Heal the Bay Club at Santa Monica High Reports on the Youth Summit
By Katie Osaki
Our club’s day began with cloudy skies and high hopes for the day. Immediately upon arrival we were greeted by two of the wonderful Heal the Bay programs associates and signed in getting folders filled with information, recycled notebooks, and cute little magnifying glasses that we would use later in the day.
After, eating some of the delicious food from Vinny’s Pizza, which none of us had tried prior to the Summit, we all went outside to participate in an ice breaker along with an activity that represented and taught us about the effects of pollution on species’ habitats and resources. Venturing back indoors, Lily (one of the Heal the Bay associates) introduced us to what a Bioblitz is and what its purpose is, which gave us a lot of great insight into the project and how we could contribute.
A BioBlitz is an event in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible.
Shortly after, we all headed back outside into the sprinkling rain and got a tour of Ballona Discovery Park by Lisa Fimiani, a representative from Friends of Ballona Wetlands, who actually helped create this center for education and nature preservation. Along our tour, we got to hear the tragic story of Juana Maria and her 18 years of solitude on San Nicolas Island which taught us how connected to nature the native Indians were and how disconnected the current occupants (us) are.
Through the different simulated habitats like the mountains, beach, and wetlands, we got to see many different species of plants and catalog them using iNaturalist, which is an “Instagram for naturalists”. Meaning that like Instagram, naturalists or citizen scientists can take pictures of different types of plants, animals, and insects (known or unknown), and post them on iNaturalist for other naturalists and citizen scientists to see and identify.
The Naturalist Explorers from the Mountain Recreation & Conservation Authority— a job training program for teen naturalists– helped all of us learn how to create an observation using the iNaturalist app on our phones. After twenty minutes of exploring and cataloging, we walked back to the Playa Vista Library and discussed what we had found interesting while at the Park.
Next on the agenda, was the teaching of the Bioblitz dance, which our club had the honor of leading. With lots of giggles and embarrassing dance moves, we pulled it off and had a lot of fun in the process.
When the day came to a close, it seemed like time had flown by and all we seemed to want to do was become more involved in the nature preserves in our areas. Unfortunately we couldn’t go and tour the wetlands after the summit, but we have already started planning new creative events for our club that will help our members become just as interested in the environments as we are.
I think the most valuable thing we learned today was that, our species has worked very hard to make the lives of other species, such as the marine life along our coasts, very difficult. Which is unfortunate because the land we have settled and used is equally their land and we need to respect that more as technology advances and more toxic waste gets pumped into our air.