2020 Grants Challenge

Be an Aquaculture Scientist

The underrepresentation of minority students in ocean-related STEM fields is a disadvantage for the US and its growing STEM workforce needs. AltaSea and Sharefest have joined to facilitate job creation building opportunities and encouragement for Sharefest youth to lead positive change. Where the Port once provided a large supply of well-paying jobs, economic forces have rendered the surrounding community impoverished. This partnership aims to provide workforce development in sustainable aquafarming within the Port of Los Angeles.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

South Bay

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Pilot project or new program

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Sharefest Inc.

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

The youth that Sharefest serves are students who face high barriers including personal and systemic negative self-image. Sharefest’s role will be best served as the liaison between AltaSea and the students. This will include co-teaching the workshops, maintaining a rapport with each student identifying individual needs and motivating each to see themselves as scientists.

Our Underwater Robotics instructor is a retired science and engineering California credentialed high school teacher who also leads a local underwater robotic competitive team. He has previously taught the course and he wrote the NGSS approved curriculum. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium educators wrote our NGSS approved aquaculture curriculum, teaches our aquaculture workshops and serve as mentors in the aquatic nursery lab.

What is the need you’re responding to?

Responsible aquaculture stands out as a solution to help meet many of today’s worldwide food security needs and, at the same time, alleviate the current stress on our oceans and resources caused by climate change, species and habitat destruction. Mollusk and kelp aquafarms will be created within the urban Port of Los Angeles (POLA) as we seek to make hands-on aquaculture job training available by addressing food security and providing a path of upward mobility for impoverished youth – largely Latinx.

Our targeted students are those attending LAUSD middle schools where Sharefest works closely with youth to help them realize social equity and inclusion through education opportunities leading to career options and financial security. With a clear understanding of the necessity and value of exposing minority to STEM education opportunities, this multi-faceted project will build on proven education programming that reaches minority students.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

AltaSea utilizes its cross-sector of scientific and educational partnerships to train a workforce for sustainable careers. We rely on scientific experts to generate the most relevant data in such growing fields as aquaculture and robotics. Our credentialed educators introduce STEM concepts associated with the aquafarming of animals and plants and hands-on training spent at the farm.

Sharefest serves youth who are impoverished; affected by gang violence; and, may have one or more incarcerated parents or may have justice system involvement themselves. These students need guidance and shown a productive path. There is evidence that aquaculture can help learners of all socioeconomic backgrounds understand difficult concepts in STEM. A survey of 60 students participating in an aquaculture program found they appreciated gaining practical skills through aquaculture learning and found STEM easier to understand upon program completion. (Wingenbach et al., 1999).

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 50

Indirect Impact: 8,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

AltaSea's urban setting, cross-sector partnerships, physical assets and self-sustaining business model position us to demonstrate and maximize the game-changing impact of ocean science on education, business, and economic development. Responsible aquaculture stands out as a solution to help meet needs on many levels, such as, national food security and workforce development. There is currently a limited amount of STEM learning environments and resources focused on aquaculture though the US is the second largest importer of seafood products and grows only 5% of the seafood we consume. The aquaculture demonstration site will support a Blue Economy workforce pathway creating local jobs necessary to farming bivalves and kelp.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Both organizations have measures to defining success. In the short term, AltaSea collects surveys at the beginning and at the end of the program gathering material effectiveness presented and identifying areas of improvement. Through Sharefest’s youth tracking system, students’ overall progress is continuously followed monitoring credits earned, school absences, GPA, and college matriculation. Elaborate assessment tools to include the Measuring Mobility Toolkit is administered at the beginning and at the end of each year.

Long term accomplishments include the following: youth discover abilities they did not know they possess and realize they are capable of achieving anything in life through hard work and determination; under-served students realize what they are learning in the classroom has ‘real world’ significance and opportunities for a ‘better life’ abound on shore and at sea; and, students make an emotional connection to learning through exploring the ocean and develop a love for the ocean and for life-long learning.

Which of the CREATE metrics will your submission impact?​

Employment in the tech industries

Income inequality

Global cultural and economic influence (“soft power”)

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

LA is the best place to LEARN

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community

Communications support