Eastshore Elementary School
USC Wrigley Marine Science Center
Monday, June 1, 2009
May gray gave way to June gloom as the first day of June dawned. The Eastshore team met bright and early at the Southern California Marine Institute for a 7:30 a.m. departure on the Zephyrus. The ride on the Zephrus was almost a three hour cruise that rocked and rolled the whole way, and we arrived shortly after 10:00 a.m. in Big Fisherman’s Cove at the USC Wrigley Institute. John kept us entertained the entire way with KISS, House of Pain, and Vanilla Ice on his IPOD.
The big question on the team’s mind was what the dorms would be like. Think college dorms – two beds per room, mini fridge, dresser, two desks and closets with a shared bathroom with the room next door. They are happy with their accommodations now that they’ve moved in; however, a couple students needed help making a bed.
After learning the lay of the campus and waterfront rules, we measured visibility and salinity as well as drug for plankton off the dock. We had our first snorkel dive followed by a plant hike. Garabaldi, kelp bass, blacksmith, sheephead, and shovel-nose guitar fish were observed on this dive. We saw a lot of bat rays which was the highlight of this dive. The largest bat ray was over six feet from tip to tip. Students enjoyed diving down and watching them swim away. They especially enjoyed the fact that they have one-piece wet suits with no “happy straps”.
It was so fun – the water was freezing, the air was cool, the boat ride rocked and rolled, but everyone is having a blast.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Last night we worked until after 10:00 p.m. gathering plankton and viewing it under a microscope. Everyone enjoyed the bioluminescence of the phytoplankton. This morning’s overcast created glass-smooth water ideal for our kayak. We kayaked along the rocky coast and discovered several blow holes similar to ones found in Hawaii. The highlight was kayaking through the blue cavern which is a cave about 100 yards long. Inside the cave, we found brilliant red, blue, and orange sponges. The dark part of the cavern was enough to give Danielle intense shivers. On our return, we kayaked around bird rock. Bird rock is what appears to be a snow covered island that the locals joke about skiing only bird rock isn’t covered with snow. The closer we got to the rock the smell told us that the snow was bird poop. Even though the rock stunk, the pelicans and cormorants were beautiful.
The rest of the day was all about fish. First, we had a fish identification class taught by an ichthyologist. Then we did fish printing. The team made their own t-shirts and bags which came out beautiful. Then we did a fish dissection class. Julia found a shrimp and a ton of fish bones in her fish’s stomach. Guess what team had the only male fish, found the testicles, and looked at the sperm cells under the microscope? Students are getting a taste of what college laboratory classes will be like, and they are enjoy working in the labs. Guess what student discharged the emergency eye wash station?
After dinner, both the high school and middle school groups played volleyball together. Students from both school know each other, and they are working well with each other.
Overall, this Catalina trip is an amazing experience.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Today we had so many amazing experiences from kayaking and snorkeling to virus presentations to capturing bugs. This morning the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department landed one of its rescue helicopters for students to tour. While we waited for the huge helicopter to land, we made bracelets with special UV beads. In the presence of ultraviolet light, these beads change color. The beads are a good indicator of when sunscreen should be applied.
We kayaked to a cove today for our snorkel dive, much like the researchers do here at the USC Wrigley Institute. We saw purple and orange Spanish shawls in abundance, and the team enjoyed observing these nudibranchs.
After lunch, we took a bus to the isthmus where we set transect lines in order to count plant life. We also used sweep nets to capture insects, and we set pitfall traps in order to catch insects we’ll look at later in the week. During our time at the isthmus, we had some on and off rain showers that were followed by some cool thunder and lightning as we left. Students enjoyed seeing the wind-ward side of the island, and they were surprised to see surf.
Before dinner, we were given sushi lessons, and everyone made their own version of California roll. One of our team members found that he got rice stuck everywhere except on the nori. Speaking of food, it didn’t take students long to find where the chef stashes his fresh-baked cookies. Kelly says the food tingles her taste-buds, and she enjoys the pleasure of consuming it. She says the clam chowder at lunch was the best. In fact, she consumed three bowls. During our after meal breaks, students enjoy hanging in the student lounge playing ping pong and pool as well as watching TV.
This evening students listened to a lecture from graduate student Anand Patel who is here at the institute studying bacteria and viruses that live in the slime at the bottom of the sea. Students were able to make the connection between his research and their Edison Challenge compost project as viruses and bacteria are at the base of the composting their doing. It’s amazing to watch students sit in a college lecture hall and learn from a difficult presentation.
This experience continues to be thrilling.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
After breakfast, we learned about the first humans to settle Catalina Island called the Tongua. The Tongua made use of soapstone as it is a soft rock that carves easily into cooking tools, effigies, and jewelry. Catalina Island has large deposits of soapstone. Since Catalina was never part of the main land, soapstone is not found in the western part of North America making soapstone a valuable trading commodity. Soapstone is found as far east as Colorado and as far north as British Columbia. We had the opportunity to carve soapstone into our own effigies. Students worked with a variety of modern tools from files to saws to sandpaper. The patient students made some outstanding carvings. Tomorrow we explore the interior of the island, and we will see where the Tongua quarried soapstone.
We analyzed the plant data from yesterday’s transect line survey. Students found that the plants that grow within five meters of the road are invasive species. When we got further away from the road, we found the sage brush and cactus plants that make up the coastal sage community were growing in abundance. The purpose of doing a plant and/or animal survey is to know what is in a habitat so that gains and losses can be measured when the habitat is disturbed.
Students were given a tour of the hyperbaric chamber here at the Wrigley Institute. They were sealed into the chamber and taken to a depth of one foot in order to notice what happens to air when pressure changes. Julia said that it felt like being in an airplane, and she also found that the air changed temperature – it got much warmer.
The remaining portion of the day was spent doing a GPS navigation scavenger hunt. Students found they had to look carefully for their clues because GPS is off by about 10 meters. We also made algae prints, and our group was able to identify all the algae in our sample using an algae key.
Yet again, what we’re doing is a once in a life-time experience which will put a mark on our lives forever. This according to Kelly and Danielle.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Today was amazing. We made sack lunches after breakfast and boarded two vans in order to explore the interior of Catalina. Our first stop was Little Harbor and Shark Harbor which are protected coves on the island’s backside.
We took a short hike and watched waves break on the shores and rocks of an unspoiled coast line. We then looked at an abandoned stage coach station in the center of the island. Stage coach was the way people traveled from Two Harbors to Avalon for over 60 years starting in the late 1800’s. The interior of the island looks like the wild west – complete with horse ranches, bison, and stage coach roads.
We stopped and looked at the facilities organizations use who work to keep the bald eagle and island fox populations healthy on the island. We enjoyed seeing both foxes and bald eagles up close. Our first stop in Avalon was the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden. After eating our sack lunches, we explored the garden to see some of Catalina’s endemic plants, and we climbed the stairs of the Wrigley Memorial. The view from the memorial was awesome, and John freaked when he realized he climbed on Wrigley’s crypt.
The six of us from Eastshore spent two hours shopping in Avalon. Rhodri managed to break and eat most of what he bought for gifts. Kelly and Kent decided to try a bison burger which they liked. We bought a lot of trinkets, and the favorite one was bison poop spray-painted gold. We said good-bye to Bobby our Edison photographer and said hello to Cindy our new Edison photographer.
We boarded the vans for the airport, and took a brief hike to the Tongva soapstone quarry. Students looked at how the Tongva made their soapstone bowls.
Last night was our night dive which was incredible. Highlights include watching flying fish swim underwater in the lights of the pier. We saw lobster in abundance and Moray eels. Students enjoyed this dive so much we didn’t get out of the water until after 10:00 p.m., and we didn’t get to bed until almost 11:00 p.m.
The van ride to Avalon was surprisingly interesting as the ride over the rough road felt like a massage chair according to Julia.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Man, did we hike today! After a leisurely breakfast, pool, and Saturday morning cartoons, we drove to Two Harbors which is where our hike began. Before our hike we checked the insect pitfall traps we set several days ago. Students found the bait gone and an assortment of insects trapped in the containers. We climbed Banning Peak which is 1,600 feet above Two Harbors. At the summit we ate our sack lunches along with a bison who joined us. The bison gave some of our enterprising boys and Kelly an idea. They noticed that bison paddies spray painted gold were selling for $14.00 in Avalon, so they decided to collect some dried-out paddies. They plan on taking them back to school and painting the paddies themselves, and they hope their paddies will be worth some money when they sell them to classmates. We walked along the ridge lines above the Pacific Ocean. The views were breathtaking, and the day was so clear we could see Santa Barbara Island to the north and San Clemente Island to the south. Julia said that it was like nothing that could be seen from the road. The kelp forest and the turquoise, deep blue, and green of the Pacific could be seen from the ridge-top trail. Rhodri liked the way the light played off the water. We could see the rain on the mainland while we enjoyed sunshine and blue skies.
We hiked over five miles, and ended our hike at Little Harbor. We had time to body surf and rest on the beach of a totally deserted cove. Vanessa bought snacks of meal worms, yes meal worms. Students had a choice of cheddar cheese or spicy meal worms for those brave enough to try one. Students may never again have an opportunity to view such a beautiful land untouched by humans that we saw today.
After dinner, the middle school team taught the high school team, Edison staff, and USC staff the game of prisoner on the volleyball court. Everyone enjoyed several rounds.
Tomorrow this experience will come to an end. We’re going to kayak, visit the USC Wrigley gift shop, and head to Two Harbors for our Catalina Express boat back to San Pedro. The team feels that their seven day experience could even go on longer.