People at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at Sunset, by Jim Jones

California Coastal Careers

Meet people in coastal careers, talking about their work and how they got there.

These videos support the California Coastal Voices project-based learning unit It's More Than A Career. Find more video interviews of coastal and marine professionals on NOAA's Ocean Explorer website.

Videos can be expanded to full-screen, or opened in Youtube. Job titles and employers may have changed since videos were recorded.

Letise LaFeir, PhD
Marine Biologist
Conservation and policy

Julie Beagle
Climate adaptation

Patrick Barnard
Research Geologist
Climate impacts

Elena Perez
Coastal Program Analyst
Coastal management

Marcela Gutiérrez-Graudiņš
Nonprofit Director
Coastal protection and Latinx activism

Marcela Gutiérrez-Graudiņš
En Español

Michael Ng
Coastal management and environmental law

Seaberry Nachbar
Education Coordinator
Marine sanctuaries

Jordan Sanchez
Enforcement Officer
Land use regulation

Sumi Selvaraj
Fellow, 2016-2018
Coastal management

Dorris Welch
Captain, biologist, educator
Whale Watch Charter Business

Vivian Matuk
Program Coordinator
Environmental boating education

Melissa Kraemer
District Supervisor
Coastal planning

Anna Studwell
Associate Director
Geographic information science

Nancy Cave
District Manager
Land use regulation

Linda Locklin
Program Manager
Coastal Access

Brian Baird
Career Professional
Ocean and coastal management


Letise LaFeir:
  • Policy can be defined as the rules that organize a community or government and that enforce its priorities. There are other definitions of policy. To learn more, explore the classroom lesson, "Roundtable Analysis of Environmental Policy" in the California Coastal Voices unit, Speaking Up for the Beach.
Jordan Sanchez:
  • Policy: See above
  • The California Coastal Commission was established by voter initiative in 1972 and later made permanent by the California State Legislature through adoption of the California Coastal Act of 1976. The Coastal Commission plans and regulates the use of land and water in the coastal zone. Development activities (which include among other things construction of buildings, divisions of land, and activities that change the intensity of use of land or public access to coastal waters) generally require a coastal permit from either the Coastal Commission or the local government. Learn more.
  • The California Coastal Act includes specific policies that address issues such as shoreline public access and recreation, lower cost visitor accommodations, terrestrial and marine habitat protection, environmental justice, visual resources, landform alteration, agricultural lands, commercial fisheries, industrial uses, water quality, offshore oil and gas development, transportation, development design, power plants, ports, and public works. The policies of the Coastal Act constitute the statutory standards applied to planning and regulatory decisions made by the California Coastal Commission and by local governments, pursuant to the Coastal Act. To learn more, explore the classroom lesson, "Interpreting the California Coastal Act" in the California Coastal Voices unit, Speaking Up for the Beach. Read the Coastal Act.
  • A violation is when a landowner engages in unpermitted activity. A coastal landowner might be in violation by doing something that requires a Coastal Development Permit (that they did not receive) or they might do something that is prohibited by, or inconsistent with, a permit they did receive. The California Coastal Commission's Enforcement Program deals with violations. Download a brochure on recognizing and reporting Coastal Act violations.
Nancy Cave:
  • Oil spills can happen in a variety of situations, such as when an oil tanker ship has an accident, or when an oil pipeline is damaged. Oil is toxic, and can be deadly to marine birds and other creatures. The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill happened when a Union Oil drilling rig platform off the coast had a blowout, releasing 4.2 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean and onto nearby shores. This disaster is considered to have been a catalyst for the modern environmental movement. Learn more about oil spills.
  • California Coastal Commission: See above
  • A Xerox is a brand name of a photocopier, or copy machine.
  • In the 1980s, the Jonathan Club tried to expand its private, white, men-only clubhouse on Santa Monica Beach, but the Coastal Commission would only grant a permit if it dropped its discriminatory membership practice. It now accepts all races, genders, and faiths. Read a transcript of an interview with Nancy Cave and former Coastal Commission executive director Peter Douglas as they discuss the Jonathan Club decision.
Vivian Matuk:
  • Clean boating refers to environmentally sound boating practices, meaning, operating and maintaining a boat in a way that does not pollute the water with sewage, oil and fuel, detergents, paints, trash, or other contaminents. It also involves taking measure to avoid the transport of invasive species from one body of water to another. Learn about the Boating Clean and Green Program.
Anna Studwell:
  • GIS stands for geographic information system, which is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial or geographic data, often using special mapping software.
  • Marine debris is human-made trash or litter that ends up in the ocean. It originates from many locations and often travels great distances before ending up in the ocean. It can have wide-ranging negative impacts on people, animals, and ecosystems every step along the way. Learn about marine debris.
Michael Ng:
  • California Coastal Commission: See above
  • The Coastal Commission has five district offices, in Arcata, Santa Cruz, Ventura, Long Beach, and San Diego, and a headquarters office in San Francisco.
  • The Coastal Act defines development as "on land, in or under water, the placement or erection of any solid material or structure; discharge or disposal of any dredged material or of any gaseous, liquid, solid, or thermal waste; grading, removing, dredging, mining, or extraction of any materials; change in the density or intensity of use of land, including... subdivision...and any other division of land...; change in the intensity of use of water, or of access thereto; construction, reconstruction, demolition, or alteration of the size of any structure...; and the removal or harvesting of major vegetation other than for agricultural purposes, kelp harvesting, and timber operations..."
  • California Coastal Act: See above
  • Constitutional law deals with the interpretation and implementation of the United States Constitution, or a state constitution like the California Constitution.
Sumi Selvarag:
  • When we burn fossil fuels like natural gas, oil, and coal, we're releasing excess levels of carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon dioxide acts like a heat-trapping blanket over the earth, which thickens as we continue to burn fossil fuels, warming the atmosphere and ocean. This warming is causing climate change, with higher average global temperatures, increased extreme weather events, and other changes.
  • Climate change is warming both the air and the ocean. When water warms it expands in volume, taking up more space and causing sea level rise, meaning that the shoreline moves inland and waves break higher on bluffs and coasts. Warmer air also melts glaciers and ice sheets, which add more water to the ocean, contributing to more sea level rise.
  • A vulnerabililty assessment is the process of identifying, quantifying, and prioritizing the vulnerabilities in a system. A vulnerability assessment can help identify what parts of a community (things like buildings, roads, parks, and water treatment plants) are most at risk from future climate change and sea level rise.
  • California Coastal Commission: See above
  • Environmental justice is the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Historically and today, some populations and communities have been disproportionately burdened by pollution and other environmental problems, and the goal of environmental justice is to rectify that inequity.
Patrick Barnard:
  • USGS is the United States Geologic Survey, a United States federal government agency that studies the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it.
  • Climate change: See above
  • Sea level rise: See above
  • Bathymetry is the study of the depth of water in oceans, seas, or lakes. It is the underwater equivalent to topography.
  • Topography is the study of the shape and feature of land surfaces.
  • ATV stands for all-terrain vehicle, a vehicle built to handle off-road driving.
  • GIS: See above
  • El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific, resulting in a wide range of changes to global weather. El Niño increases the chances for a wet and stormy winter and early spring.
Seaberry Nachbar:
  • National Marine Sanctuaries protect areas of "special national significance" in our ocean and Great Lakes. The United States has 13 National Marine Sanctuaries. Four of them are in California: Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank, Monterey Bay, and Channel Islands. Learn more about National Marine Sanctuaries.
Melissa Kraemer:
  • Environmental consultants work for private businesses, helping clients to comply with environmental laws and regulations. They may specialize in a variety of disciplines, such as geology or biology.
  • An environmental impact assessment assesses the environmental consequences of a plan, policy, program, or project prior to the decision to move forward.
  • California Coastal Commission: See above.
  • Aquaculture is the cultivation (farming) of aquatic organisms like fish, oysters, or seaweed.
  • The California Coastal Act (see above) requires that lower cost visitor and recreational facilities be protected, encouraged, and where feasible, provided. This helps ensure maximum public access because without lower cost visitor serving facilities, members of the public with low or moderate incomes are more limited in their ability to enjoy the coast as compared to others who may be able to afford to pay more to access and use coastal facilities.
  • Environmental justice: See above.
  • Zoning is the process of dividing land into zones in which certain land uses are permitted or prohibited.
  • A coastal plan may refer to a Local Coastal Program (or LCP), a basic planning tool used by local governments to guide development in the coastal zone, in partnership with the California Coastal Commission. LCPs contain the ground rules for future development and protection of coastal resources. While each LCP reflects unique characteristics of individual local coastal communities, regional and statewide interests and concerns must also be addressed in conformity with Coastal Act (see above) goals and policies. Following adoption by a city council or county board of supervisors, an LCP is submitted to the Coastal Commission for review for consistency with Coastal Act requirements.
Marcela Gutiérrez-Graudiņš: Brian Baird:
  • California Coastal Commission: See above.
  • Liquified natural gas (LNG) is a fossil fuel. When natural gas is cooled to minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit (-161 degrees Celsius), it becomes a clear, colorless, odorless liquid that is primarily methane. LNG is transported on ships specifically designed to handle the required low temperature, and received at terminals with storage tanks that may be above or below ground. As of 2019, there are no existing LNG import terminals located in California, nor are there any pending LNG import terminals awaiting approval. Learn more about the impacts of fossil fuels. Learn more about liquified natural gas in California.
  • The California Natural Resources Agency is part of the California state government, with the mission "to restore, protect and manage the state's natural, historical and cultural resources for current and future generations using creative approaches and solutions based on science, collaboration and respect for all the communities and interests involved." The California Coastal Commission is under this agency. Learn more.
  • The Coastal Zone Management Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972 to provide for the management of the nation's coastal resources, including the Great Lakes. The goal is to "preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the nation's coastal zone." The California Coastal Commission, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and the California State Coastal Conservancy are California's three designated coastal management agencies for the purpose of administering the federal Coastal Zone Management Act in California. Learn more.
  • Land-based marine pollution can either be from a "point source" or a "nonpoint source." Point source pollution originates from a specific place such as an oil refinery or a paper mill. Nonpoint source pollution originates from an indefinite or undefined place, often a variety of places (for example farms, city streets and parking lots, yards and landscaping, construction sites).
  • The Bay Institute is the science, research, environmental policy, and advocacy arm of the Bay Ecotarium. This organization advocates for environmental, water management, and economic policies to ensure the health of the greater San Francisco Bay. Learn more.
  • The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is an inland river delta and estuary formed at the western edge of California's Central Valley by the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and lies just east of where the rivers enter Suisun Bay. Learn more.
Linda Locklin:
  • California Coastal Commission: See above
  • To regulate means to control something based on rules made by an authority. In this case, the California Coastal Commission regulates the California coast based on laws such as the California Coastal Act, helping to determine things like what development will be allowed near the coast.
  • The goal of planning is to maximize the health, safety, and economic well-being for all residents. This involves thinking about how people move around a community, the businesses and attractions in a community, where people want to live, and opportunities for recreation. Planners take a broad viewpoint and look at how the pieces of a community — buildings, roads, and parks — fit together, and then make recommendations on how the community should proceed. Learn more from the American Planning Association.
  • Learn about the California Coastal Access Guide and the YourCoast app.
Julie Beagle:
  • The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government. Its official mission is to provide social and economic development abroad through technical assistance, while promoting mutual understanding between Americans and populations served.
  • A watershed is a land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to a particular creek, stream, river, the ocean, or other body of water. Learn more.
  • A marsh is a type of wetland (an area of land where water covers the ground for long periods of time) that is dominated by grasses and other herbaceous plants. Learn more.
  • Sea level rise: See above
  • Climate change: See above
Elena Perez:
  • The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) is a California state planning and regulatory agency with regional authority over the San Francisco Bay, the Bay's shoreline, and the Suisun Marsh. BCDC was created in 1965 and is the nation's oldest coastal zone agency. Its mission is to protect and enhance San Francisco Bay and to encourage the Bay's responsible and productive use for this and future generations. Learn more.
  • Development: See above
  • Policy: See above
  • Environmental Justice: See above
Dorris Welch:
  • Part of UC Santa Cruz, Long Marine Lab is a research and education facility for interdisciplinary research and teaching on marine life, coastal conservation, climate change impacts and other marine and coastal science issues.