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Meet GOMO’s Summer Interns, Kelli Ong & Diego Rivera

Each summer, NOAA provides internship opportunities for undergraduate students through programs such as the José E. Serrano Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions (EPP/MSI) and the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship. These programs, among other educational opportunities for K12, undergraduate, and graduate students, enable students interested in oceanic and atmospheric research and policy to gain first-hand experience and make meaningful contributions in these areas. This summer, GOMO had the opportunity to host two interns, Kelli Ong and Diego Rivera.

Kelli Ong joined GOMO as an EPP/MSI Scholar. Kelli is an aspiring marine scientist from Los Angeles, California and is a rising junior at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Kelli worked with GOMO’s Arctic Research Program (ARP) team under the mentorship of Cynthia Garcia-Eidell to help create new web pages for the Arctic Research Program’s funded projects. Kelli developed 12 web pages that summarize each project’s research goals and objectives and provide access to datasets, advancing the Arctic Research Program’s commitment to the findability, accessibility, and reusability of vital Arctic data. Kelli also assisted with analyzing and visualizing water-column data taken from a 2018 research cruise in the Bering and Chukchi seas.

Kelli aspires to conduct research on the impacts of climate change in polar (both Arctic and Antarctic) ecosystems. The opportunity to work on projects with ARP has been very eye-opening and given Kelli insight as to where her research could possibly go in the future. As someone who hopes to work for NOAA in the future, Kelli also enjoyed learning about the inner workings of a NOAA office, specifically in regards to networking and learning from leaders in Arctic research. Kelli shared that her experience working in the agency has given her “a lot of hope that diverse voices can make a difference in NOAA.” Kelli delivered an excellent presentation during NOAA’s 2023 Science and Education Symposium, earning an “Outstanding Presentation Award” for her work.

Diego Rivera joined GOMO as a Hollings Scholar. He is a rising sophomore at the University of Florida, Gainesville, where he is working towards a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a certificate in Climatology and Meteorology. Diego spent the summer working with GOMO Program Managers Cheyenne Stienbarger and Alyse Larkin on a project focused on sea level rise impacts in small island developing states in the tropical Pacific, specifically the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Diego produced a database on tide gauge technologies and developed recommendations for low-cost systems, installation, and a community outreach strategy to support sea level rise monitoring efforts in FSM.

Diego’s driving motivation is researching and addressing the impacts of climate change. His work this summer allowed him to gain new skills in both research and communication related to sea level rise in the tropical Pacific. It has also given Diego a unique first-hand view of the internal workings of NOAA and how program managers use science to inform policy decisions. Diego demonstrated excellent written and oral communication skills, receiving great feedback for his presentation and public speaking skills at NOAA’s 2023 Science and Education Symposium.

The Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing team thanks Kelli and Diego for their valuable contributions this summer. Congratulations, Kelli and Diego, and all of NOAA’s 2023 Summer Interns!