A Year at Bolsa Chica with Segerstrom High School Environmental Science Students
By Thomas Pfeifer

Coastal Cleanup DayStudents started the school year at the
annual Coast Cleanup in September. Photo
byThomas Pfeifer.
Segerstrom High School just finished its third year working alongside Amigos De Bolsa Chica to explore and study the Bolsa Chica wetlands. Segerstrom environmental science students started the 2017-18 school-year in September participating in the annual Coastal Cleanup Day. They started at the south parking lot of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, made their way down Pacific Coast Highway all the way to the Wintersburg channel, recovering loads of discarded trash and recovering multiple plastic bottles to recycle.

Winter was spent at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and the tidal inlet collecting plankton and doing water quality testing under the stewardship of Jerry Donohue. After participating in the FLOW program, Segerstrom Environmental Science students headed to the Bolsa Chica State Beach headquarters to remove invasive plants and take out any dead branches from the native plants.

Native plant gardeningRemoving invasive plants at the Bolsa
Chica State Beach Vistior Center. Photo
by Thomas Pfeifer.
In February 2018, Segerstrom students continued learning about the state of wetlands in Southern California by participating in the World Wetlands Symposium at the Newport Back Bay Science Center. Amigos de Bolsa Chica volunteers gave a demonstration of the FLOW program and the importance of plankton to wetlands in particular and to the world at large. The incredible speakers addressed the impact climate change is having on wetlands and the importance of protecting present wetland habitat throughout Southern California. The conference not only enriched the knowledge of the students about wetlands but addressed foundational scientific concepts that are covered on the Advanced Placement Environmental Science Exam at the end of the course each year.

In March students learned some native planting techniques at the Newport Back Bay Science Center and purchased native plants to bring back to Bolsa Chica State Beach headquarters. After learning some native plant propagation techniques in the Newport Back Bay Science Center nursery from Matt Yurkos, Segerstrom environmental science students set off with shovels and water to transplant Coastal Sage and California Buckwheat to the hills surrounding the Newport Back Bay Estuary.

April 14 saw the Earth Day celebration at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. It was followed two weeks later by the Huntington Beach Unified School District STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Fair. Segerstrom environmental science students demonstrated plankton identification microscopy and bird adaptation demos at the both Earth Day and the STEAM fair with guidance from the Amigos de Bolsa Chica. Not only did students get to show off FLOW techniques they learned earlier in the year, they were also able to survey other demonstrations from the Surfrider Foundation, the Sea and Sage chapter of the Audubon Society, as well as the Pacific Marine Mammal Center and the American Cetacean Society.

Helping at the STEAM FairStudents help out at the Amigos booth at
the Huntington Beach Unified School District
STEAM Fair. Photo by Thomas Pfeifer.
At the Earth Day celebration, California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Kelly O’Reilly asked if Segerstrom students could scrub down the public information signs located around the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. In May the students set off on a Bird Identification study at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and cleaned up all of public information signs from the south parking lot to the Upper Mesa. Thanks to the keen eye of Jerry Donohue, the students were able to spot a Ridgway’s Rail on the way back highlighting the importance the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve plays in protecting threatened bird populations along the Pacific Flyway.

By mid-morning the students headed back to the Bolsa Chica State Beach Visitor Center and planted the Coastal sage and California Buckwheat they bought from the Newport Back Bay Science Center earlier in March. We finished off the day inside the Visitor Center celebrating the end of another successful school year by eating granola bars and Flaming Hot Cheetos!

On behalf of all the students at Segerstrom High School I just wanted to say “Thank You” to all the volunteers at Amigos De Bolsa Chica for another incredible year! Your hard work, dedication, and mentoring of my students at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve is one the pillars of my Environmental Science program.