In the most recent selection cycle for intern recruitment, 30 undergraduates were designated to serve as touch tank tour guides as part of the Marine Science Institute’s Education Outreach Program.

Research Experience and Education Facility is the brainchild of program manager and MSI research associate Scott Simon. According to Simon, touch tank tours have been at the heart of the university’s educational outreach activities since 1969, granting K-12 grade students and other interested groups the opportunity to learn more about aquatic creatures and share in the advantages of a coastal research university.

“[The R.E.E.F. internship program] is immensely rewarding for two basic reasons,” Simon said. “For the UCSB interns, they get an education in marine biology because the best way to learn something is to teach someone else. On the other side, the K-12 grade kids that come are given an opportunity to interact with college students and gain a greater insight into aquatic organisms.”

One student who was recently accepted to the program is Paul Steinberg, a first-year biology major who said that his lifelong fascination with the ocean led him to apply to become a touch tank tour guide. As a volunteer, he hopes to facilitate appreciation of ocean life.

“I grew up on the ocean and the beach, surfing and doing junior lifeguard,” Steinberg said. “I was around the water my whole life. There’s so much out there in the ocean that I’m curious about and it’s fascinating to learn what’s around you. Hopefully, the kids that come can leave with a greater appreciation of the ocean and the life that lives in it.”

R.E.E.F. program assistant Dana Nakase said student intern recruitment for the program occurs quarterly and is open to students of all disciplines and majors. Undergraduates must submit resumes and undergo an interview process prior to selection. Students are initially accepted as volunteers and are then promoted to intern status upon two quarters of commitment to the program.

Nakase said that upon acceptance as a R.E.E.F. volunteer, students must also go through a comprehensive training program.

“There are a couple of different training processes,” Nakase said. “Students are trained on how to handle the organisms and are also trained in an education program about the animals and on how to lead tours.”

A UCSB aluma, Nakase had previously worked as an undergraduate student R.E.E.F. intern and said her involvement with marine biology dates back to her days as a tank tour guide.

“As an undergrad, it helped to keep me connected to research going on at UCSB,” Nakase said. “I also got involved with different labs through R.E.E.F. and had an opportunity to learn more about teaching. Students can network to meet other students who are interested in scuba diving and other aquatic activities and learn more about research opportunities on campus.”