Intern Dispatches: Robyn Gillum and the art of science communication

Hi Friends,

Here at San Diego Coastkeeper, we are lucky to have a team of passionate, highly-motivated interns who work with us behind the scenes to inject new ideas and fresh voices into our programs. Periodically, we like to bring those interns to the forefront with a blog feature. Today, we’re pleased to introduce you to intern-extraordinaire Robyn Gillum, who recaps her last six months embedded with Coastkeeper’s education team, below.  

~ Programs Director Kristin Kuhn 

Let me start off with a customary introduction: My name is Robyn, and I have been an Education Intern at San Diego Coastkeeper for the past 6 months. I am currently a senior at UC San Diego and am in the process of finishing up my two degrees, Environmental Systems: Ecology Behavior and Evolution (BS), and Political Science (BA). When I graduate this June I hope to work my way into the legislative side of environmental policy to form a bridge between science and policy using knowledge that I’ve gained from both of my majors. You might wonder, then, how I found myself working in education?

I’ve been very fortunate to have had amazing policy-based internships in college; I learned about the California Legislature as a summer intern in Senator Mike McGuire’s Capitol office, and I got a taste of Washington D.C. as a policy intern with American Forests. The Environmental Systems department at UC San Diego requires students to complete an internship during their senior year to get practical experience, so I started looking around San Diego to scout the perfect position. I knew I had a solid understanding of policy, but I wasn’t as confident in my ability to communicate science to non-scientists, and I realized the best way to learn this new skill was by finding an education position. I already knew from my time at American Forests that I enjoyed working at non-profits due to the relaxed, friendly atmosphere, as well as the freedom they give interns to explore and create their own content, so when I saw that San Diego Coastkeeper was looking for an Education Intern, I jumped right on the opportunity.

Interns at work
Here I am (right) along with Vicky (center) instructing students at an after school presentation at Innovation Middle School.

On my first day at San Diego Coastkeeper last August, I went directly into the deep end of environmental education. Initially, there was a large learning curve because I knew nothing about California’s science standards or creating lesson plans. Thankfully, Sandra, my supervisor here, patiently answered my questions and let me tag along to a seminar for informal educators hosted by the San Diego Unified School District. Since then, I’ve written new lesson plans focused on ocean warming and how it affects marine animals, presented in classrooms across San Diego to hundreds of students, and watched as they’ve discovered the important role they play to keep their communities clean. In the process of learning how to effectively communicate science, I gained an appreciation for science educators who can take complex science concepts and make them accessible to all ages. As my time here at San Diego Coastkeeper comes to an end, I’m already looking for ways to continue making my own positive impact, just as so many of these students (as well as the staff at San Diego Coastkeeper!) have inspired me to do.