Funding Inclusive Research in Marine Science for Underrepresented College Students in California

Carey Blakely, Roxanne Hoorn

A new California Sea Grant program, Pathways to Inclusive Research Training, will provide research opportunities in marine and coastal science to California undergraduate students from underrepresented groups. 

For the 2023 grant cycle, eight projects were selected and will collectively receive up to $600,000 in Sea Grant funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

It is hoped that the program will increase retention in STEM of diverse groups and cultivate potential future leaders in coastal science. 

The Pathways program offers undergraduate students a unique, yearlong opportunity to be mentored by researchers and faculty who work for California research institutions. The funded projects either support those researchers’ existing studies or develop new research aligned with California Sea Grant’s mission to foster resilient coastal communities and economies, healthy coastal ecosystems, and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. 

“Putting the burden of finding and applying to grants can sometimes be a barrier for students,” California Sea Grant Director Shauna Oh said. “We wanted to empower faculty, who interact with these students, to tell us how to create these pathways to inclusive research training. We were inspired to see the breadth of proposed projects and dedication from applicants to building inclusive ocean research programs in California.”

Among the selected projects is the DIVErsity in Diving Program at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara, which will provide gear, swim lessons and scientific dive training to students from historically marginalized communities. 

Another project, Pathways to Marine Science at the University of California Davis, will offer a summer program that mentors community college students in research activities at Bodega Marine Laboratory. The grantees want to provide research opportunities and support that could encourage community college students to transfer into four-year universities — a transition that can be challenging for many. 

California Sea Grant Research Coordinator Lian Guo hopes the program will be an incubator to test new approaches for inclusive research training of students from underrepresented backgrounds in marine science. She explained, “We designed this new funding opportunity to support faculty and community partners in creating undergraduate research programs that center on cohort-building, mentorship and community-engaged research.” 

California Sea Grant is excited to see what outcomes around inclusivity and research emerge from the eight selected projects, which can be viewed by clicking the links below.


About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Headquartered at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, California Sea Grant is one of 34 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.