The Santa Barbara Channel includes a network of nineteen marine protected areas, five along the coast and fourteen surrounding the Channel Islands. Marine protected areas (MPAs), are underwater parks that provide safe havens for marine wildlife. Through Channelkeeper’s MPA Watch program, staff, volunteers, and interns collect data related to human use activities at eleven of them.
Thanks to volunteers from our MPA Watch program, we’re able to gather data at three Coastal MPAs: Campus Point MPA, Naples MPA, and Kashtayit (Gaviota State Beach) MPA. The insights gained through this community science program provide context for other scientific data being collected to monitor the health of marine ecosystems and the social and economic effects of MPAs.
This year, we are fortunate to have two interns supporting this community science program, thanks in part to a grant award from the UCSB Coastal Fund. MPA Watch interns conduct weekly surveys to ensure consistent coverage of all the coastal MPAs, conduct data entry of volunteer surveys and data quality control checks, assist with volunteer training workshops, and conduct volunteer field training sessions.
Channelkeeper has worked with some incredible UCSB student interns to help support the MPA Watch program over the years. In addition to gaining valuable experience with data collection, data management, and volunteer training, these interns also gain insight into what it’s like to work at a small environmental organization.
We’d like to introduce you to one of our extraordinary interns, Andrea Chagoya.
“Andrea is a wonderful addition to Channelkeeper’s MPA Watch program and we are lucky to have her as an MPA Watch intern this year. She’s dedicated to marine conservation, hardworking, and has even joined us for additional Channelkeeper activities outside of her MPA Watch duties like helping out at our East Side Community Watershed Brigade Cleanup event, ” says Education and Outreach Director, Penny Owens. “We are thrilled to have her on our team.”
We took a moment to talk with her recently and learn more about her interest in the ocean and marine biology.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Mexico, in the bordering city of Tijuana, Baja California until I was 9 years old. My family and I moved to the United States as I was entering my 4th year of elementary school, and there wasn’t a single drop of English on my tongue. All I knew how to say is “Hello, my name is Andrea’ and “yes”. Within a year I knew English. Reading has always been a passion of mine, so by 6th grade I had already read all the Harry Potter books in English, as well as other series. I am interested in aquatic biology, especially marine life. I am currently a 4th year in Aquatic Biology at UCSB. I have worked hands-on with sea turtles in Costa Rica, am an intern for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, and will be starting to work at the Sea Center at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Other interests of mine include soccer, reading, Harry Potter, baseball, and hiking.
Why do you believe that Marine Protected Areas are important?
I believe that Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are important because we need to protect marine life as much as we can, and the purpose of MPAs is to do exactly that. Our ocean holds so many important species and ecosystems. Protecting our ocean must be a top priority.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen while conducting an MPA Watch survey?
I once saw a pod of dolphins jumping around the waters of Kashtayit beach where I was conducting the KWEST transect survey with Penny Owens. They were beautiful and it was actually the first time I had ever seen dolphins. The day was so beautiful and warm, the water was so blue and glistening, and the sky was so clear that the sun shone bright in a beautiful way. The dolphins looked majestic jumping and diving in the water together as if dancing. Doing MPA Watch surveys has allowed me to see a lot of beautiful sunsets and views, but I have to say the dolphins were my favorite.
What have you learned?
I have learned a lot during my time being an MPA Watch intern with Channelkeeper. I’ve learned how to input data more efficiently, I have learned what to include in my surveys and the commentary that goes with it, I have learned when people will most likely be on the beach, I have learned how the moon’s cycle affects the tides and the amount of algae in the beach, and most importantly I have learned how relaxing and necessary our beaches are.
What do you appreciate most about the ocean?
The thing I appreciate most about the ocean is that it holds the most diverse life in the world. There are so many different species that are truly fascinating in the ocean that we know of, and so many that we don’t know of. The ocean gives us life, and so much more. To me, the ocean is the essence of planet Earth.
Join Channelkeeper’s virtual MPA Watch Volunteer Training Workshop on Thursday, May 12, from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Email Penny@sbck.org to sign up.