University of Southern California

QuikSCience Catalina Expedition 2013

First Place Winners daily blog of the Catalina Expedition:
USC Wrigley Marine Science Center, Catalina Island

St. John Fisher Parish Middle School
June 17-June 21, 2013

Day One – Monday, June 17, 2013
Catalina Island – Wrigley Marine Science Center USC Wrigley Marine Science Center tour and touch tank species identification, snorkeling at Big Fishermen's Cove, algae pressing, and a sunset hike.

Meet the winning team:

Isabella - Snorkeling was so beautiful. My favorite part was seeing all of the beautiful fish and kelp. Then we did algae pressing and that was so much fun. I loved learning about the algae and enjoyed creating the bookmarks with the algae. Then we went on a beautiful sunset hike. Before we left for the hike, we saw a bison, and on our way back we saw him again! (ALSO NOTE: there is a Catalina Fox in the photo!) Today was a really fun day. I can’t wait for the rest of the week.

Annie - The day started off bright and early with a 7:30 boat ride to the island. At the touch tank we actively examined different kelp forest animals while avoiding the lobsters (which we learned had a nasty temper and liked using their antennae as whips), we passed around a sea cucumber, annoyed some sea urchins, and petted a sea hare. After lunch, we painstakingly put on wetsuits to go snorkeling in the cove. We saw so many fish, four or five bat rays, and swam into a of leopard sharks. Afterwards, we pressed algae and made a bunch of bookmarks, cards, and just generally decorated paper with algae while we had a long, detailed, and passionate conversation about Harry Potter (and it was totally awesome). Next came dinner and then an intense ping-pong match, during which we discovered Mrs. Butler’s awesome hidden talent! We watched a fascinating Catalina video and then were greeted by an interesting visitor on our way to the hike - a bison! (What did Daddy Buffalo say to his departing offspring? Bye, son! (Get it? bye son, bison…ok that was bad.) And a bison isn’t exactly the same thing as a buffalo…anyway…back to the story.) We went on the hike, where we saw the lovely view while the sun was setting. This is what led to me writing this extremely long blog entry!

Alexa - Today, we got an awesome tour and we went snorkeling. It was cold but our wetsuits made it warm, and we saw manta rays, sharks, kelp, and colorful fish. Then we did algae pressing and we could make different shapes with the algae and it was pretty cool and fun. We could make different things like bookmarks. I made a heart with my kelp and it was cool. Then we went on a cool hike with an awesome sunset. Later, we saw a bison and it was huge!! We were really excited because we were so close. We also saw him on the way back from the hike. Today was an awesome day and I can’t wait for the rest of the week. I don’t want it to end!!

Sam - When we arrived at the USC Wrigley Institute and we did not know what to expect but we soon found ourselves right at home because of the welcoming people here. First we checked out the touch tank and further explored the mollusks and invertebrates that lived there. Then we went snorkeling keeping in mind that this is a MPA we observed the colorful fish and the sweet sharks, also just having a grand old-time in the water. Next we moved onto art and made algae pressings to bring home at the end of the week. Once we finished that we went on an evening hike, which was rudely interrupted by a roaming bison Now I look forward to a good nights’ rest followed by another adventurous tomorrow.

Margaret, QuikSCience Team Advisor - Today was a day of many “firsts” for me. First, I bonded with our wonderful group and its leaders, DJ and Lynn, and learned what interesting lives others lead! Also for the first time I donned a wetsuit. Thankfully I am with very kind souls who did not comment about what I must have looked like. We saw so many Garibaldi, leopard sharks, and all kinds of kelp and seaweed. What an amazing experience! Later we pressed seaweed to make bookmarks and cards. Yeah! Arts and crafts! Thank you, Girl Scouts and Mrs. Benedict, for winning and bringing me along! What a way to start vacation – and school is still in session!

Two - Today I actually did get to go to Catalina! So, we got to the boat and Annie and I rocked my game until we fell asleep. Then we went down to snorkel. So, wetsuits, not as fun as I thought they would be. It took a fair amount of time to get me into one. Past that, the snorkeling was awesome, the water was clear, the fish were swimming, and we even saw a bunch of sharks (or a shiver of sharks as we just learned). We also saw a kelp frond floating around totally intact. At algae pressing I took my usual approach with art and just did something completely random. It ended up looking really cool. Then we walked outside hike and BAM! There was a bison eating the bush. That was something new to take pictures of and I got to see a bison from Catalina. Oh, wait, I forgot our touch tank! The best thing about that was petting the sea hare. That thing was so soft. I spent lots of time just stroking it.

Maurena - A great first day at the Wrigley Marine Science Center with an early morning boat ride across the channel on the Miss Christi. Fun touch tank lesson with Lynn – lots of sea creatures hiding under the kelp, including those pesky sea urchins! Two loved petting the sea hare and we were all amazed by the baby sharks and the lobsters in the tank. Awesome snorkeling with great visibility in the Marine Protected Area - huge garibaldi, lots of leopard sharks, bat rays, and lots of KELP, of course! We now all have a much better understanding and appreciation of California kelp, and the ecosystem it supports, after the girls’ QuikSCience project! Artistic flair came out with algae pressing along with lots of Harry Potter talk– we learned that DJ walked up the aisle in her wedding to “Hedwig’s Theme.” After dinner we amazed by Mrs. Butler’s ping-pong skills! (Who knew?) We were all exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep!

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Day Two – Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Island Adventure to Little Harbor, the Eagle exhibits, the Lake, Avalon, Wrigley Memorial Botanical Gardens, stand-up-paddle boards in the harbor, snorkeling at the Casino Marine Park, and dinner at Antonio's on the waterfront.

Isabella - Today, we drove to Avalon and on our way we saw bison, eagles, horses, and deer. When we arrived at Avalon, we went paddle boarding and that was fun because Mrs. Benedict got knocked over by Two. Then we went shopping for our family. We had ice cream. After that, we had dinner at Antonio and it was delicious.

Alexa - Today we drove to Avalon and we made little stops on the way. We saw a lake, horses, bison, and we saw eagles. Then we went shopping and had ice cream. After that, we had dinner at Antonio and it was yummy.

Sam - We traveled the bumpy road to Avalon, which had many exciting stops along the way like seeing a golden eagle, Catalina's only natural lake, and a bald eagle. Then we visited the botanical gardens and saw the spectacular Wrigley Memorial building. After that we went paddle boarding and got to enjoy the harbor. We became tourists and looked in all the shops. Later on we went snorkeling in the famous dive park of Avalon. Dinner was an interesting and yummy experience at Antonio's. Now we are ready for a deep nights sleep.

Annie - This morning we explored the Botanical Gardens, where we saw SO many types of native and exotic plants and visited the Wrigley Memorial. The architecture and details of the building were amazing. Once we arrived at Avalon, we rented paddleboards and attempted to use them (only a few of us fell off!). Next, we had delicious ice cream at Olaf's and channeled our inner little kids at the candy store, Lloyd's. We walked around Avalon, stopping at many stores to shop. At our last stop of the day, we snorkeled the kelp forests – made many times more interesting because we had learned so much about them for this project!

Margaret, QuikSCience Team Advisor - Another great day! Today I saw a plant that sweated salt-water beads that looked like crystals in the light. One flower looked like sunny side up eggs. Amazing! The tour of the Casino included back stage green rooms, projection rooms, and Wrigley's own private screening room. Dinner together was great, too. Thank you Terri, DJ, and Lynn! Thank you, QuikSCience!

Maurena - The full island tour today! Loved the hidden gem of a beach at Little Harbor (great place to camp!), seeing the only freshwater lake on the island, being followed by a bison, learning a lot of Catalina history by watching videos at the Botanic Gardens, and paddle boarding among the yachts in Avalon Harbor. Our favorite boat name was "Cold Pizza!" Two forgot we weren't playing "bumper boats" and it tossed me right off the board! Water was nice and refreshing! Annie and Samantha (Kelp Goddesses!) were wearing KELP boas! Mocha almond fudge ice cream at Olaf's was fabulous. We could see the lights of Long Beach and a bit of Palos Verdes Peninsula peeking through the marine layer, which was fun since we are usually on PV looking at the top of Catalina peeking through the clouds.

Two - We took a van all the way to Catalina! Our first stop was at small beach at a campground that I loved. The beach was so beautiful and the water was so perfect. I actually had to stop myself from getting my head wet, otherwise I would have NEVER left. Our other stops included a lake, a couple of eagles, Wrigley botanical gardens and memorial, and finally AVALON. I accidentally bumped Mrs. benedict and made her fall off...(sorry).
I finally got to go to Lloyds Candy Store and got enough candy to last a week! We went snorkeling in the kelp, had dinner and drove all the way back to where we started.

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Day Three – Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Wrigley Marine Science Center – Kayaking to Blue Cavern, Snorkeling at Big Fisherman Cove, a Laboratory tour with a Researcher named Melissa, making Sushi with seafood awareness, and Plankton towing and identification of day and night samples.

Isabella - Today has been sooo… much fun. Starting from the beginning, we went kayaking to Blue Cavern. It was so beautiful. Once we got into the cave the water was glowing green, it was so beautiful. Also in the cave it was so cool because the waves would push you through it. After that we did the plankton tow. I found that very interesting to see the all of the sea creatures that were in the little bit of water that we collected. Then we went snorkeling, it was so cool because we got to see a Gorgonian sea fan. After snorkeling we took a lab tour with a researcher named Melissa, she was very nice and full of information. My favorite part of the lab tour was when we learned about the Blue Banded Gobies. After the lab tour, my favorite part of the day, we made sushi. Then we did the plankton identification and we got to learn about many different types of plankton.

Alexa - We did a lot today. The first thing, kayaking and go through a cave, was scary because the wave would throw you off so you couldn't go in the direction you wanted to go. After that, we went on a plankton tow and it was cool to see all the little creatures in the water. Then we went snorkeling. Next, we got a lab tour and that was interesting to see the different experiments. It was cool because you can see their social behavior of fish, the way they act, and how they can change from male to female. Next, we made sushi and it was pretty good. After, we made soapstone and it was hard because it takes a while to cut through the stone. Next, we went on a night plankton tow, we saw one glow in the dark plankton and that was awesome. It was the coolest when we got to see it under the microscope because you can see the little parts of their body

Sam - JEEZ today was packed full of the most exciting activities yet. We went on a kayaking trip and got to paddle through a sea cave, which was exciting, scary, and thrilling. We did the day plankton tow. Next we went snorkeling and I stalked a few bat rays. Melissa took us around the labs and showed us the coolest research experiment I have ever seen on the social behaviors of the Blue Banded Gobies. Then we carved figurines out of soapstone, a good pass time that can become frustrating very quickly. We went back down to the dock to do the night plankton tow and then to the labs to observe our samples. Seeing the plankton up close and personal like that just blew my mind and was so amazing.

Annie - This morning, we kayaked through amazing, mysterious sea caves – it felt a bit like we were in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie! After doing a plankton tow, we snorkeled into the center of the earth! (Ok, fine, it was a sea cave, but it FELT like that's what it was!) We learned so much about the incredible hyperbaric chamber and how it can save lives. Once inside, the air in the chamber was pressurized around us to a depth of one foot. After the chamber, we learned the art of making delicious sushi. Later, we carved soapstone (and quartz…oops!). I started making a dolphin and am going to keep working on it tomorrow. Lastly, we did a nighttime plankton tow and examined samples from both tows underneath a microscope. It was mind-blowing seeing the sheer number of organisms in a single drop of water and seeing the astonishing complexity of these tiny plants and animals.

Margaret, QuikSCience Team Advisor - Pressure, sushi, and soapstone today: I learned what a hyperbaric chamber was and experienced compression. As pressure increased, our ears popped and the temperature went up, too. I never knew how air inside our bodies would expand and contract with pressure and be able to block blood flow. Learning that the operation is staffed by volunteers, who come as far as Chicago, makes a person feel good about humanity again. Making sushi is a skill I want to practice and use again, maybe as soon as we get back home! How fun and yummy! I made two apples out of soapstone, and can't wait to make another! Yeah! Thank you Terri and DJ!


Two - On our third magical day of Catalina, we kayaked through kelp forests and caves, saw a great white shark in the cliff, snorkeled with many Garabaldi, bat rays, and leopard sharks, and swam through a cave with barnacles and lobsters. The real exciting part was our plankton tow, one in the morning and one at night. We netted tons of plankton from the dock and looked at them through a microscope. The best part was when I found some tiny mollusk larva in my dish. I needed to find out what it was. I spent lots of time looking between the scope and two pages of the guidebook until I figured what I was looking at. That was such a satisfying feeling.

Maurena - Cave Day! Fabulous kayaking in sea caves this morning and snorkeling into a cave was like going into the center of the earth this afternoon. Gorgeous weather for both! Interesting tour and demo in the hyperbaric chamber. Making sushi was fun and yummy! Girls also learned to take plankton samples off the dock both during the day and at night. Then we compared the difference between the two samples under microscopes.

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Day Four – Thursday, June 20, 2013
Pennington Marine Science Center in Emerald Bay, Hike the Ironwood Trail above Two Harbors, S’mores on the beach while Soapstone Carving, Bioluminescence Video, Fish Printing on QuikSCience T-shirts, and a Night Snorkel. Day Five - Friday hike up Deer Valley and go home!

Good luck with all your future endeavors, QuikSCience winners!

Annie - This morning we invaded the Boy Scout Camp Emerald Bay and visited their "Fortress of Fish." While we were hiking in Two Harbors, we passed by a bison without even noticing until we looked back! We wrote in a time capsule book that had survived the fire a few years back. My mom and I hiked to the top where we were able to see the water on the other side of the island. We returned to WMSC, where we watched an amazing video on bioluminescence. Next, we did fish printing on our QuikSCience T-shirts. As it was getting dark, the group put on our wet suits and hoods to go for a night snorkel, where we were only able to see what was illuminated by the dive lights. Two and I saw a 5-6 foot long leopard shark swimming within an arm's length underneath us! We turned off our dive lights and moved our hands and feet around in the water as little bioluminescent plankton started glowing like pixie dust (yay Tinkerbell!) around us. I found it really cool that you could snap your fingers and "sparks" would fly from your fingertips. I had so much fun this week, and learned lots. This really was the experience of a lifetime.

Isabella - We had lots of fun touring Emerald Bay and driving through Two Harbors. We also went on an awesome hike at the isthmus. It was so beautiful, I loved seeing and writing in the book that was at the trail. I thought that was so cool. Next we went to the beach at Two Harbors and carved soapstone. We also made s'mores they were really good. We printed fish on our t-shirts and then we went on a night snorkel.

Alexa - Today was filled with awesome stuff. We had fun at Emerald Bay and Two Harbors. We went on an awesome hike at the isthmus and there was a cool book where the hikers sign a book. That book made it through the fire. We made s'mores after the hike and they were yummy. We worked on our soapstone and we finished them and they looked cool. Then, we went back to the Wrigley Center and watched a bioluminescence video - it was amazing to see the little critters. We took a little 10-minute nap after that and then we did nature printing with fish and other sea creatures. Then we went on a night snorkel to see the glow in the dark fish. We saw flying fish and they were cool.

Sam - Today was bittersweet as we enjoyed our last full day at the Wrigley Marine Science Center. We had lots of fun as we toured the Boy Scout camp and went for a breathtaking hike at the isthmus at Two Harbors. As we chilled on the beach we finished our soapstone carvings and ate the best s'mores. Once we got back we watched a fascinating video on bioluminescence and then decorated our QuikSCience shirts with fish print paintings. We went on the night snorkel, which was amazing and a little frightening too. It was the coolest thing to see the bioluminescence at night and in the water.

Margaret, QuikSCience Team Advisor - What a day! Never in my life did I think I would snorkel in the dark Tinkerbell-ing through the water spreading pixie dust among the sharks, lobsters, and sleeping fish. And earlier, whittling soapstone, becoming a regular Michelangelo carving stone fruit. A far cry from the Pieta, but I never realized how fun it could be. And all while in the wonderful company of Terri and DJ. Thank you, ladies!

Two - Woah blog! It looks like it's my last night here! Time flies. Today we took a day trip all the way to Emerald Bay, to invade (not really) the boy scout camp and their awesome marine center. They even had an octopus with eggs. In Two Harbors, we took a hike up a mountain and signed the trail book up there. We spent a few more hours finishing our soapstone (for some quartz) carvings, roasting s'mores, swimming, and hanging out. After we got home, we watched a video about bioluminescence and decorated our QuikSCience t-shirts with fish prints. Finally, we got ready for our night snorkel and we got a look at what life the night ocean has. We saw lots of spiny lobster hanging in the rocks and jumping along the floor. Annie and I even saw a five or six for leopard sharks underneath us that had no idea we were there. We played with the bioluminescent plankton by waving our hands to make them
sparkle - it was like playing in fairy dust.

Maurena - A very fun day! We headed northwest on the island on the winding road, looking down from above at all the tents and boats at the different camps at Two Harbors. We went past the isthmus to Camp Emerald Bay, one of the most awesome Boy Scout camps in the country, to visit their marine center. Hiking above Two Harbors was beautiful. Out of the blue, we came along a bison right on the side of the path - that was a surprise! Annie and I hiked all the way to the top of the world and could see to the other side of the island – beautiful! We loved hanging out at Two Harbors beach relaxing and finishing our soapstone carvings. My favorite activity was the night snorkel – it was lobster city, beautiful bioluminescence, and the famous Catalina flying fish!


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