The Science of Sustainability

Arrow Gobies, Ghost Shrimp and Bubble Snails: Teachers Explore the Unique Biodiversity of San Francisco Bay

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Teachers gear up in hip waders to explore the Bay

How do teachers spend their time off?  Last week they donned hip wader boots, dragged a seine net, slogged in bay mud and paddled canoes on San Leandro Bay to learn about about our amazing bay in this year's San Francisco Bay Area Institute: "California’s Water Resources and Climate Change."

Here’s what their week of science adventures looked like.  We gathered the first day at the Crab Cove Visitor Center.  The Bay Lab program introduced them to San Francisco Bay ecology. Dragging a seine net through the eel grass beds and mudflats they sampled the fauna.  We found arrow gobies, juvenile fish, bubble snails, New Zealand sea snot mollusks, and snail egg masses.

Seine net sampling of near shore animals at Crown Beach

They were identified, tallied and returned to the bay.  Teachers also practiced sampling techniques and data analysis for estimating what animals might live in the Bay mudflats.  With quadrats in hand they assessed the surface for animal evidence such as ghost shrimp holes, lug worm castings and egg masses, and various holes indicating animal homes.  Then they took some mud samples back to the lab and used a sieve and microscopes for further identification of amphipods, worms, gem clams, and more.  Armed with this raw data, they then broke up into project groups to work on developing a hypothesis related to San Francisco Bay, climate change and water resources and planned their methods for testing it.  They had to present their findings on the final day of class.

The following days we explored Native American life at Coyote Hills along with a freshwater marsh and salt ponds being restored to mudflats.  We journeyed on San Leandro Bay in Oakland via canoes the teachers paddled.  From the boats they sampled the mix of fresh and salt water and observed human impacts around the Bay from the surrounding watersheds.  They then took a ferry to explore Angel Island for a perspective on the Bay-Delta interface.

A quiet moment of reflection during Nature Journaling at Coyote Hills

The finale of the week was the presentation of their group projects.  One group hypothesized about potential impacts of sea level rise and discovered areas in their travels over the week that could potentially be lost with a one-meter rise in sea level.  The lost areas included both marshes and mudflats along with buildings, trails, and parking lots.  Other groups investigated gull behavior, and others compared the natural systems in the different field trip locations.  All were well done and a great wrap-up of the week.

We’ve been partnering to offer a San Francisco Bay Institute for teachers for five of the last six years.  This year nineteen teachers spent a week of their summer vacations with us, getting to know each other and having a great time outdoors. Over the last six years we’ve had the privilege to work with over 100 teachers.  They in turn are reaching our next generation of students with a better understanding of this amazing body of water we share and ideas for how to make learning about science exciting and relevant.

 

Additional Links:

Partnering agencies for the San Francisco Bay Institute:  California Institute for Biodiversity, East Bay Regional Park District and California State Parks

Encyclopedia Of Life: Crab Cove Species List

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Category: Biodiversity, Biology, Blog

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Sharol Nelson-Embry

About the Author ()

Sharol Nelson-Embry is the Supervising Naturalist at the Crab Cove Visitor Center & Aquarium on San Francisco Bay in Alameda. Crab Cove is part of the East Bay Regional Park District, one of the largest and oldest regional park agencies in the nation. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Natural Resources Management and an epiphany that connecting kids with nature was her destiny. She's been rooted in the Bay Area since 1991 after working at nature centers and outdoor science schools around our fair state. She loves the great variety of habitats stretching from the Bay shoreline to the redwoods, lakes, and hills. Sharol enjoys connecting people to nature with articles in local newspapers and online forums. Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.
  • Calw

    Both are great places to see the fantastic bio-diversity of the bay. Coyote Hills has miles of trails to explore while crab cove feels like it is all in arms (eyes) reach. Both are havens for nature photography.