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Intern Spotlight: LeeAnne French

“Intern Spotlight” is a series about former CEC interns, detailing their experiences at the organization and finding out what they are up to now. Over the years, hundreds of interns have helped CEC with its environmental programs while gaining useful skills and connections pertinent to their future careers.

LeeAnne French, after finishing her degree at the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, went on to work for UCSB’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). Before her job at NCEAS, LeeAnne was an intern for CEC.

Tell us about your background and interest in the environment?

I was actually a very non-traditional intern, or student for that matter. I started at the Bren School after 25 years down another career path, so I was much older than most of my peers. I decided that I wanted to pursue work dealing with the environment. I had always loved nature, and working to serve an environmental cause drew me to go back to school and start a different career.

What was your internship experience at CEC?

I worked on two different projects. The first one had to do with wind energy in Santa Barbara County, exploring the possibility of wind energy for residential and corporate sites. I worked on gathering data on energy use per household in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito and Carpinteria from PG&E and Edison’s databases. After gathering the data, we ran an analysis on energy use per zip code, relative to the square footage of homes.

The energy analysis work led to my second project, where we presented the data at meetings with partners, the Board of Directors and heads of local government, energy departments, and representatives from the big energy groups. We used their feedback to make suggestions on how to make homes more energy efficient, and we offered a financial plan to do retrofitting on houses in Santa Barbara. All of this was very exciting as an intern, especially seeing the amount of power local non-profits have to make change.

How does your current work involve environmental issues?

I am currently the Associate Director of Communications & Outreach at NCEAS. We have been around for over 20 years, and our goal is to bring scientists together for collaboration and synthesis on environmental projects. A lot of work has been focused on biodiversity and climate change, and creating projections for how ecosystems are going to shift due to the effects of climate change.  Our projects and climate models for conservation and human activity are used internationally by nongovernmental organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society. I have recently been named the Deputy Director for this new initiative, Science for Nature and People (SNAP). My job at NCEAS and with SNAP primarily revolves around communication with the academic science community, our partner organizations, and the public at large.

Do you have any advice for interns at CEC?

My time with CEC was one of the most rewarding internship experiences I had. I would advise CEC interns to take advantage of the hands-on experience working they will be exposed to at CEC. The staff works together on a lot of projects and they will bring you in as a part of the team, rather than just an intern. A lot of the projects you and staff complete will be put into action, so you will want to be thorough with your work. CEC is the absolute best thing for Santa Barbara County. They do great work!

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