My summer began with a sunrise visit of the Tijuana River Estuary at Border Field State Park. I met my new supervisors at 7AM for a special tour they were hosting for a team of journalists interested in the binational relations and environmental problems in the Tijuana River Valley. Following around a film crew and eavesdropping on interviews was not a conventional first day as an intern, but I was able to see the landscape we work to protect, as well as understand some of the most pressing environmental issues. As we explored the park, border patrol radios murmured over our shoulders and smoke rose from the hills of Tijuana, Mexico, just barely a stone’s throw away.
The Tijuana River watershed straddles the US-Mexico border, carrying sediment and debris from the Mexican side (known as Goat Canyon) over the border, into State Park land and protected estuary habitat, until it dumps into the Pacific Ocean in the town of Imperial Beach. The hilly and under-vegetated slopes of Goat Canyon, lack of consistent waste recollection systems, and heavy periodic rains, cause high levels of debris and toxins to contaminate the river mouth and coastal zone at Imperial Beach. The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve acts as organization that brings together the US and Mexican local and regional governments to mitigate these impacts, build climate resiliency, and improve livelihoods on both sides of the border. I am excited to intern with them this summer, learning about their coastal resiliency and binational collaboration efforts.
My first week passed quickly. I was brought on board with the Coastal Training Program manager, the lead ranger of the State Park land, the binational liaison in charge of coordinating Mexican affairs, and the head estuarine researcher. I was put to work assisting in creating and editing Spanish and English reports from recent adaptation trainings, brainstorming educational materials about marine debris, and coordinating event logistics for upcoming adaptation trainings.
At the end of my first week, I was able to participate in a training co-hosted by TRNERR and a local non-profit, 4Walls, to bring stakeholders together for a collaborative work session regarding the Border Impact Bond, a proposed funding source and mechanism to reduce downstream pollution and increase access to basic services. I enjoyed hearing the passionate contributions from different government representatives, environmental and social advocates, and Goat Canyon residents. It was a great way to tune-up my Spanish language skills, as well as chow down on some delicious platos tipicos.
Aside from the internship work, I am also having an amazing time exploring San Diego. Not only am I putting faces to names from the coastal resiliency world and broadening my professional network, but I’m also enjoying evening beach sunsets and new coffeeshops and taco trucks. Next week I’ll go to Scripps’ Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for the second component of my summer internship. The summer is already flying by!