Summer Internship and Murals, a BayLines Original Article

Austin Cai

Austin Cai

Over the summer, I (Austin Cai), lead a team of four high school artists completed two murals for the mural project at MSI. I painted the Kelp Forest mural, while Nancy Hu and Sabrina Zhai painted the Mangroves mural. The murals will be used during MSI’s summer camps. Although there was no definitive deadline, the project had to be completed in the length of summer to avoid conflicts with schools.

I first received the project before the summer of 2014. At the time, I was naively hoping to finish two or three murals in time for them to be used in the summer. However, this plan quickly fell apart. The revised, final, plan was to finish two murals, one by me, one by my team, before the end of summer. I recruited first through my school’s art class, and then I recruited at my extracurricular art class. Many students were interested, but most had scheduling conflicts or lived too far away to make it. In the end, Nancy, Sabrina, Andrew, and Kevin, all of which were in my extracurricular art class, joined.

I designed four drafts for kelp forest, and was close to getting approved within the first month of summer. I was planning to attend COSMOS, a science summer program for a month, so I knew I had to finish most of my drafting work early on. (I actually attended a course on marine mammals in COSMOS, so by the time I came back I had enough expertise to add ear flaps and increase the pectoral flipper size on the kelp forest sea lion.)

As our schedules started clearing up, the team members, and many of their parents, held a meeting at a bakery to discuss how to move onward with the project and decide who had what responsibilities in terms of finalizing drafts. Nancy designed two more drafts, combining and finalizing the mangrove mural designs submitted by Sabrina and Andrew. Later, with the kelp forest draft complete and the mangrove mural draft nearly approved, the team held another meeting at the local library to discuss the logistics of beginning to paint. The main area of concern was how to carpool, and how to get the paint.

I knew from previous painting experience that Kelly Moore would donate paint to non-profit projects. The team was ready to start painting. We decided to first sketch the designs out on the cubicles as a point of reference. Nancy and Sabrina were responsible for the mangroves mural, while I was responsible for the kelp forest mural. On weekdays, we worked 3 hours a day, and about four days a week, depending on what time my and Sabrina’s mom had time to drive. Sabrina’s mom would take Sabrina, me, and sometimes Nancy to MSI, while my mom brought dinner and drove us home.

In total, it took about five weeks or 265 hours to finish the murals, including time needed for planning, drafting, meeting, commuting etc.

This project was the first time I have so formally led a group, and it was an amazing experience. Tiff, and the MSI facility were extremely supportive and patient, even when we made mistakes. The entire process was an amazing experience. And to top it all off, we were painting mere meters away from the bay; it’s hard, if not impossible, to find a more desirable working environment!


Volunteer and internship opportunities are always available at Marine Science Institute. To learn more please visit our webpage at or contact the Community Outreach Coordinator at 650-364-2760 X16 or email




This article is featured in our BayLines Winter Edition 2014-2015.

BayLines Winter Edition 14'-15'

BayLines Winter Edition 14′-15′


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