Coastal Cleanup Day 2018: Engaging the Community and Restoring the Creek

SKY C2BD headerSkyline Earth Team and Oakland Tech Earth Team partnered with Friends of Sausal Creek and various other community organizations, adopting a site in Dimond Canyon for California Coastal Cleanup Day 2018. Friends of Sausal Creek has been hosting their annual Creek to Bay Day, coinciding with California Coastal Cleanup Day, for many years now.  Skyline Earth Team looks forward to this event each year as a perfect kick-off to their exciting program filled with work in the same community!

This year, the team worked with Mark, a Friends of Sausal Creek Volunteer Coordinator, to clear a hillside adjacent to Sausal Creek of invasive species. The hillside, which is near the entrance of Dimond Canyon trail and sits across the path from a stretch of the creek that is particularly valuable habitat for rainbow trout spawning, was completely covered with invasive blackberries and unwanted trees.   The group of interns, along with several community volunteers, worked hard through the morning to clear a large swath of land.

SKY hillsideThis event served as the perfect introduction to the series of outdoor restoration events planned for the coming year; it gave Tech and Skyline interns the chance to get to know each other, introduced both Oakland teams to one of their main worksites, and got everyone excited for all of the diverse projects coming up!

Some interns reflected on their experiences and highlights at Creek to Bay Day 2018:

“The event on Saturday was fun but tiring. I enjoyed cutting plants and cutting down a tree, I learned about the invasive species and it was nice seeing how much plants we cleared.” – America

“I liked it cause it was easy and I just got to talk to new people and I thought the cutting down of trees was interesting.” – Jodiah
“I really enjoyed the event from this past Saturday because I enjoyed cutting weeds out but was scared going up that steep hill and falling down. I like that they provided breakfast and the people were really nice too.” – Evelin
“My favorite part of the day, was looking at the new improvements on the creeks. The day was good and fun.” – Amy
“It was fun there were dogs and food. I was surprised to see how much we got done. I wish we could’ve done more. I saw people I recognized from another school.” – Christine
Thank you to Friends of Sausal Creek for hosting another fantastic event, we’re already looking forward to next year!

Skyline High School Program Kick-Off


Earth Team is back at Skyline High School for another year of hard work and fun! Joelle Alley, Program Manager and project lead at Skyline High School, presented to 6 classes reaching over 140 students for this year’s program. After receiving over 25 applications we narrowed it down to 14 amazing interns!

Our team spent the first few meetings getting to know one another, participating in team building activities, setting group agreements for the year, and learning about the program logistics.

We look forward to another great year at Skyline High School!

Skyline Earth Team Celebrates a Successful Year!


The year has come to an end! This year Skyline Earth Team met 42 times, completing over 120 hours of education and training. Meetings including 21 class visits, 14 field visits, and 6 public events, one of which they hosted! Together, we reached over 964 community members and classmates. The team administered 61 water tests, removed 2,300 ft of invasive species, and surveyed 47 people.

The highlights of our project were..

  • Partnering with Friends of Sausal Creek: Interns had the wonderful opportunity to partner with Friends of Sausal Creek starting with their first weekend event, Creek to Bay Day, at Dimond Park at the beginning of the year. Jill and Kathleen of FOSC were invaluable supporters of Earth Team, helping the students with everything from invasive species removal to survey development to benthic macro-invertebrate sampling and enumeration.

  • Pet Waste and Water Quality Community Outreach: Interns planned and executed a community outreach day at Dimond Park to engage and educate park-goers about the effects of pet waste and other pollutants on water quality right in their backyard. They made a trivia game which drew both kids and adults who were spending their Saturday at the park.  They also used the opportunity to survey public about knowledge and opinions about such issues.

  • GLOBE Pacific Student Research Symposium at NASA Ames: After spending many field visits collecting water quality data throughout the Sausal Creek Watershed, interns were able to share their findings with peers and NASA researchers at the GLOBE symposium held at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.  The team won an award recognizing their outstanding research!

  • Science Education Resource Fair: Several representatives from the team attended Community Resources for Science’s Science Education Resource Fair at Chabot Space and Science Center.  The interns shared how after school STEM learning had improved their language and math skills and help set them up for success in future education and careers.

Great job Skyline interns!


Representing Skyline Earth Team at NASA Ames Research Center

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Representatives from Skyline Earth Team presented their research at the GLOBE Pacific Region Student Research Symposium on May 18th and May 19th 2018. Three young leaders attended the conference of over 100 young scientists and mentors at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.  The two day symposium included a tour of the world’s largest wind tunnel, presentations by NASA researchers and the director of the facility, peer reviews of research projects, and feedback on posters from NASA researchers.

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From left: Rocky, Jodiah, and Ariella, Skyline’s three student representatives at the event.

The project presented at the symposium focused on the team’s work regarding pet waste and water quality in Dimond Park. It included data they collected, microbiological analysis from Aemtek Laboratories, and survey results collected from community members.

At the close of the event, several teams were recognized as outstanding youth researchers by participating NASA scientists.  One of the teams recognized was Skyline Earth Team, who received medals of recognition and a trophy.

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Many thanks to the GLOBE Program and NASA for hosting such an inspiring group of youth environmental leaders at this year’s Pacific Region Student Research Symposium!

Water Quality Inquiry: Testing for Fecal Coliform in Sausal Creek Watershed


Throughout the 2017 – 2018 school year, Skyline Earth Team has been collecting and analyzing water quality data from around Sausal Creek Watershed.  The interns used La Motte test kits to monitor parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature.  However, the question at the heart of all of this hard work remained unanswered: does pet waste negatively affect water quality in Dimond Park? To help answer this, the team turned to Ametek Laboratories in Fremont, California.

Water samples were collected from four sites in the watershed: Dimond Park by the playground, Dimond Canyon adjacent to the foot trail, an access point on Scout Road, and the end of Joaquin Miller Court.  These samples were taken to Aemtek’s lab, and within a few days the team had their results.

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This new data confirmed the team’s hypothesis, which inferred that fecal coliform levels would be highest in Dimond Canyon where off-leash dog traffic is highest.  The team was not surprised that the results from the microbiological analysis showed this, or that Dimond Park, which is also a common place to find dogs, showed high levels too. Further, readings at Scout Road were lower which aligns with limited foot traffic but high levels of runoff from the many nearby backyards that drain into the site.  Finally, Joaquin Miller Court, which is more isolated and less developed than the other sites, showed significantly lower levels of fecal coliform contamination.

Overall, all readings were higher than safe recreational levels of fecal coliform, which are set at 200 CFU/ 100 mL. This data acted as further motivation to the team, who feel even more strongly that their work matters and that there is plenty of room for improvement in educating and engaging the public in and around Dimond Park.

Looking Back: Lessons Learned from Dimond Park Community Day

IMG_1660*Student Blog by Amy White*

Creating the material for the Dimond park pet waste activity was very difficult for two reasons. One challenge was finding the information to piece together games and materials that we could use to educate the community.  The other challenge, which wasn’t as difficult, was collaborating with other team mates to agree and make group decisions. Information gathering is tough mainly due to the fact that there’s a lot of untrustworthy websites with false information or unrealistic numbers that you can potentially run into online. Thankfully, most of the websites that we looked at were accurate.  For example, we relied a lot on the Friends of Sausal Creek website and government-funded websites that have reputable data. After we found the information, we had to figure out how to write more scientific questions in words that the general population could understand.  This was maybe the most stressful part because not everyone knows technical words like Escherichia coli. Everyone in my group was very resourceful, very responsible, and we got the job done.  Making sure we all stayed focused and got the challenging work done was important, but it was a lot of fun.

One thing I definitely had fun with was leading the activity. Basically, we set up a game where there were two wrong answers and one right one; participants had to throw the ball into the right answer and if they were right they got a reward. I was helping to run this game on the day of the event and I felt like a leader, although everyone was a leader of some sort on that day.  One thing that was really difficult for me was to not get frustrated when people didn’t want to participate in the game.  It was hard for all of us at first to walk up to other people and say “would you like to play our game” but I got used to it. Other than that, the activity part of the day for sure was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

One thing that I would do differently, however, was the way we set up the game. I think a lot of people would have enjoyed the game more or as much as we thought if we made it easier. Some people had no idea how to play the game and most people just didn’t have time that day. Although, to be frank, a lot of the participants were children and I’m glad they had the chance to learn something. As for asking people to do the surveys, most people agreed to participate. There was one person who didn’t do a survey and that was just because they didn’t want to but overall it was a very successful outreach day.


Young Women in STEM: How Has STEM Education Helped Me?

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, some of our brilliant leading ladies from Skyline Earth Team took time to reflect on what Earth Team has meant to them this year.  This is what they had to say!

Hands on STEM learning at Earth Team isn’t just science experiments!

“It’s about making you think outside the box. We did things like write surveys, and come up with games and activities.  we learned to write questions to specific audiences, we made community connections, and we got to use artistic expression”.

“Communicating STEM results is really beneficial! It teaches us public speaking and how to be a better communicator, it helps us be more social, and it gives us better communication skills all around”.

Hands On Science means mastering math and technology!

“When we were reading instructions and learning chemical equations for field tests, it helped us understand math and how it is used in the real world.  Doing hands on STEM learning makes science and math concepts make more sense because they are in context of something you really care about!”

Hands on STEM at Earth Team has helped us become better students and people!

“Doing STEM in a program like Earth Team gave us an opportunity to be more active in the world, improve our mentality, and succeed in other areas of our academic life”.

“It has taught us respect, it has given us a work ethic, it helped us learn how to work independently, and it helped us work with other people too!”

“It gives us opportunities to be engaged with our communities in meaningful ways”.

“STEM gives us a deep understanding of the world, showing us what is essential to life”.

“It gives us an opportunity to care about the world and what people know and think”.




Dimond Park Community Outreach Day

IMG_2584On February 10th, Skyline Earth Team brought their first semester project to a close with a community outreach day at Dimond Park! The grassy area by Scout Hut was a perfect place for the team to set up their educational materials and their trivia game, which drew participants from all ages.  Oakland Tech Earth Team joined the party to lead a litter clean-up throughout Dimond Park and nearby Dimond Canyon trails.

This community outreach day gave Skyline Earth Team the opportunity to share all that they learned from the previous months full of surveys, water testing, benthic macro-invertebrate counts, research, and data analysis. This group of young water quality experts took this chance to engage park goers in dialogue about how to be a better water steward by following practices like no dumping and picking up after your pet.

The team was well received by the community, and got a lot of excited responses from people who were already passionate about keeping Sausal Creek healthy as well as from people ready to learn more!  Everyone was excited to see that their months of hard work at Dimond Park paid off with a successful community outreach event!


Community Partnerships Built at the Martin Luther King Shoreline

IMG_2402On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, East Bay Regional Parks hosted a day of service at the shoreline off of Swan Way.  Earth Team interns joined the efforts, and helped with litter clean ups using the Marine Debris Tracker App.

While Skyline Earth Team worked at this location, LPS Oakland and Oakland Tech Earth Teams engaged in similar efforts up and down the shoreline.

This team had the exciting opportunity to work with other community members, including a group of local 5th graders, on the clean up.  Students shared the Marine Debris Tracker App with locals, discussed their efforts and issues of water quality, and had the opportunity to be environmental leaders right here in Oakland.

Here are some thoughts that the interns had about the day of service.

“Most of what we picked up was plastic and styrofoam fragments, and there were a lot of constructions supplies” – Ariella

“I noticed that the community really wanted to be here and came out to help on their own time” – Jodiah

“I observed how many families came out together and how many local groups came out all together to be a part of the community” – Fahina

The team shared their thoughts about the activity, noting that using the app is helpful because having numbers and metrics is really motivational.  They saw the direct impacts of their work when they saw a sea bird trying to eat a plastic bag.  They also enjoyed working with other community members, and noted that they would enjoy training people more often.

Overall, the day of service was an exciting opportunity for Skyline Earth Team to do work outside of their normal scope and to engage in an exciting community based event!