As summer comes to a close, it is a bittersweet time for the CWH team as we say goodbye to another extraordinary group of interns who have shared their great talent, passion and curiosity with us monitoring the health of the LA River and sharing science education with local partners from Watts to Pacoima and everywhere in between.
Education is where the work of water equity begins and CWH has been investing in the next generation of water leaders at every level of education. From sharing the science of water with the elementary and middle school students in partnership with LAUSD to supporting a robust internship program with colleges throughout the region–UCLA, USC, Occidental, Cal State Northridge and Long Beach–we are preparing students for careers in science and engineering. This also means ensuring that students from all backgrounds and neighborhoods have access to the best information, tools and educational opportunities as they help shape our water future for decades to come. Here at CWH, we believe those educational opportunities are best served up outdoors.
Before I knew how to read, I knew how to fish the rivers and lakes of the Owens Valley. There is something remarkable about exposure to nature at an early age that shapes your perspective, behavior, and ambitions for the rest of your life. These experiences cemented a deeply rooted ethic of conservation and respect for our natural resources, and specifically, water. This kind of interaction with the natural environment is one that cannot be replicated in a classroom, and one that too many of our children and youth do not have the opportunity to experience early and often.
One way CWH puts these values into practice is by getting students outdoors to teach hands-on science through the LA River Watershed Monitoring Program in partnership with LA City, the City of Burbank and LA County. This River may not look or run like the Owens, but she is our River. If we let her, she has the power to connect Angelenos to our unique urban environment but most importantly, to each other. The LA River also has the power to educate students young and old about the importance of their own role in creating a healthier environment for their neighborhood and community. Through LA River monitoring, reservoir tours, and community education we are doing our part to instill that connection to nature through science and make our mark on the next generation of water leaders.
So for now, we say goodbye to two intelligent and dynamic young women, Melissa Ikeda and Nour Fadel, UCLA students who have been supporting CWH’s work in science education and communication this summer. They are perfect examples of science and environmental leadership to carry forward LA’s water future.
Thank you for sharing your passion for learning with us!
Melissa and Nour had the opportunity to share the highlights from their experience with CWH.
What was your favorite part of the internship?
Melissa: One of my favorite things about interning with the Council for Watershed Health this summer was learning more about what is happening in my own backyard in the LA river watershed! Though I knew a little about the LA River before interning, I learned so much from the knowledgeable CWH staff about the monitoring efforts, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities in the watershed that I was unaware of before my internship.
Nour: Learning more about the LA River and getting to know all the aspects that go into the rejuvenation of the river and its other considerations. Discovering all the activities that I can do on the river such as the kayaking trips and the reservoir walks.
Melissa Ikeda (left) and Megna Patel (another former CWH intern from UCLA) at the Hollywood Reservoir Walk led by LADWP.
How does the internship relate to what you're studying at UCLA, and how does it provide real-world experience that complements your academic studies?
Melissa: As an environmental science major at UCLA, interning with CWH has allowed me take what I have learned in my classes, which have ranged from water pollution and conservation to policy and communications, and apply them in a real-world setting. The experience I have gained while interning with CWH has been monumental in demonstrating how the various topics I learn about in class can be applied through nonprofit work to positively impact the health of the environment and communities.
Nour: As an environmental science major with a focus in environmental health, I was always interested in looking at how the health of the river and the watersheds we live in can affect the health and the lives of the communities around it. Reading the Los Angeles River Watershed Monitoring Program (LARWMP) report and especially at the bacterial indicators and safe to swim/ safe to fish sites gave me more insight about how to deal with such issues and the magnitude of their importance.
What are your plans for the future?
Melissa: For the future, I plan to continue learning more about water issues while studying at UCLA, and will be taking a leadership in water management class in the fall. I also would like to continue to hone my science communication and outreach skills, which I had the opportunity to develop greatly during my time with CWH. After I graduate, I plan to take a year or two off school to work and develop my interests before hopefully returning to school to pursue a Master's degree.
Nour: After graduating this year, I plan to gain more experience in different fields within environmental health such as air quality. I would also like to gain more hands on experience in different fields such as working in research labs. After taking a year or two off working in these fields and trying out other internships, I plan to go back to school and pursue a Master’s degree in public health.
What contribution do you want to make to the environmental field, and in particular, to water issues?
Nour Abou Fadel, CWH Intern.
Melissa: In the environmental field, I would like to work on projects that have the dual goal of improving the health of communities as well as the environment. An avenue I’d like to pursue in the future regarding water issues is green infrastructure projects that benefit communities by creating green space and safer streets, while also improving water quality and groundwater supply.
Nour: In the future I would like to look more into drinking water quality and helping to reduce the issues of contamination and exposure to chemicals that we see today happening in many communities in the US and around the world. I would also like to encourage more people to utilize the rivers that are around them and have more of a sense of community involvement and understanding regarding those issues that concern them.
Join CWH in celebrating the next generation of water leaders this November for our Fall Fundraiser. For more information visit: www.watershedhealth.org/2017fallfundraiser