Protecting Orange County’s Coast

As a kind-hearted little blue fish named Dory once taught us, we just need to keep on swimming.

As a student at UC Irvine, one of the biggest attractions of this campus is our proximity to the beach. I mean be honest, you can only call yourself a true Anteater if you have ditched class at least once because it was too beautiful of a day to miss sinking your toes into the sand instead of suffocating in Humanities Hall.

But we take for granted that our sandy companion will always remain clean and available for our visits when, in reality, Orange County waterways stay clean because of the hard work and constant advocacy of non-profits such as the Orange County Coastkeeper. Started in 1999, this non-profit is dedicated to protecting the environment and watersheds through education, advocacy, restoration, research and enforcement.

The OC Coastkeeper works to build relationships with the OC community and schools to teach kids from kindergarten to high school the importance of keeping the environment safe. This Tuesday, June 5, the organization put on their annual event, Ocean Day, inviting 800 elementary school students from Orange County to take a trip to explore and play at the beach.

“A lot of kids have grown up in Orange County but have never been to the beach until we take them for Ocean Day,” said Pam Crouch, UCI alumna, and current Director of Communications and Marketing at OC Coastkeepers. ”We like giving the kids hands on experience when the schools can’t really afford to send them. The schools are really appreciative for our education programs because the state is constantly cutting funds and they are having trouble sending their kids on field trips. Through our programs, we hope to provide another way for students with another way to learn and hopefully by the time they reach college, they will be interested in studying water and water quality, the most important resource.”

This non-profit, through the hard work of interns and volunteers, is constantly developing and implementing new projects events to engage the community with their environment. Interns, many of them UCI students, have the opportunity to go into schools for assemblies, putting together large-scale awareness projects such as Ocean Day to organizing beach clean-ups with members of the community.

For Matt Petrofsky, a third-year social ecology major with an education minor, this internship has taken him from the front of a classroom controlling floating fish for third-graders to helping organize and implement presentations within schools.

“We get to do a range of stuff as interns from elementary school presentations to presentations at large-scale events at Ocean Day,” Matt said. “I found it through the School of Social Ecology and it has been a great experience. This has provided me with a more concrete glimpse into what the future might hold in terms of jobs. This is a place where everyone is so passionate about this clearly important issue.”

Coastkeepers has numerous internship opportunities available for all students passionate about protecting the environment or simply interested in walking the beaches to collect data. This non-profit is always looking for students interested in internship opportunities

As UCI students, we tend to take for granted the beautiful California weather around us, traveling to the beach for a quick run or weekly taco night with our friends. But it is through the hard work and dedication of non-profits like the Orange County Coastkeeper, that allow us all to just keep swimming.

If interested in volunteering or applying for an internship please visit their website at www.coastkeeper.org.