I have had the absolute pleasure of spending my week with a group of 13 curious young scientists, their awesome counselors, and the creative Point Reyes Science Adventure program manager. The Point Reyes National Seashore Association, a non-profit associated with the park, annually hosts around 13 high school aged students at the park for the week-long Point Reyes Science Adventure!

We began our adventures with a plant assessment of the Giacomini Wetlands by using 1×1 m quadrats. The Giacomini Wetlands is a special place because it is the site of a successful restoration project that began in 2007. We were out there to help the park collect annual data that will then be processed to analyze the change in the plant species distribution over the course of the past year.

The next day we took the young scientists out into the field to seine fish. Seining is the process of catch and release fishing by using a wide net that is vertically placed into and then stretched across a body of water. We were helping the park’s fish biologist assess the success of the Giacomini Wetland restoration by looking for indicator species, such as the Yellowfin Goby. We sampled three different sites where the students were taught to identify and handle the fish. The third site was a ways into the muddy and breathtaking Giacomini Wetland. For most of the students, this was their first time trudging through this type of ecosystem. If y’all recall from my last week’s post, wetlands and marshes tend to want to swallow boots whole and can make some feel defeated by its tricks. It requires a lot of teamwork, communication, and patience. Given this challenge, the students were in high spirits and were impressed with their own abilities to persevere in the name of science and adventure. It was incredible to watch!

On Friday, the students participated in a state-wide monitoring program called LiMPETS. LiMPETS, Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students, is a program that engages young people in citizen science to monitor the health of the California coasts. A good indicator species for ocean and beach health is the mole crab, also called the sand crab. These are cute little invertebrates that burrow into the sand along the swash zone of the beach. The students set up their stations and cored for mole crabs at 1 m intervals along a 10 m transect.

Once the sand was sieved through, a bunch of mole crabs would appear! The students recorded the gender and carapace length of the mole crab. All of this data was then inputted into the online LiMPET database that is then used to assess California coastal health. This was an incredibly rewarding experience because, by inputting the data online and creating graphs, the students were able to instantly see the impact they were having on such an important health assessment.

Fortunately, my week with these folks is not over, and tomorrow I will be going back out with them into Lagunitas Creek to record its bathymetry!