How do we measure the success of a university program? With an “alumni meter.” We check in with the alumni to see if their time here helped them realize their career and personal goals. If we help people lead fulfilling lives, we are doing our jobs.
Scroll down to read some inspiring stories from our former students.
In just three years since his graduation from CSUMB’s Coastal and Watershed Science and Policy Master’s program (now Applied Marine and Watershed Science), Danny Wright has made a profound, positive impact on the global water crisis through his founding of Gravity Water. Gravity Water is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Santa Cruz, with operations in various developing communities in Nepal. The number one cause of water-related illness and death around the world is fecal contamination from human waste. Gravity Water focuses on implementing their systems at schools since children are the greatest at risk. After launching in 2016, he and his team have provided clean drinking water to over 3,000 children.
Danny attributes Gravity Water’s success to the simplicity of the system’s design. Providing clean drinking water requires a freshwater source, filtration, and energy to create pressure for filtration. Most developing countries throughout the world have access to freshwater and even to filters and filtration systems, but the energy needed to operate these systems is often the largest limiting factor. Gravity Water uses the most freely available energy resource, regardless of location: gravity. Rainwater tanks are stored on elevated platforms allowing gravity to push the water through filters and preventing the water from coming into contact with human waste. As well as being environmentally sustainable through the use of rainwater, Gravity Water is also socially sustainable. The systems are built and maintained by community members, preventing dependence on foreign assistance.
Danny came up with the concept of Gravity Water as an undergraduate doing a field studies course in Belize, but he shared with us that the professors in the CSUMB AMWS graduate program equipped him with the tools to achieve his dream. Here, he learned to strengthen his grant writing skills, manage data, and implement water science. While at CSUMB, Danny also worked with the non-profit organization Surfrider to form the largest volunteer-based water quality monitoring program in the U.S.
It’s not only Danny’s work, but also his passion that inspires all who meet him. With a great big grin, he declares “I get to wake up every day knowing I’m doing something fulfilling.” Sure, there have been sacrifices along the way, but he admits that he’s never been happier in his life. Danny encourages students to continue learning from the world around them, and to not be discouraged by naysayers. He also encourages those that are interested in Gravity Water’s work or the general non-profit sector to reach out to him.
Congratulations on all your work thus far Danny. We look forward to seeing more amazing things from you!
In 2003 Jason Mansour graduated from CSUMB with a bachelor's degree in Earth science systems and policy. Since then, he’s has some pretty great adventures working as a NOAA corps commissioned officer. We’ve touched base with Jason before (Scroll down to see his previous post) , but since a lot has happened between our last inquiry and now, we thought we’d check in again. As expected, LCDR Mansour did not disappoint. He served two years initially, on the Miller Freeman, studying Pollock in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Then, in the fall of 2006, Jason earned his wings and began flying the DHC-6 Twin Otter, from which he commanded low level aerial surveys to study marine mammals. In 2011 Jason was assigned to assist Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator, in Washington DC. He returned to the squadron the next year, after being selected to fly the NOAA Gulfstream IV-SP high altitude 'hurricane hunter' jet. For the next four years he he gathered real time atmospheric data to improve forecast models and better track storm intensity. Since 2016, he presently serves as the NOAA Liaison to the Oceanographer of the United States Navy. In this position he experiences an ever changing schedule of keeping all 6 of NOAA's line offices aware of the Navy's activities. By working with leadership in both NOAA and the Navy, he improves their relationship and helps find new ways for the two to collaborate. Understanding the importance of communicating science and its applicability to every-day life is something that alumni from CSUMB bring to the table. Jason says that a scientific background instilled upon discipline and thoroughness has served him well. As one of roughly 40 aviators commissioned in the NOAA corps, with more than 3000 hours of operational flight time, and an original goal of becoming a pilot, we had to know which aircraft is his favorite. And he told us that it remains the DHC-6 Twin Otter. “Possessing the authority and responsibility to command a crew of 3-6 scientists, operating offshore at an altitude of 1,000 feet or less photographing a plethora of fauna is a wonderful mission. After accruing over 2000 flight hours in the Otter it still makes me get that excited smile before every takeoff and after every landing.” When asked what the purpose of his career is, he expressed that the NOAA Corps officers run research platforms to obtain environmental intelligence, and therefore assist in securing natural security for the U.S. “The NOAA Corps assists with the acquisition of the best available environmental information so the best possible decisions can be made.” Lastly, his advice to anyone looking to pursue a career in his field is this, “The opportunities and assignments that are available to NOAA Corps officers across the fleet, within the squadron and across all six NOAA line offices is impressive. Make certain to maximize each opportunity and ensure you experience the entire swath of NOAA's portfolio as an operational expert and leader. The teams that you integrate with and the missions you complete will remain with you for many years. Do not hesitate when opportunity presents itself. Execute and make it count!” If anyone should know this to be true, it’s definitely Jason Mansour, as he has experienced first hand much of what NOAA corps has to offer.
I recently finished working with the Seafloor Mapping Lab on three bathymetric surveys of storage reservoirs for East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). The project served as my PSM masters requirement and stemmed from my interest in how climate change might affect erosion rates at a watershed scale. After I finished the initial project PSM for Pardee Reservoir,EBMUD asked us to do two more studies of Briones and Upper San Leandro terminal reservoirs in the East Bay Hills. Simultaneously I have been doing GIS and remote-sensing consulting work for Friends of the Earth, helping them with an international forest campaign that is investigating ongoing violations of critical peat bog treaty borders in Borneo and similar work quantifying deforestation around palm oil plantations in Nigeria. Most recently, I started working for a consulting firm called Sierra Watersehd Progressive in Groveland, CA. We perform integrated water management planning throughout the State of California. The AMWS program gave me the knowledge and tools to make the most of these opportunities!
I received my B.S. in Earth Systems, Science & Policy in 2007 and a M.S. in Coastal Watershed Science and Policy from CSUMB in 2013. The experiences I gained while in these programs, and those gained as a member of the Institute for Applied Marine Ecology (IfAME) working with Dr. James Lindholm, provided me with the skills and knowledge to be competitive in today’s marine science job market. After graduating, I was accepted into the California Sea Grant Fellowship Program where I worked with the California Coastal Conservancy’s Climate Ready Program.Then I accepted a two year Packard Foundation fellowship working with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) and Oregon Department of Fish and Game’s (ODFW) Marine Reserves Program. An important aspect of this position was to integrate California Current wide methodologies and data sets to promote collaboration and compatibility between nearshore monitoring programs. This past February I accepted a permanent position with ODFW’s Marine Reserve Program. I use applied technologies to studythe ecology or nearshore species to inform marine reserve and nearshore management decisions. This position has allowed me to come full circle and continue to hone the ecological skill set I acquired at CSUMB to really work at the interface of science and policy and see how my science impacts management decisions.
After graduating from CSUMB in 2001, I followed a long and winding road to an academic career at the University of Arizona. After finishing my capstone project at CSUMB, I worked for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, then got a Master’s degree from Oregon State University,and then worked at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab for a few years. Not having had enough school yet, I later went back and got my PhD from Oregon State. I then earned a Smith Conservation Research Fellowship for postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley, where I studied the impacts of drought on streams as part of an attempt to balance human water use with ecosystem flow needs. All along that long journey, I benefited enormously from the skill set that I gained at CSUMB, and am sure I wouldn’t be in this great position today without the experiences I had in the Science program.
After receiving my Bachelor of Science in Earth Systems, Science & Policy in 2005 I continued to work with Moss Landing Marine Lab in the Marine Pollution Studies Lab and as a commercial fisherman in California and Alaska for about another year. I then packed my truck and headed north to Seattle, Washington and enrolled at the University of Washington School of Marine Affairs to pursue a Master’s in Marine Affairs. During that stint in Seattle I managed to pick up the degree as well as the girlfriend who would ultimately become my wife. To illustrate what a small world it is, she actually ran Camp SEA Lab while I was at CSUMB. Despite us both being in the same place at the same time we never actually met. It took graduate school for that to happen!
After completing graduate school and finally hanging up my rain gear after 13 years of commercial fishing, I was fortunate to be awarded a Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. As a Knauss Fellow I spent a year working in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. More specifically, I was posted to the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries & Coast Guard Subcommittee. In essence, pretty much anything related to the oceans other than offshore energy and non-Coast Guard military issues needs to pass through the Committee first. That includes confirmation hearings for NOAA Administrator, the NOAA budget, all fisheries issues, ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, etc. Clearly that Committee is the place to be for fish geek policy wonks! Although Congress can be a frustrating place to work, I couldn’t have asked for a more thorough exposure to the suite of issues facing our oceans.
A year on Capitol Hill was enough and my wife and I were itching to get back to the West Coast. So we packed up and headed back to Seattle. I worked for a little over a year as the Government Affairs Liaison for a Seattle-based fishing company operating in Alaska. From there I moved on to my current job as the Executive Director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers (ABSC), where I represent a little more than 70% of the crab fishermen in the Bering Sea. In my job at ABSC I handle all of their regulatory issues at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the Alaska Board of Fisheries. I’m the main representative with Executive Branch agencies including the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife at the State level. At the Federal level, I deal with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the US Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality among others. I also deal with the Governors of both Alaska and Washington State on a pretty routine basis. I handle all of our issues in front of the U.S. Congress and have been called upon to testify during hearings as well as provide Congressional briefings on a number of occasions. And finally, I represent the Crabbers at the international level as an advisor to the U.S. Department of State. Moving away from the world of government, I’m also the point man with other fishing groups both in Alaska and around the country. And I handle all of the Crabbers’ dealings with members of the environmental community including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), and others.
In closing, my job keeps me jumping to be sure! But I credit a lot of my success to my time at CSUMB. While I was here, the ESSP program provided me with a diverse and rigorous curriculum. There was (and still is) a strong connection to the broader marine science community. This offered me the chance to learn about and participate in some of the most cutting-edge science being done anywhere. And as you all know, with a place as magical as Monterey Bay as the backdrop it’s hard not to be inspired to make a positive impact on the world’s oceans and the people who depend on it!
I came to CSUMB as a freshman for the fall semester of 1996. Having spent most of my life to that point in Southern California, CSUMB was alluring for the change of climate, attitude,and the ‘interesting’ sounding curriculum. I came to CSUMB to focus on marine science, and quickly found that there was so much more to learn in so many other disciplines. Ultimately, I graduated having triple majored in ESTP, Mathematics, and CSIT. This has turned out to be a good mix. I’ve since moved on to work in the Biospheric Sciences branch at NASA Ames Research Center where I am, in short, a ‘data enabler’. Specifically, I develop and support technologies to help earth, atmosphere, and oceans scientists collect remote sensing data from manned and unmanned aircraft.
My first assigned project was with the Wildfire Research and Application Partnership working on the Western States Fire Mission. An instrument developed at NASA Ames was affixed to NASA Ikhana aircraft (NASA’s version of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and flown over wildfires during the summer and fall of the late 2000’s. I helped to develop an algorithm that would, in real time, use the data acquired by our instrument to map wildfires. I also helped with the communication system that would disseminate this information to incident commanders in the field allowing them to make near real time tactical decisions on how to best handle various fires. Eventually, we were able to move this technology the forest service.
Other projects I have worked on include the real time mapping of NASA’s airborne assets, helping in the creation of hyperspectral imagers used for pipeline mapping, developing an embedded sun tracker for use with small UAVs used in atmospheric measurements, developing a communications and tracking system to be used with small UAVs, support and development of and one of my latest big projects has been the continued development and support of the satellite communications system on board two of NASA’s Global Hawk UAVs. These aircraft are being used for atmospheric science and hurricane science, helping some of the nations best scientists learn more about our environment.
Over the years, and in support of these missions, I’ve had the opportunity to work from home, from other NASA facilities all over the US, above the Arctic Circle, and even from Guam. Working for NASA is a rewarding experience, and my education at CSUMB is certainly what made it possible. Our missions often require collaboration among so many different scientists and engineers that I have no doubt that the multifaceted education I received at CSUMB has given me the unique background to better understand the people with whom I work.
After graduating from ESSP (now ESTP) in May 2003, I accepted a direct commissioning into the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Corps. The decision to join the nation’s 7th Uniformed Service was an easy one – I was looking to engage a career that would allow me three simple desires. The opportunity to apply my degree, the opportunity to serve my country and the opportunity to earn my wings. Right away I was sent for my initial 2 year sea tour on board the NOAA Ship Miller Freeman. Based out of Seattle, WA our area of operations was primarily within the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea with the primary mission being to monitor various fisheries, especially the Pollack fishery, and ensure that these fisheries were being managed and harvested in a sustainable manner. On board I was designated as the Medical Officer, Rescue Swimmer and Damage Control Officer, but my best role was being able to get on deck with the crew and actually get a bona fide ‘hands on experience’ and immerse myself in the science and conservation efforts that were happening on board day in and day out. Upon completion of my sea tour, I was selected for flight school in Vero Beach, FL in 2006 and reported for duty at NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center in Tampa, FL. My primary aircraft, the DHC-6 Twin Otter, took me all over the country on various survey missions that sometimes required non-stop flights of 8 hours or more. A typical mission included monitoring endangered right whales off the eastern seaboard, tracking Leatherback Turtles and Blue Whales offshore of California or observing Bowhead whale migration patterns above the Arctic Circle. As an Aircraft Commander, it was my responsibility to ensure that the scientists arrived at their research site with the right tools, personnel and equipment to facilitate effective and efficient data acquisition 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Upon successful completion of my light aircraft flight tour, an unexpected opportunity presented itself. I was asked to be the Flag Aide to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere - Dr. Jane Lubchenco. This position was in direct support of the NOAA Administrator, which required extensive travel, logistical support and ensuring that information was routed to the proper points of contact.
After my assignment as Flag Aide, I returned to the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill AFB in Tampa, FL to fly the G-IV hurricane hunter high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. I take great pride in applying the scientific methods obtained during my undergraduate education at CSU Monterey Bay with the unique considerations of operational assignments. In 2014 I married my beautiful wife Berit and we currently reside in Saint Petersburg, FL where I enjoy cycling, fly fishing and surfing.
I am a Natural Resource Specialist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. I work as part of the Marine Habitat Project out of the Marine Resources Program office in Newport Oregon. Specifically I am part of the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Team. We are conducting baseline ROV surveys of the newly implemented Red Fish Rocks Marine Reserve in Southern Oregon. It was not until I returned to the work force that I realized all that I learned in my time at CSUMB. The technology, ecological and policy knowledge as well as my hands-on experience in the field has definitely given me a leg up here at Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife. It is amazing how correlated and appreciated my skills are in my new job. The best aspects of theCWSP Master's program were the hands on field work experiences that I gained through my graduate internship, the research opportunities through the IFAME lab as well as the coursework familiarizing me with current technologies, marine ecological theory, experimental design and report writing. I would like to express how valuable switching from a Thesis track to theProfessional Science Master's program has been in my obtaining employment after graduation as well equipping me for professional work with a state agency. Although I sacrificed the experience of completing an independent research project by not completing a Master's thesis, I instead gained hands on applicable job skills and experience that gave me an edge as an applicant after graduation.
I would like to tell future applicants that the PSM program is, in my experience, just as valuable, if not more so, than the Thesis track for obtaining employment in a professional research position at a state agency.
In 1997, I enrolled in the Earth Systems, Science, and Policy (ESSP, now ESTP) major at CSUMB and quickly realized what a unique opportunity the program and the location had to offer. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to study, a geology/hydrology course my first semester quickly got me hooked on streams and aquatic ecology. In April 2000, I took advantage of an internship opportunity with a new research team lead by Dr Fred Watson (now CCoWS) at the Watershed Institute at CSUMB. Later that week I was collecting sediment and nutrient samples in streams throughout the Salinas Valley…..at 2 am. Part of this work eventually became my Capstone project and was the beginning of my career as an aquatic ecologist. After graduating in 2001, I became a full-time research technician at the Watershed Institute where I continued to evolve and sharpen my interests in watershed sciences. I ended up spending nine years at the Institute and participated in a diverse series of research projects – see the CCoWS homepage. Between the courses at CSUMB and the research experience gained while at the Institute, I knew I was well equipped to take on new challenges that lie ahead. While working at the Institute, I enrolled as a graduate student at San Jose State University (SJSU) in 2003, where I studied steelhead populations in the Pajaro River watershed. In 2010, I completed my thesis and graduated with a Master’s of Science degree from SJSU. Since 2005, I have continued to monitor steelhead abundance and distribution in streams of the upper Pajaro River watershed. These data are now being used to guide the development of a stream flow release strategy for reservoirs in the watershed that will ultimately benefit steelhead population recovery.
In April 2009, I accepted a contract position as a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and in August 2010, I accepted a term position with NMFS as a fisheries biologist where I assess project related impacts to salmonids and green sturgeon.
The experiences and accomplishments gained while at CSUMB, both as a student and as a research technician, helped form the foundation of my goal of becoming a fisheries biologist.
I graduated from the CSUMB Master's in Coastal and Watershed Science & Policy program in 2008. I did not know exactly where I'd end up once I had my degree but the Master's program provided me with a diverse array of opportunities that, in addition to being educational, guided me to a career that I am genuinely passionate about. At CSUMB I was given the opportunity to work in the field in many settings from local lagoons to the snow covered mountains of Yellowstone National Park. Among many other things, I was given the opportunity to teach science as a graduate student. This is where I found my passion for what I do today. I now work as a science teacher at Carmel High School. Working with students to connect them with the natural world is an incredibly personally gratifying experience. I love what I do and a huge reason for my success can be traced back to the opportunities and education that I received at CSUMB.
I came to CSUMB because the ESSP (now ESTP) major is an integrated major. I saw it as an opportunity for me to combine my interests in science and humanities. It also turned out to be a place where I obtained problem solving skills that have allowed me to pursue my interests and concerns as they develop. While at CSUMB, I had the privilege of working at the Watershed Institute as an intern for the Central Coast Watershed Studies (CCoWS). The things I was learning in classes were reinforced with hands on experience in the field, mainly working on projects funded by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. While at CCoWS, I worked in streams measuring agricultural runoff and fish habitat in addition to learning data management systems. After I completed the ESSP program, I had the opportunity to stay on at CCoWS and continue to study water quality, specifically monitoring water quality and steelhead habitat during construction of the Carmel River Lagoon Enhancement Project for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Motivated by a pursuit of environmental justice, I moved back to the Bay Area and started working as a consultant conducting Superfund Liability Analysis. I worked as an Environmental Scientist in teams of lawyers, paralegals, and engineers providing technical and legal support for the Environmental Protection Agency. This work exposed me to the need for industrial ecology and responsible manufacturing practices. From here I became an auditor for Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), an independent third party certifier that verifies environmental claims on consumer goods. Auditing manufacturing facilities gave me opportunities to see different types of investments that manufacturers, large and small, are making to push their respective industries in a more sustainable direction.
Witnessing market responses to these types of investments, and reflecting on the steelhead habitats that I measured and the Superfund sites I analyzed peaked my interest in Green Economy and sustainability. These converging interests lead me to my current job as a Project Manager at Global Footprint Network. Global Footprint Network is an international think tank working to advance sustainability through use of the Ecological Footprint, a resource accounting tool that measures how much nature we have, how much we use and who uses what. The conceptual framework for the Ecological Footprint is largely covered in the ESSP (now ESTP) class Ecosystems Services. With each new project there is a steep learning curve, but because of the technical skills in computer modeling and statistics that I took away from ESSP classes, I can hit the ground running.
I am very fortunate that I am in a place where I love what I do and I am applying my education every day. I feel that the systems framework and hands on learning opportunities in the ESSP program gave me the ability to actively contribute in areas as varied as fish habitat and ecology, law and corporate social responsibility, complex manufacturing systems, and economic incentives and indices. My accomplishments at CSUMB have given me the confidence to pursue my goals.
I graduated from the ESSP program (now ESTP) in 2005 after an incredible two years in the program; I was on the accelerated path because I already held a BA in journalism. Most important to my future success was the position I held as a research technician for the Watershed Institute at CSUMB, working for Fred Watson. While working for Fred under a NASA grant, I participated in multiple fieldwork excursions to Yellowstone National Park to gather data on snowpack, vegetation cover, geothermal heat release and bison migrations. I was involved with every step of the research process, from gathering data in the field to analysis to write-ups. After graduating, I held seasonal positions on mule deer research projects conducted by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Rocky Mountain National Park. (Science doesn't get much more exciting than darting and netting deer!) I also assisted with stream barrier mapping, fish population studies, and bighorn sheep survival surveys for RMNP, and worked one summer for an environmental consulting firm involved with the control of West Nile Virus. I now work as the Public and Media Relations Coordinator for the Colorado State Forest Service. In this position, I act as the Fire Information Officer for the agency, write press releases and other stories, and serve as the media contact for the agency. The job provides me a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that I am responsible for delivering accurate forestry information to the general public.
My professional career started while I was still a student at CSUMB working as a lab assistant in the ESSP program (now ESTP). After graduating in 1998, I went to work for Kinnetic Laboratories in Santa Cruz, CA. I spent the first couple years of my career in the field conducting watershed and coastal studies including benthic sampling, stream bioassments, intertidal sampling, and stormwater studies. While at Kinnetic Labs, I was fortunate enough to work on a variety of projects and worked all along the California coastline and eventually relocated to San Diego County. Looking to get back into research, I left Kinnetic and accepted a position at the Atmospheric Research Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA. I worked with a team of research scientists who conducted observational and modeling studies of the atmosphere and ocean. Although the work at Scripps was both challenging and rewarding, I missed the diversity environmental consulting provided. I left Scripps and joined an ecological consulting firm, MEC Analytical Systems, in Carlsbad, CA. Working at MEC were some of the best years of my professional career. The diversity of projects I worked on was amazing. I spent two summers conducting benthic, toxicological, and sediment sampling in every lagoon from the Mexico Border to Malibu, worked on bacterial source tracking projects, and also managed large stormwater monitoring programs for a variety of clients. MEC was eventually acquired by a national consulting firm, Weston Solutions, Inc., who I continue to work for as a Senior Project Manager.
At Weston, I am afforded the opportunity to work on a broad range of projects and spend much of my time working with national teams to develop new assignments. Currently the opportunities I am working on range from ecosystem restoration at Lake Okeechobee, FL to developing a brownfield property in a disadvantaged neighborhood here in Sarasota, FL. The multidisciplinary background I received at CSUMB in the ESSP program provided a great foundation for my career in environmental consulting and the enthusiasm and mentoring of the ESSP staff really motivated me to be successful. The service learning program at CSUMB has always stayed with me and one of the most rewarding things I do is volunteer. I am currently the Vice-Chair of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program's Citizen Advisory Committee. We work with the Estuary Program to provide guidance on their future goals and also distribute restoration and educational grants to the community.
The foundation I received in the ESSP program allowed me to develop a career that is financially, environmentally, and socially rewarding and I encourage all students to make the most of their time at CSUMB and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge their instructors have.