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Aquarium of the Pacific Announces Recipients of Its New CELP Scholar Program

Aquarium awards $150,000 to Southern California students to support their persistence in marine science-related fields

Collage of 2024 CELP Scholar Recipients

Aquarium of the Pacific’s 2024 CELP Scholar Program recipients Credit: Aquarium of the Pacific

May 4, 2024

May 6, 2024, Long Beach California—The Aquarium of the Pacific is announcing the recipients of its new Community, Equity, Learning, and Persistence (CELP) Scholar Program. Fifteen students studying fields related to the ocean at Southern California higher education institutions have been awarded $10,000 each to support their academic pursuits. The CELP Scholar Program seeks to broaden participation in marine sciences, help more students find their own community in STEM, and support students’ persistence in the field. With this program, the Aquarium looks to bring a greater variety of lived experiences to the challenge of ensuring a healthy and sustainable ocean for everyone.

“All of us have a role to play in addressing climate change and the degradation of our ocean. But not everyone may have the same access. The goal of this program is to open the door to as many environmental stewards, advocates, allies, and young scientists as possible,” said Dr. Peter Kareiva, Aquarium of the Pacific president and CEO.

The 2024 CELP cohort includes two students from community colleges, eight undergraduates from four-year programs, three master’s degree students, and two Ph.D. students representing nine different schools in Southern California. Eighty percent of the recipients are the first in their family to attend college. The scholars can participate in a wide range of engagement opportunities curated by the Aquarium. Individuals receive one-on-one engagement with Aquarium staff to explore career paths and support their personal growth. As a group, CELP scholars can participate in community building events and development sessions. They join a growing community of peers in marine-related fields of study who can support, uplift, and learn from each other.

“I feel great comfort knowing that I’ll be in a program that will support me…to accomplish my goals of giving back to my community. Over the next year of the program, I’m looking forward to being in a cohort of like-minded students who have similar goals and interests. I’m excited to be motivated and inspired by the successes of my peers in this program,” said Willow Jackson, a 2024 CELP Scholar.

Award recipient selection was informed by a committee of Aquarium staff, scholar alumni, and members of the community. You can hear from this year’s scholars by watching the video. Those interested in applying for the second year of the CELP Scholar Program can visit the Aquarium’s website in the fall/winter 2024. For additional information about eligibility and the application process, please visit

The CELP Scholar Program is supported by contributions. The public is invited to make a donation at Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, gifts will be matched up to $10,000.

Recipients of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s 2024 CELP Scholar Program

portrait of Alex Lozano

Credit: Photo courtesy of Alex Lozano

Alex Lozano is a fourth-year undergraduate at California State University, Channel Islands studying biology and studio arts. As an artist and scientist, Lozano is passionate about using science illustration as an accessible form of science education for the public. He is eager to see how the arts can engage guests at the Aquarium through education, exhibit design, and events like Pride Night. In the future, Lozano plans to pursue scientific illustration and attend graduate school to study queer ecology in marine organisms.

Andres Camacho portrait in graduation regalia

Credit: Photo courtesy of Andres Camacho

Andres Camacho is a graduate student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona pursuing a master’s in biology. His thesis studying marine invertebrate evolution and genetics aims to characterize multiple sea slug species of Halgerda from the islands of New Caledonia. Camacho plans to become a professor who provides opportunities in marine science to community college and high school students to ensure aspiring scientists from these institutions are well supported. Camacho looks forward to his continued growth as a scientist alongside his fellow Scholars.

Babette Adair portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Babette Adair

Babette Romano is a fourth-year undergraduate student at San Diego State University studying sustainability with an emphasis on oceanography. Romano is interested in exploring and contributing to the Aquarium’s efforts towards sustainable living and learning how to best communicate the importance of these practices to learners of all ages. In the future, she hopes to work in water resource management and marine conservation.

Breanna Hernandez portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Breanna Hernandez

Breanna Hernandez is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Citrus Community College in Glendora studying environmental science and photography. Hernandez organizes local community beach clean-ups to inspire others to protect the environment. She’s interested in learning about the role of aquariums in coral conservation and sharing her community-oriented ideas with fellow Scholars, all while continuing to serve as the biggest inspiration to her son’s own STEM dreams.

Carlisle Zasio portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Carlisle Zasio

Carlisle Zasio is a fourth-year undergraduate student at California State University, Long Beach studying marine biology. Zasio is passionate about making science education more accessible to learners from all walks of life. They aspire to conduct research on sea jelly evolution, publish knowledge-accessible science textbooks, and serve as a role model for other neurodivergent and LGBTQ+ scientists.

Frank Nicolas-Juan portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Frank Nicolas-Juan

Frank Nicolas-Juan is a fourth-year undergraduate at California State University, Long Beach studying marine biology. Nicolas-Juan looks forward to learning more about the science and staff members behind the Aquarium’s sunflower star conservation efforts and learning how to communicate conservation messages to the public. As he continues his journey in STEM, Nicolas-Juan hopes to remove barriers within the field and uplift aspiring scientists from diverse backgrounds. He is passionate about experiences that tie to his cultural identity and is eager to share this with the Scholar community.

Ivanna Arrizon Elizarraras portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Ivanna Arrizon Elizarraras

Ivanna Arrizon Elizarraras is a graduate student at California State University, Long Beach pursuing a master’s in biology. Her thesis studies the effect of temperature on purple urchin larval development to better understand how distribution may be impacted by climate change. After graduation, Arrizon Elizarraras plans to work in marine conservation, focusing on invertebrate physiology and early life stages. She is eager to gain insight into the Aquarium’s sunflower star conservation project and serve as a near-peer mentor to fellow Scholars.

Madeleine Pacheco portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Madeleine Pacheco

Madeleine Pacheco is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow at University of California, Los Angeles pursuing a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology. For her thesis, she plans to integrate her passion for diversifying STEM into a project studying genetics and coral reef ecology. Pacheco hopes to become a professor at a Hispanic-serving Institution (a designation granted to universities by the U.S. Department of Education) and make marine science more accessible to aspiring scientists with disabilities and those from historically underrepresented backgrounds. She looks forward to exploring careers, programs, and events within the Aquarium that engage under-resourced communities in marine science.

Mariah Cox portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Mariah Cox

Mariah Cox is a fourth-year undergraduate student at California State University, Fullerton studying as a Pre-veterinary Spanish Major. As an Afro-Latina woman, Cox is dedicated to engaging Spanish speaking communities in science and looks forward to providing accessible veterinary care to these communities in the future. She is eager to explore opportunities that bridge culture with science education, serve as a role model for scientists from underrepresented backgrounds, and support her fellow Scholars in their STEM journeys.

Natalie Garcia portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Natalie Garcia

Natalie Garcia is an undergraduate student at Los Angeles City College studying chemistry where she is a proud member of the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Program. Garcia looks forward to applying her chemistry background and perspective toward multidisciplinary projects focused on ocean conservation. She is interested in exploring careers in marine chemistry and science education and outreach to educate future scientists from historically underrepresented communities.

Sarah Rodriguez portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Sarah Rodriguez

Sarah Rodriguez is a fourth-year undergraduate student at University of California, Santa Barbara studying aquatic biology and Spanish. She is co-chair of her school’s folklorico group and a member of multiple organizations that work to uplift Latine students in the community. Rodriguez is passionate about strengthening marine science education opportunities in her home city of Wilmington and looks forward to learning how the Aquarium engages with local communities. As she progresses on her STEM journey, she aims to make science more accessible to learners and aspiring scientists from Spanish-speaking communities.

Troy Wynne portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Troy Wynne

Troy Wynne is a Ph.D. student in the joint ecology program at San Diego State University and University of California, Davis and is a member of Black in Marine Science (BIMS) and Black Women in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Science (BWEEMS). She plans to conduct research at the intersection of marine ecology and environmental justice, advocating for communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and climate change. She is excited to engage with ocean and social justice advocates and outreach at the Aquarium to pursue a career that empowers scientists of color and safeguards ecosystems and human health.

Vivian Sieu portrait

Credit: Vivian Sieu

Vivian Sieu is a graduate student at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) pursuing a master’s in biology. Her thesis studies the impact of low tide temperatures on predator-prey interactions on the Washington coast. Sieu serves as the CSUF chapter officer for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). She is eager to explore the diverse range of career paths available at the Aquarium that engage historically underrepresented communities in marine science, including roles in conservation and education.

Willow Jackson portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Willow Jackson

Willow Jackson is a fourth-year undergraduate student at California State University, Channel Islands studying environmental science and resource management. Jackson’s identity as an Alaskan Native Tlingit and Black woman drives her passion to fight climate injustices. She aspires to build conservation programs in her village in Alaska to implement sustainable food sovereignty programs for coastal Indigenous and communities with low income. Jackson hopes to be a role model for young Alaskan Natives and women of color.

Yuzuna Kudo portrait

Credit: Photo courtesy of Yuzuna Kudo

Yuzuna Kudo is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles majoring in environmental science and a minor in GIS (geographic information science) and technology. She serves as a board member for the school’s marine science club and is the assistant team lead for the Aquarium’s community science programs. Kudo is interested in the sciences and humanities and hopes to use data visualizations to tell compelling stories about vulnerable ecosystems and communities. She’s eager to explore the wide range of careers present at the Aquarium to better understand future opportunities to work with aspiring scientists from diverse backgrounds.