By: Mira Garin
Josh Espinoza is a first-generation Latino college graduate who earned his bachelor’s degree in Community Health from California State University Dominguez Hills in 2020. Growing up in the South East Los Angeles area he saw many injustices, predominantly due to heavy metals like lead leaching into soil and drinking water caused by either older infrastructure in need of improvement or environmental regulation violations. “I remember when I was still in grade school,” Josh said, “there were multiple occasions where students were told not to drink water out of the faucets due to the waters not being ‘clean.’” His interests in understanding why and how water contamination can cause adverse health effects led him to find work with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to educate and raise awareness on various health topics in marginalized communities and to advocate for environmental justice; much of this work focused on communities in South East LA that were impacted by air and soil contamination from a local battery smelting facility, and Josh was particularly adept at connecting with the Latino members of the impacted communities given his fluency in Spanish.
This internship gave him the desire to seek out higher education and led him to apply for the Master of Public Health (MPH) in Environmental Health, which he will earn from San Diego State University in 2023. In deciding to pursue an MPH, Josh sought to both sharpen the skill set he obtained from his undergraduate degree and familiarize himself with knowledge of the relevant sciences, policies, and regulations needed for successful environmental management. His thesis project on identifying which compounds found in the increasing amounts of untreated sewage runoff into the Tijuana River have adverse health effects on marginalized coastal communities in San Diego and Tijuana is under the supervision of Dr. Eunha Hoh, which Josh is projected to defend shortly before his graduation this May.
Josh began his fellowship through the 2023 California Sea Grant State Fellowship Program with the California Departmentof Transportation (CalTrans) on 01 March, where he supports the Division of Environmental Engineering and Coastal Stewardship through conducting biological surveys, producing CEQA-level environmental permits and assessments, and further examining environmental regulatory processes.