas County Marine Extension Agent. Together, they will work in the Corpus Christi area, primarily with the Je’Sani Smith Foundation to enhance beach safety and promote rip current awareness. “I am very excited to be a part of the Texas Sea Grant Program,” said Pollakis. “It’s a great opportunity for me to apply the knowledge from my classes to real-life situations to raise awareness and educate beachgoers and the community about water hazards.”
Vargas is a senior at Texas A&M, where she is pursuing a degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences. “I believe that reconnecting our communities with their local environments and fostering a love for nature should be at the forefront of everything we do in environmental sciences. I am very excited to learn from seasoned experts and to work with an array of talented individuals with unique perspectives in this program.,” Vargas says. She will be working with Dr. Pam Plotkin, director of Texas Sea Grant, on the ongoing “Share the Shore, Y’all” project, aimed at educating beachgoers on responsible ways of engaging with marine wildlife.
Through mentorship from Texas Sea Grant professionals over the summer and by participating in community engagement activities, each intern will gain experience and further knowledge on how to get involved in local coastal community projects. They will also complete a professional development series focusing on networking and building relationships with local community members.
The internship also requires the completion of a project that extends the knowledge of community stakeholders to address coastal issues of environmental, economic, and social importance, and interns will plan to present their projects in August.
Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 34 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.