With the scent of sage in the canyon, the sun on our backs and crisp breeze blowing amongst us, we set out to become Citizen Scientists—what an epic title, right? It’s not our average Saturday, for a family who normally kills time at the mall. But we’re total Econerds now that we’ve done it, as it was quite a compelling experience
You may know Crystal Cove Alliance, CCA, for their part in restoring the vintage beach cottages in Crystal Cove (seen below) to reflect life of the 1930’s-50’s, but did you know they’re also all about hands-on environmental research for 2015 and long into the future? And they want your help?
CCA just started Field Science Saturdays to give those in OC a chance to do worthy work. We explored Crystal Cove’s Moro Canyon and collected data (think soil samples, water studies, plant life ) to help save the environment. Uh, are they crazy? Trusting a motley crew like my brood with science? Fear not, the CCA pros supervise all, but they let you do the work. We saw people in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, you get the idea.
How empowering is it to be called a Citizen Scientist and have people ask you to document important facts to help save earth as we know it—okay, that’s a little dramatic, but you really are doing iconic work. My sixth grader parlayed the experience into a volunteer school project, but I saw UCI biology students out there too and people who just love the canyons of California.
Now is a a classic time to being doing this work with the elements that California is facing (drought, climate change, fires, etc. ). So while it’s a day of some play, it’s also the real deal.
My family and I investigated the health of Moro Canyon’s ecosystem, as we calculated decomposition rates, looked at transpiration in plants, discussed water table levels and talked fire ecology—regular things we always talk about (uh, sure). It was fun to see the kids brains turning, eyebrows raised, and challenge on their faces, as they scribbled measurements, erased, and adjusted their findings. It felt a little like Indiana Jones—and like someday they might find themselves on a far away dig in some lost land (which all started because of their CCA time incessantly shaking a leaf Porometer—and yes, I now know what that is.)
We’re lucky to have this program in OC, and have it run by fun nature lovers like Kaitlyn and Sara, who run the trips. The concept of Citizen Scientists is still very new. Field Science Saturdays become a monthly program for 2016, and are offered at no cost to the community. So invite family and friends to enjoy a day overlooking the water while helping to advance research to preserve OC’s legendary beachfront jewel.
The real-science data that is collected is shared with local researchers and fed into a new environmental dashboard for Crystal Cove State Park.
It’s really a great chance for anyone to get out there and take in some spectacular views. And they welcome families who are ready to explore! You never know what you’ll find either—we came across a rattlesnake skeleton and coyote bones (that the kids thought were the “coolest”).
Expect to see an array of wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled.
If you’re interested in being a Citizen Scientist, meet at Bern’s Environmental Loop at Crystal Cove (#5 Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, CA 92657). Trips happen the second Saturday of each month (usually 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., but check the site for sure). Directions/map: http://bit.ly/1RAmwed
Don’t miss Crystal Cove Alliance’s upcoming Ocean Cruise in February too, where they set out on the sea to be a Citizen Scientist on the Pacific.
So get to know Crystal Cove alliance through their education programs, or you can reserve one of their lovely, restored Beach Cottages (which rent in seconds when up for availability; CCA kept rates incredibly low, so everyone could enjoy the beautiful oceanview seen below). Each year, over 25,000 guests take a trip back in time to stay in California’s last surviving intact beach community – Crystal Cove Beach Cottages.