College of Science

Environmental Science MS

ENSCI Student Conducts Research for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Sarah smiling and holding a fish in her hands


Sarah Winkel, a current Environmental Science master’s student, recently completed an internship with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of her Professional Science Master's degree requirement. Sarah was tasked with data entry and analysis, conducting interviews/surveys for recreational crab fisheries and fishing practices, and creating data visualizations and reports for use by scientific and policy staff. 

We reached out to Sarah to learn more about her research and overall CSUMB experience as a graduate student. Check out her interview below! 

In 3 - 4 sentences, describe the work you are doing at your internship site.

While at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, I analyzed large whale entanglement data associated with the California commercial Dungeness crab fishing industry. I created visual representations of where crab gear was set compared to whale entanglement report locations to highlight the great distances whales are capable of traveling once entangled in gear. There is a misperception that, since many of the whale entanglements reported in California occur within Monterey Bay, closing Monterey Bay to crab fishing would resolve whale entanglements. However, the graphics I produced and the data I organized counters that idea and further reinforced the need for statewide solutions to large whale entanglements.

How has your work related to the courses you're taking at CSUMB? Do you find yourself utilizing the new skills you've gained through the ENSCI program? 

Through my internship, I certainly relied on many of the GIS skills I have learned from Intro and Advanced GIS, and having completed these courses, I felt really comfortable doing spatial analysis. I also wrote up two large-scale reports so the techniques I developed across the internship can be used by the Department, and I found myself drawing on the writing skills I developed in Research Methods (ENVS 560).

In a few sentences, how is your project contributing to your professional goals? 

I made several amazing connections at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and those that I worked alongside most closely were very encouraging to apply to the agency. I worked with different departments that spanned many different disciplines, and I got exposure to both marine and terrestrial fields that I had never encountered before.

What has been your favorite part about your internship? How did you find out about this internship?

The most exciting days of my internship involved waking up very early and going whale watching in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Bay, where we saw dozens of humpback whales and I got an up close view of crab fishing gear in the water. I was also lucky enough to participate in electrofishing field days to help with juvenile trout surveys in low-flow systems, which gave me the chance to handle and measure endangered trout. I learned of this internship through the Currents, and from a fellow graduate student with COAST.

What is your favorite part about being a graduate student at CSUMB? 

I have really enjoyed the small classes at CSUMB and the way our cohort follows the same course path. It has really allowed us to support each other in classes. The backdrop of Monterey Bay certainly helps too!


Congratulations on completing your internship, Sarah! We look forward to seeing where your professional endeavors take you.