Jasmin John, NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and meteorological laboratory
January – March, 2018
Jasmin John, a climate scientist at NOAA and the Deputy Director of the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, is a true trailblazer with the honor of serving as Ocean Discovery’s first Scientist-in-Residence. Jasmin worked closely with Ocean Discover staff to design a new field trip experience for 6th grade classes in partnership with Dr. Andreas Andersson at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Jasmin designed a field trip lesson in which students visit various locations throughout San Diego’s Mission Bay to sample temperature, salinity, and pH. The students’ measurements will become a new database tracking changes in ocean conditions over time. Jasmin’s personal journey and her courage in the face of challenges resonated in all the students she interacted with during her stay.
catalina martinez, NOAA office of exploration and research
January – March, 2019
Catalina Martinez, Equity Advisor with NOAA, was the first scientist to complete a residency after the opening of the Living Lab in October 2018. Catalina worked on a project to better understand the barriers to access to NOAA resources and opportunities for young people from underserved communities such as City Heights. She helped pilot new programming based around her area of expertise, deep-sea exploration; facilitated a listening session with our partner teachers to understand barriers they face in the classroom to accessing NOAA educational resources; and collected information from high school, college, and early-career students about barriers they encountered. Catalina’s commitment to being a champion for our students and our programs will leave a lasting legacy.
Dr. S. James “Jim” Gates Jr., brown university
July 2019 and December 2019
Dr. Jim, as our students fondly referred to him, was Ocean Discovery’s first “short-term” Scientist-in-Residence, staying for an impactful 10-day residency in July and returning for 1 more week in December. Jim, one of the world’s preeminent theoretical physicists and experts on super string theory, is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Science and was a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Jim shared stories about his childhood, family, and career with hundreds of elementary and middle school students. He also had a conversation with Ocean Leader program alumni and participated in a panel discussion with Shara Fisler, Ocean Discovery’s Executive Director, at a special event held in Jim’s honor with partners, supporters, and the community. In December, Jim returned to the Living Lab for a special event with our community to read passages from his new book, “Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe”.
ERIKA SANTACRUZ LOPEZ, GRUPO TORTUGUERO
Erika, a biologist who studies the physiology and conservation of sea turtles, joined us for a short-term residency and was our first international scientist to visit. Erika is originally from Spain but now lives in Bahía de los Ángeles, Baja California, Mexico. Erika leads the local chapter of Grupo Tortuguero, a sea turtle conservation and monitoring organization that works throughout all of Mexico. In 2019, we partnered with Erika and Grupo Tortuguero on our long-term sea turtle research project in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries. Near the end of this project, Erika traveled to San Diego to deliver our project data, meet with our Ocean Leader Research Fellows and NOAA partner scientists, and talk to students about her career in sea turtle research. It was an honor to host a visiting scientist from Bahía de los Ángeles, the site of our BAHIA program, and we look forward to continued collaboration with Erika.
dr. joyonna “joy” gamble-george, new york university
We welcomed Joy as our first Scientist-in-Residence since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was incredible to finally have a visiting scientist with us again, and we couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Joy, a neuroscientist who studies brain disorders and mental health. During her two-week stay, Joy visited a wetland habitat and built ROVs with 5th graders during school; discovered invertebrates with students during after-school camp; discussed her personal journey with students during daily programs; visited high school Ocean Leaders at Hoover High; and enjoyed an intimate evening of dinner & conversation with some of our closest partners and supporters. We are happy to have built this relationship with Joy that persists as she continues to mentor students and connect other mentors to the organization.
dr. solomon bililign, North carolina a&T state university
Joined by his wife, Abeba Merga, a Kindergarten teacher
We first met Solomon more than a decade ago, when he also received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring alongside Ocean Discovery. As Shara says, “You never forget someone who was in the room with you when you met President Obama.” After their visit in October, our community will never forget Solomon and Abeba. Solomon uses chemistry and physics to study the impacts of biomass burning on air quality and public health in Africa. He inspired our students and staff by sharing how he uses science to make a difference to improve human lives, as well as sharing about his personal journey to overcome oppression and become a science leader. His wife, Abeba, also worked with our students and used her exceptional skills as a longtime educator to mentor City Heights students. Their visit was capped off with a special event at the Living Lab where nearly 100 community members, partners, and supporters had the opportunity to hear Solomon speak about his life and his work.
alfonso macias tapia, noaa office of education & old dominion university
We closed out 2022 with a bang as Alfonso brought infectious energy and passion to the Scientist-in-Residence position. At the time of his residency, Alfonso was finishing his PhD in Ocean & Earth Science at Old Dominion University, while also serving as a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow with the NOAA Office of Education. Alfonso’s week-long residency overlapped with our 8th grade In-School Program, so he had the opportunity to share his journey, including growing up in Mexico and discovering his passion for science, with more than 150 8th grade students during his stay. He also spent several afternoons building mentoring relationships with a close-knit group of students during the after-school camp. Alfonso’s residency coincided with the annual meeting of the Ocean Discovery & NOAA Vision Council, so we closed out his visit with a special dinner at the Living Lab where we celebrated Alfonso’s time with us alongside our other NOAA partners.
Dr. Wilnelia Recart Gonzalez, University of san diego
Wilnelia, at the time a postdoctoral researcher, and now an Assistant Professor in the Biology department at University of San Diego, holds the honor of being the first San Diego resident to join us as Scientist-in-Residence. Wilnelia talked with many students about her upbringing in Puerto Rico and her current research studying plant ecology and how pollination is influenced by climate change and non-native species. Wilnelia’s stories of how she became a science leader inspired all the students she met, from 1st graders to high school students. She also took the opportunity to dust off our 3-D printer and created incredible rocky intertidal invertebrates to share at the Living Lab. We are fortunate to have a Scientist-in-Residence alumni living and working here in San Diego, and look forward to more opportunities for Wilnelia to mentor our students as she continues her career at University of San Diego.
Dr. jeanette davis, noaa office of policy & children’s book author
Before Jeanette, a best-selling children’s book author, joined us as a Scientist-in-Residence, we had already shared her amazing books with young people in City Heights–so it was a dream come true for Jeanette to be with us in person. Jeanette, whose scientific background is in marine microbiology and also works as a Policy Advisor at NOAA, shared her passion for science communication with our students in City Heights, from reading her book to kindergarten classes to speaking about her career with high school science classes. A highlight of Jeanette’s week-long residency was a special “Meet the Authors” event, hosted in her honor at the Living Lab. More than 100 community members joined us to hear an interview between Shara Fisler, Ocean Discovery’s Executive Director, and Jeanette, followed by Jeanette reading her book “Jada’s Journey Under the Sea” to the audience, which included many excited young people. Jeanette autographed copies of her book for every person who attended, and we eagerly await the chance to share the next book she writes with our students.
Dr. Natalia Rodriguez revelo, autonomous university of baja california (UABC) and San diego natural history museum
We were incredibly fortunate to have Natalia, who works in both San Diego and Baja California, Mexico, join us for a week as our Scientist-in-Residence. Natalia is a leading expert on the entomology of coastal sand dunes in Baja–an area that holds a special place for Ocean Discovery given our decades-long high school study abroad program in the region. Natalia came with many insect specimens from Baja that she showed students as she described her research. She also joined students in the field at a 9th grade field trip to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, giving students the opportunity to practice field biological research alongside a science mentor. Having overcome barriers as a woman pursuing science in Mexico, Natalia connected deeply as a role model with our students, especially those who have close ties to Mexico.
Monique baskin, noaa office of national marine sanctuaries
Monique, who is the Deputy Director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, visited us to mentor students at the beginning of 2023’s summer programs. Joining Monique was her daughter, Kyria, who holds the distinction of the first-ever child of a Scientist-in-Residence to stay with us! While Kyria participated in summer camp as a student, Monique served as a summer camp mentor, discussing her unique pathway to joining NOAA with our students–Monique shared that her career journey took many twists and turns before she ended up with NOAA. We were also fortunate to have Monique mentor our rising 9th grade Ocean Leader students during their intensive “Ocean Leader Bridge Program”, which kicks off their journey through high school and college as science leaders. The Bridge program included several activities with our local NOAA lab in La Jolla, and it was incredible to have one of NOAA’s leaders join students as they met our local NOAA partners. We look forward to more collaboration with Monique and hope that Kyria will convince her mom to take her back to City Heights every summer!
Lisa Kim, noaa office of education
Lisa, who is the Congressional Affairs Specialist at NOAA’s Office of Education, helped us kick off the 2023-24 school year with a bang as our first Scientist-in-Residence of the new school year. Lisa is a long-time partner of Ocean Discovery’s through our larger partnership with NOAA, and it was incredible to finally host her as a Scientist-in-Residence. During her week in residence, Lisa joined visiting 5th grade classes as they investigated wetlands at the Living Lab and participated daily with students in our after-school science camp. Excitingly, Lisa also mentored our high school Ocean Leaders when they came to the Living Lab for the first time as part of our new, weekly Ocean Leader program. Lisa supported our Ocean Leaders as they engaged in college readiness and “math muscle” activities. Our staff and students were inspired by Lisa’s story of her personal journey to overcome challenges and pursue her career with NOAA. Her deep experience in the education field was also evident through her productive and meaningful daily interactions with students – all of whom were sad to say goodbye at the end of Lisa’s week!