Partnership and Restoration in Beaconsfield Canyon

IMG_1555On a cool but sunny Saturday morning in late October, Skyline interns convened at the trailhead leading into Beaconsfield Canyon in Oakland.  The team gathered to meet with Friends of Sausal Creek leaders and other community volunteers for a restoration workday. Beaconsfield Canyon, through which runs a walking trail adjacent to a small creek, is being restored in an effort to preserve the riparian ecosystem and protect surrounding communities from the threat of catastrophic fire.

Saturday’s group of volunteers was introduced to the site and its respective issues by Richard, a volunteer coordinator with Friends of Sausal Creek.  The group then broke into smaller teams to take on different issues in the canyon. One group worked with Richard, focused on removing weeds from the flat areas along the creek.  Another team, supervised by another volunteer named Wendy, headed up a steep hill to prune and pull invasive Himalayan Blackberry thickets that could cause major damage if a fire were to erupt.  Finally, a group worked to re-build a stretch of trail to stabilize the hillside and prevent it from washing out in the first rain.

At the end of the day, volunteers bagged up all of the weeds they removed and packed them out to the trailhead to be disposed of.  The workday ended with snacks and reflections, during which the team shared their satisfaction with the challenging but rewarding work.  Thank you, Friends of Sausal Creek, for everything that you do!

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Youth Stewards Attend First Annual Alameda County Watershed Confluence

IMG_1496Skyline interns joined environmental professionals from across the county at the first annual Alameda County Watershed Confluence. The event, hosted by the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District was held on October 17th at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center overlooking Lake Merritt.

The team arrived after school, convening on a patch of grass on the banks of the lake.  Students took some time before joining other attendees to review their data and reflect on what they hoped to learn from speakers and posters. The group joined the conference starting with a mid-afternoon poster session, during which they shared last year’s water quality findings with participants, and took the opportunity to discuss plans for the coming year with local professionals.

Attendees were interested to hear about the effects of pet waste on water quality, as many of them own dogs themselves and love to use the recreational and open spaces studied by Earth Team.  Some participants were also surprised to hear about the rainbow trout living in Sausal Creek, which confirmed the team’s survey findings suggesting that a surprising amount of community members lack knowledge about their local ecosystems.

After presenting their poster, the team was able to hear from various Friends Of  groups about different watershed restoration efforts happening throughout the East Bay.  They also listened to a discussion about public and non-profit partnership from a City of Oakland representative and a Friends of Sausal Creek Board Member.

While the team enjoyed networking with like-minded people, appreciated the insight of the various speakers, and noticed the beautiful conference space, their favorite part (not surprisingly) was the snack bar at the end of the event.  Everyone had a great time, and are looking forward to future presentations thanks to the hard work of the Alameda County Watershed Confluence Committee!

Mastering GLOBE Hydrosphere Protocols

IMG_1471Skyline High interns, who are working this year on quantifying effects of urban activities on water quality, spent their Wednesday afternoon mastering GLOBE hydrosphere protocols and collecting sample water quality data.

GLOBE is an international data sharing platform that allows students and other citizen scientists to collect data and share it with others across the world.

The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program is an international science and education program that provides students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment.  Announced by the U.S. Government on Earth Day in 1994, GLOBE launched its worldwide implementation in 1995.

Vision: A worldwide community of students, teachers, scientists, and citizens working together to better understand, sustain, and improve Earth’s environment at local, regional, and global scales.

Mission: To promote the teaching and learning of science, enhance environmental literacy and stewardship, and promote scientific discovery.

Learn more at GLOBE.gov

While several interns have been introduced to these protocols through Green Energy Academy classes, Earth Team student leaders will go a step further to master them in order to collect robust data from various sites.  This data will be submitted on GLOBE’s website, and students will then analyze and draw conclusions from their data.

Last year, the team collected data using GLOBE hydrosphere protocols and presented their conclusions at the GLOBE Pacific Student Research Symposium at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, where they were recognized with an Outstanding Research award.  This coming year, students hope to expand upon last year’s project and present their data once again.

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

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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!

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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!

LEADERSHIP | STEWARDSHIP | SERVICE

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

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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.

LEADERSHIP  |  STEWARDSHIP  |  SERVICE