Greetings from San Francisco!

So three weeks have officially passed since I started my internship with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in downtown San Francisco. CBD is an organization that believes humans are deeply connected to nature and that all species have intrinsic value. For this reason, CBD fights for the survival of all species, especially endangered species, through a combination of science, law, creative media, and activism. Their main focus is on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

My first day at the CBD office in San Francisco (they also have other offices in 9 other states) was not my best. I was in the beginning stages of a cold and had little sleep due to my anxiety of it being my first day at my new internship. But my coworkers and all of the legal interns (there are 6 compared to us 2 science interns) still greeted me with open arms. My supervisor, Shaye, showed me around the office and introduced me to everyone. I was honestly shocked my how many lawyers worked in this one office. Before starting this internship, I had firmly believed that there were as many scientists as there were lawyers. But CBD uses a different approach. Many of my coworkers are scientists disguised as lawyers. For example, I am currently working with two ladies, Catherine and Emily, who both have their bachelors in science but also have a law degree. And Catherine also has a masters of science degree. Currently, I am helping them work on a project that I find very interesting and that I started doing research for on my very first day. On my first day, Catherine had me research endangered species that were being adversely affected by plastic pollution in oceans, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She showed me the petition and asked me to include a new section in the petition dedicated to the impacts on endangered species. Even though I was sick and very sleepy, I was intrigued by this project. After finishing the petition, Emily also had me do research on a similar topic: microplastics and plastic pollution in the NW Hawaiian Islands and the Western Pacific Garbage Patch.

Great Pacific Garbage patch; via http://begreen.botw.org/

After working on both projects, Catherine and Emily invited me to a conference call where we talked to another coworker in different office about how to create a website dedicated to this important and serious issue. During the call, I was able to contribute some ideas that Catherine and Emily thought would be a great addition to the website such as including maps and facts about plastic pollution in the ocean. After the call, it was my job to look up “visualization” facts that would help people, well, visualize what plastic pollution what look like while also giving them statistics about how much plastic is in the ocean and how it harms endangered species. I was able to find amazing images and facts that would boggle your mind (boggle I say!).

This past week has also brought up some other interesting projects. Miyoko, my office buddy and other supervisor, has had me write up a support letter for other coral conservation groups to sign in favor of a petition CBD wrote to list coral species under the ESA. Miyoko and Shaye both work on similar projects (Shaye is the scientist while Miyo is the lawyer) so it came as no surprise when the research I was doing for Shaye about ocean acidification was passed to Miyoko to read about to include in petitions. She told me that she thought she knew everything about ocean acidification, until I found about 20 new articles that begged to differ. Working with these lawyers on science issues in petitions may become one of the most valuable aspects of my internship and something that I’m looking forward to doing more often.

Besides my research and writing, I have been able to get out of the office with my coworkers and enjoy San Francisco. CBD actually offers a few events for the interns, but they are meant for the legal interns (I invited myself). In my first outing with my coworkers, we visited Abbotts Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore. I thought we were visiting a forested park but instead I got a cold and very windy beach. However, I was able to see two Harbour Seals and some endangered Snowy Plover. I have to say, walking through sand is a great workout.

Despite my opposition to exercise, San Francisco is a city of activism, smarts, and great food and CBD is turning out to be a great place to work. You have to try the food trucks here too (I recommend the cupcake trucks but you can also enjoy delicious pizza.) So I will say bye for now but it’s been great chatting!

About Kristin Kokal