Blum Summer Field Internship | 2017
Laureles Canyon

The UCSD Cross-Border Initiative (CBI) is proud to present the findings of the 2017 Blum Summer Field Internship (BSFI), Tijuana Estuary and Cañón de los Laureles Team. The Cross-Border Community Station is a binational research effort premised on seeing the people and ecosystems of Tijuana, Baja California, and San Diego, California, as bioregional neighbors.

Interns tour the border wall from the Playas de Tijuana side.

BSFI places students in a summer-long program of mixed academic research and active project creation and implementation with partner organizations on both sides of the border. Students are challenged to learn relevant research, basic mapping techniques, and develop self-organized project timelines and plans in the Cross-Border Studio (SME 402) at UCSD one day a week. This academic work is complemented by meetings with local organizations, guest lectures with community leaders, and in-the-field project development, public outreach, and local capacity-building.

2017 Internship team presenting to community members at the Divina Providencia Community Center.

The Estuary-Tijuana field sites are organized around understanding connections between informal urban development, conservation, and public health. Interns work in small teams based on their interests and the needs of our partners, and do a mixture of physical, mental, and communicative outreach/investigation efforts.

Interns help conservation teams with the California State Parks restore a section of the Tijuana River Estuary in Imperial Beach, California.


Kyle Haines, UCSD Political Science: Mellon/CBI Post-Doctoral Field Coordinator
Kristen Goodrich, UCI Social Ecology, TRNERR: Field Instructor
Ana Xochilte Eguiarte: COLEF MAIA, TRNERR: 2017 Blum Public Scholar
Oslín Licea Chávez, UCSD Spanish Literature: Blum Inter-Generational Scholar
Magnolia García, UCSD Public Health: Blum Inter-Generational Scholar
Rebeca Ramirez, Director, Colonos de Divina Providencia, A.C.
Professor Fonna Forman, UCSD Political Science, Cross-Border Initiative Co-Director
Professor Teddy Cruz, UCSD Visual Arts, Cross-Border Initiative Co-Director


Interns self-select into three projects based on pedagogical goals of the Cross-Border Initiative and priorities of partners in the Tijuana Estuary and Los Laureles Canyon. Each of these projects is led by different members of the teaching staff with experience working in Tijuana. Although working in separate tracks, students are required to present weekly to their cohort and at larger events to a wider UCSD and Divina community.

Kristen Goodrich gives a lecture from Spooner Mesa looking out over the Department of Homeland Security’s large sediment basins in the Tijuana River Estuary.

The Estuary-Tijuana field sites are organized around understanding connections between informal urban development, conservation, and public health. Interns work in small teams based on their interests and the needs of our partners, and do a mixture of physical, mental, and communicative outreach/investigation efforts. We work in the classroom at UCSD, from the Coastal Training Center at TRNERR in Imperial Beach, and at the community center in Divina Providencia, Tijuana. We also take the students to visit local organizations, city officials, and key social-ecological locations throughout Tijuana and the border cities on the US side of the wall.

Professors Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman and interns survey existing conservation zones in Divina Providencia, Tijuana, Mexico.

In the 2017 Cross-Border Internship, students worked on three major projects, which they describe in their own words below. These projects were organized in advance by UCSD, TRNERR, and CDP, focusing on three major binational issues:

1. Parks and Green Public Space: Francisco Durán, Alexandro Enciso, Shane Reed; Lead: Kyle Haines

Conservation zone/informal dump above Divina Providencia Primary School.

The parks and green spaces group focused on mapping existing green spaces and potential open areas, as well as understanding in better detail the linkages between social protection from landslides and floods, ecological conservation of species and habitat, and public health related to the accumulation and burning of trash. Using Divina Providencia as an organizing center, interns walked and surveyed the canyon canal system and mapped remaining open spaces with potential for ecological or social use. Interns were challenged to begin imagining rehabilitation strategies and potential programming for critical sites in danger of invasion and contamination, beginning a joint process with community partners and architects from UCSD to create resilient public spaces that serve ecological and public purposes, and which have the potential to educate with pedagogical programming.

Alex Enciso and Shane Reed work to plant aloe vera in the canal junction park, Divina Providencia, Tijuana, Mexico.

The team worked to physically clean and digitally visualize several of these potential park areas, initiating conversations with neighbors and other community members about their ideas for the space, and presenting to the community about the lack of green space in the canyon and ideas for rehabilitating important conservation areas detailed in the Plan Parcial para la Mejoramiento del Cañón de los Laureles (2005).

Diagram of potential green assets in Divina Providencia, Tijuana, Mexico by Francisco Durán

At a final community meeting, interns talked about the importance of native plants for containing erosion and detailed in a series of produced maps and diagrams the green spaces that exist in the immediate vicinity of Divina Providencia. Together with the Tijuana River Action Month and partners at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR), students organized a community clean up centered around the Divina primary school and surrounding small green spaces.

Volunteers load trash and old vegetation picked up during the Tijuana River Action Month event in Divina Providencia, Tijuana, Mexico.

2. Urban Gardens and Clinic Support: Jonathan Gonzalez Padilla, Laura Santos, Ify Okwuosa; Student Leads: Oslín Licea Chávez and Magnolia García

Students clean the patio space and begin constructing raised beds.

The health and urban gardens team, led by intergenerational scholars and former BSFI interns Magnolia García and Oslín Licea Chávez, worked on two main projects throughout the 2017 summer internship. The first was support for the State of Baja California free clinic taking place at the Colonos de Divina Providencia Community Center every Friday. Students helped with patient intake, talked to local community members about the accessibility of services, and assisted clinic staff. The second was a small community garden in the patio of the Community Center in conjunction with the local Tercera Edad (retirement) group meeting every Wednesday at the Community Center. This garden, which is still in construction, is intended to supplement the availability of nutritional foods in the community and directly support the subsidized meals program provided by the Community Center’s public kitchen. In addition, students researched and planned for a medicinal garden to provide support for the clinic and link the different programs at the community center (Tercera Edad, clinic, and kitchen) together in a meaningful way. The summer internship concluded with a presentation at a community meeting and first planting with local children.

Interns guide local primary school students in planting the first of the raised beds in the Community Center garden.

3. Trash and Sediment Management – Leon Sanchez Reyes, Jessie Hernandez Reyes, Tokio Shimamura; Leads: Kristen Goodrich and Ana Eguiarte

Accumulated plastics and other garbage in the traps of the Laureles Canyon sediment basins, Tijuana River Estuary, US.

The Trash and Sediment team, led by Kristen Goodrich and public scholar Ana Eguiarte from the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, focused on the issues of transborder flows of sediment and trash originating in the Laureles Canyon and ending in the Tijuana Estuary and Border Field State Park in California. Interns traveled to the major dump in Tijuana and spoke with regional experts on clean up efforts to better understand the scale of the problem, but were challenged to apply this knowledge to considering the particular community of Divina Providencia.

Interns visit the Tijuana landfill and learn about tire disposal.

Focusing in, interns were asked to map local trash disposal sites, both legal and clandestine, investigate schedules and reliability of local trash pick-up services, and to talk to locals about their perceptions of the dangers of trash and usefulness of native plants. At the final community meeting, the Trash and Sediment group presented a co-produced video with public scholar Rebeca Ramirez and local children explaining how people understood their relationship to trash and asking the community to co-narrate the story in a way which did not presume ‘experts’ at the university or government could simply make people conform to new rules when the services needed are still lacking.

Compilation of characters in the co-produced video

For more information, please see the 2017 Cross-Border CS in Laureles Canyon Final Report.