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Spring Internship Reflections from Karla Nailea Monroy

Karla Nailea Monroy shares her reflections from a joint NASA internship between the Desert Research Institute and Climate Science Alliance. Read Karla’s story on today's blog!

Karla Nailea Monroy stands smiling in front of a green field and mountain.

"I’ve been incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to hold a joint NASA internship between Climate Science Alliance and Desert Research Institute during Spring 2023! Throughout my internship, I’ve not only learned about the importance of climate science education, but also the value of stewardship and traditional ecological knowledge/Indigenous knowledge that has made a personal impact on me. While my professional experiences prior to the internship had minimal focus on environmental justice and indigenous wisdom, my personal values on cultural competency and social and environmental justice aligned with CSA and DRI’s work.

Coming from an urban planning background, I recognize how the built environment historically and continuously marginalizes BIPOC communities – however, I had yet to learn more in-depth about the environmental impacts, particularly on Tribal communities. Hence, I am currently taking a course outside of the Master of Urban & Regional Planning (MURP) department at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) called Human Dimensions of Conservation through a Justice Lens under the Masters of Conservation & Restoration Science program to advance my knowledge in nature-culture interface.

Being the only MURP student in the class, I’ve taken accountability over the little knowledge I have on stewardship and kept an open-mind to deconstruct my Westernized-taught perception on environmental justice. Utilizing the knowledge I gained from class, I applied it to the work I was doing with CSA and DRI. Conversations with Tribal members and the mentorship from CSA made an impactful perspective on how I will approach future work in the urban planning field. I’m proud of working alongside CSA and DRI to support climate resiliency for Tribal Working Group in Southern California and the Nevada region.

Next Steps

This upcoming June, I am graduating with my Masters in Urban & Regional Planning at UCI and will be researching climate change with NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program’s Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) at Goddard Space Flight Center! In the near future, I intend to pursue my PhD while continuing to give back to communities that have been historically marginalized and provide support for Indigenous sovereignty. The genuine connections I developed throughout my time interning with NASA, CSA, and DRI have made it more worthwhile and I will hold the experience with me for the rest of my life. Thank you to the CSA and DRI team for all your support!"


During her spring season with the Alliance, Karla worked closely with the Alliance team on climate science education efforts as part of the Climate Kids Hub and Traveling Trunk programs, and in broadening outreach efforts underway as part of the Baja Working Group and bi-national partnerships.

From the Alliance team, we wish you all the best in your future endeavors! We know you will continue to do great things.


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