If you’ve ever wondered about the relationship Cheez Whiz has with the ocean, you’ll have to take a trip to Redondo Beach’s SEA Lab to solve the mystery.

SEA Lab, a program of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC), is an aquarium and learning facility full of exploration and service to benefit the community and its students. SEA Lab features displays of aquatic life from moray eels to jellyfish, a tide pool and a mock grocery store that informs its users of how the ocean benefits a person’s everyday life.

The project, run by members of the LACC, acts as a school on weekdays and is open to the public on the weekends.

"During the weekdays we teach activities from Pre-K all the way to 12th graders," says Esther Jung, a Los Angeles Harbor College student and Corpsmember. "It really broadens your perspective about what’s going on in your own environment and your own neighborhood."

Corpsmembers are between the ages of 18 to 24 and must have a high school diploma. Additionally, they need to be enrolled in community college or a four-year university.

"If a Corpsmember gets an internship here, not only do they get scholarships and an hourly wage, they get knowledge in more than one thing," says Giancarlo Cetrulo, SEA Lab’s program director. "This morning [an intern] may be teaching a class, but later on he will be doing abalone aquaculture."

Corpsmembers become ambassadors for the lab and are responsible for taking care of the fish, teaching the classes and doing community restoration work.

SEA Lab focuses on keeping the natural habitat alive for all forms of wildlife, animal and plant life. The program uses Corpsmembers not only to care for the animals, but also to restore plant life in eroding coastal bluffs.

"As opposed to raping and pillaging Catalina Island and sticking those animals in our tanks, we take animals that would have ended up in a dumpster and rescue them from the power plants," Cetrulo says.

SEA Lab has worked out an agreement with five local power plants so that when animals wash into the plant, the workers simply place the animals in a holding tank until SEA Lab is able to pick them up.

When SEA Lab is open to the public, it offers screenings of ocean life documentaries, fish feeding and beach explorations. SEA Lab also travels to schools in the L.A. area with a "traveling tidepool" to educate students about marine wildlife.

Since its opening, SEA Lab has been slowly growing and its workers are continually looking for ways to improve the program and the community. Even after working at SEA Lab for the past five years, Cetrulo remains optimistic about his job saying, "Every day it’s kind of like, what can I get my hands into today?"

SEA Lab is open Tues.-Sat. from 9 a.m-2 p.m. and Sun. from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; closed Mondays. SEA Lab will also be closed March 4-7. For information about special events and career opportunities, please call (310) 318-7458 or visit

Article posted on 2/22/2005
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