Brandon Quintana, Marine Biologist

Brandon Quintana, Marine Biologist

Meet Brandon Quintana, a marine biologist working to bring light to environmental justice issues faced by marginalized communities. For his master's thesis at California State University, he is studying how ecosystem services and the health of filter feeders are responding to different environmental factors such as sedimentation and eelgrass in a living shoreline setting.


9 - 12


Storytelling, Biology, Oceanography, Ecology, Conservation

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Early Work

My story began in Southeast Los Angeles, a place marked by relentless freeway noise and smog that not only clouded the air but also impacted my health, leading to asthma. These were early signs of the environmental injustices my community faced—challenges that ignited a burning curiosity for nature. Nature was a stranger to me then, a distant concept I only met through National Geographic documentaries and a small inflatable pool in my backyard, which served as my makeshift ocean, my first step towards the vast, uncharted waters of marine science.

Most Exciting Part of Your Work

The real joy in my work lies in blending marine conservation with my passion for social justice, deeply influenced by my identity as a queer, Latino, low-income, first-generation individual. It's exhilarating to lead projects that not only restore natural habitats but also make science accessible and inclusive. By involving diverse communities, we're empowering everyone to see themselves as environmental stewards, and encouraging them to explore conservation to make positive waves of change in their own way. This inclusive approach enriches our understanding and solutions, making our work truly transformative.

Most Demanding Part of Your Work

The toughest part of my work is overcoming institutional barriers to include underrepresented communities in conservation, especially LGBTQ+ individuals. These spaces aren't always safe for queer people to express themselves freely, which complicates securing and directing funds to support these groups. It's a challenge to push against long-standing norms to ensure our efforts are not only environmentally sound but also socially impactful. This task is essential for fostering true inclusivity and safety in our field.

What Being an Explorer Means to You

Being an Explorer means harnessing the power of storytelling and the ocean to forge deeper connections between people and nature. Through my stories, I aim to break down barriers in conservation, ensuring that everyone, especially people with overlapping identities like mine, can see themselves as part of the effort to protect our planet.

Explorer Work Showcase

At the California Coastal Commission, I am focusing on a key project that merges environmental justice with state-level sea level rise challenges. I'm developing a guidance report that prioritizes communities most vulnerable to sea level changes, ensuring they are central to climate change mitigation efforts. This report will be integrated into broader federal strategies, aiming to enhance nationwide resilience and inclusivity in our approach to climate challenges.

So, You Want To Be a…Marine Biologist

Embrace your unique perspective. The barriers might seem daunting, but believing in yourself and your distinct view can lead to incredible breakthroughs. Your background and experiences aren't just part of who you are—they're your superpowers in understanding and protecting our planet. Dive into this field with confidence and creativity, and always remember that even the biggest obstacles can be navigated with innovation and persistence. Let your journey inspire others as you carve your path in marine biology.

Get Involved

To help protect our oceans, you don't need to be an expert. Start by cultivating a personal connection with the ocean—visit coastal areas, learn about marine ecosystems, and adopt eco-friendly habits. Then, broaden your impact by engaging in community efforts to safeguard marine environments and supporting policies that ensure the health of our oceans for future generations. Approach these issues in ways that resonate with your values and community, and encourage others to join in creating a sustainable future for our oceans.

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Last Updated

June 3, 2024

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