Meet the New FLOW Program Manager
By Thomas Anderson

Next FLOW Training Event October 6, 1:30 pm, Bolsa Chica State Beach

Michelle Miller, new FLOW Program Manager.
Photo by Thomas Anderson

Amigos de Bolsa Chica is excited to be able to introduce you to our new FLOW program manager, Michelle Miller. Michelle is no stranger to FLOW. During the months of December 2015 through April 2016, she learned about the FLOW program and volunteered for several Fridays, a class visit, and the Earth Day celebration. Although she currently works at Trader Joe’s in Tustin, she remains passionate about marine conservation, Amigos’ mission, and staying involved in environmental education.

Michelle has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies from UCI and extensive experience as a Volunteer Coordinator and Program Assistant for the STEM education nonprofit, Science@OC. When she began at Science@OC, its volunteer program was at its beginning stages. She built its volunteer positions, policies, and program structure. She recruited volunteers for the STEMCorps and in one year more than tripled the amount of their STEMCorps members. The STEMCorps is a group of STEM professionals that regularly volunteer at various Orange County middle schools. They involve students in experiments relating to their areas of expertise. She has trained professional scientists and engineers how to be volunteers, she has collaborated with teachers, and she has kept students engaged.

In addition to volunteering with Amigos, she has also volunteered as a naturalist associate with the Newport Bay Conservancy and most recently has been a museum docent at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach. She is looking forward to continuing to build the FLOW program’s relationships with science teachers, as well as meeting, training and mentoring our prized citizen scientists.

Michelle says: “People forget that wetlands help reduce the severity of storms and natural disasters. Wetlands absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into plant matter, which in turn helps us breathe! There are so many reasons why wetlands are important, but there are less than 10% of natural wetlands left in existence. That is what we are defending and what the volunteers before us fought so hard to conserve. It is what inspires me every day and is why I want to devote my career to marine conservation. Thank you for standing with me in our mission to save and share the Bolsa Chica.”

The Amigos are lucky to have found someone so enthused about our work here at Bolsa Chica.

To meet Michelle and find out more about what Amigos’ growing Citizen Science movement is all about, join us at Bolsa Chica State Beach on Friday, October 6 at 1:30 pm. In becoming a Citizen Scientist, you will learn to identify potentially harmful plankton species; measure water quality variables such as temperature, salinity, pH and nutrients; help in teaching middle, high school and community college students about environmental quality; and be part of a network of citizen scientists that collect data all over the state and nation. As part of California Department of Public Health’s regional Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program, FLOW’s water quality samples are sent each week to the CDPH laboratory for possible detection of increases in toxin-producing species before shellfish and other seafood resources are impacted. This effort allows CDPH to focus additional attention on those coastal areas experiencing an increase in toxin-producing phytoplankton or an increase in toxins in shellfish.

Why Phytoplankton?

Phytoplankton form the basis of virtually all aquatic food webs on Earth; assist in regulating the climate system by accounting for half of all photosynthetic activity; and cycle elements between species in the ocean. Humans, marine mammals and seabirds depend upon a healthy food web, but can also be harmed by toxins produced by a few species of phytoplankton when they accumulate in the food chain. By shadowing Citizen Scientists, FLOW increases student’s awareness of phytoplankton’s importance and it allows them to examine an array of water quality related topics such as the effects of urban runoff on the watershed and the potential impacts of climate change on the marine food web. Using scientific tools and techniques to gain information, FLOW uniquely illustrates the impact human activities have upon the planet.