Students getting their hands dirty for a wetland field study
Wetland field study

Jessica Weinberg McClosky / NPS

Science at the Seashore

Hands-On Science Education Programs for Middle & High School Students

Teachers may schedule one of three experiential field programs led by Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA) staff. One day Science at the Seashore programs are also available to teachers who have not reserved the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center.

  1. Giacomini Wetlands Field Study - Students practice water quality monitoring, aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling and shorebird surveys to understand wetland ecology and restoration. Contact PRNSA to make a reservation.
  2. LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program & Experiential Training) - Students are trained to survey the distribution and abundance of the Pacific Mole Crab (Emerita analoga) on Limantour Beach. Contact PRNSA to make a reservation.
  3. Marine Debris Action Team - Students conduct plastic pollution density studies on local beaches using National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration scientific protocol. Contact PRNSA to make a reservation.

Open Transcript 


[birds sing]

Title: Science at the Seashore The Giacomini Wetlands

John Dell'Osso, Interpretation Chief: Coming out to the Giacomini Wetlands within the Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation area is a treat year-round.

[birds sing and call]

There's so much wildlife teeming...[hawk cries] the headwaters of Tomales Bay.

This is an area that was originally wetlands. But in the 1940s there were some areas that were dammed up and it became a dairy ranch and stayed a dairy ranch up to about the year 2000, when the ranchers wanted to sell this land to the National Park Service--to the American people--and have it brought back to the wetlands that it once was.

The secrets and surprises of this seaside wetlands engage scientists and students.

[Birds sing and call]

Leslie Alder-Ivanbrook, Science at the Seashore: The Point Reyes National Seashore Association is a nonprofit that supports the national park. And our mission is to engage the public in the environment such as the wetlands here. Students come to experience what it's like to be out in a wetland, participating in science activities that’s very similar to what the scientists and resource managers do here at the park.

[water sloshes]

Student: It's coming through at the bottom.

Brady O'Donnell, graduate student, UC Davis: I'm studying how coastal ecosystems potentially combat climate change. Climate change is the result of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere as a result of humans pumping it in. And when it goes into the atmosphere it can provide some negative consequences to the earth, like heating it up, because the carbon dioxide traps heat. But the ocean absorbs about one third of the carbon dioxide that we're pumping into the atmosphere. When the ocean absorbs this--kind of like a sponge-these coastal ecosystems and these common marine plants are kind of like the sponges of the oceans for the carbon dioxide. These marine plants are actually marine grasses--we call them sea grasses--that absorb carbon dioxide by converting that carbon dioxide into leaves and shoots and stems. When it dies, it lays in the mud and the sand, and new seagrasses will grow on top of it, or new mud and sand will cover the dead seagrasses. And that carbon is then trapped in the sediment, and it's buried down there.

[frog croaks]

Adler-Ivanbrook: There's a lot of organic material from the plants that decompose and become part of the soil.

[waves murmer]

Dell'Osso: When we look at another effect of climate change, sea level rise, we’re seeing these wetlands provide resilience now and into the future. This is science happening right in front of us. We have this outdoor laboratory.

Adler-Invanbrook: We have over 900 students registered to participate in Science at the Seashore programs. And over half of those will be coming to the Giacomini Wetland.

Fiona O'Kelly, educator: I want you guys to describe something about the way that I look if I was a bird you could look me up in a bird book and find me.

Boy signs, interpreted: Your eyes are greenish. Interpreter: OK, green eyes, what else? Girl signs, interpreted: Um, you have purplish lips.

Adler-Ivanbrook: Once they start looking at birds with the instruments that we provide for them they can appreciate what a bird is and the value of birds. And once they take that back to where they live...[birds chirp and call]...they start understanding the value of the birds in their own environment. In 2014 we participated in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area BioBlitz in partnership with the National Geographic Society. And we invited numerous school groups, and groups of people from the Bay Area community to visit Giacomini Wetland and discover the biodiversity that exists here.

Patrick Kleeman, Ecologist, US Geological Survey: Here at Point Reyes we've been working with California red-legged frogs for many years, trying to learn as much about their ecology as we can. Because it's a federally listed frog. It was listed as threatened back in 1996. We've been doing studies trying to figure out how they use their habitat, so that land managers can better learn how to protect them and hopefully bring them back from being threatened. I told everybody up front that we''re probably unlikely to see California red-legged frogs because they were in a deeper pond than we were going to be able to go near. And it was a bit of misty evening, so it was a good evening for amphibians to be out and about. As we started our walk there was a little boy who was walking down the path in front of me, and shortly after we started, he said, "What's this frog down here?" And turned out it was an adult California red-legged frog. I was able to catch it, and show it to everybody, and release it and let it go on its own way to carry out its little happy life.

[frog croaks] [frog keeps croaking]

Dell'Osso: From this sometimes soggy soil, to tadpoles wriggling through the water, to birds that sweep across the sky, the Giacomini Wetlands harbor science lessons we have yet to learn. The National Park Service invites you to come here and learn about the relevance of the Giacomini Wetlands.

[geese call. birds chatter]

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5 minutes, 24 seconds

Scientists, students, and volunteers develop fresh insights at the restored Giacomini Wetlands of Point Reyes National Seashore.

For more information about Science at the Seashore: Giacomini Wetlands, visit the Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project's Science at the Seashore webpage.

Science Lectures

Please join Point Reyes National Seashore staff for Science Lectures, PCSLC-sponsored 45 minute presentations on scientific research being performed at Point Reyes and elsewhere in the California. They usually occur at noon on many Thursdays throughout the year and are normally held at the Red Barn Classroom at Point Reyes National Seashore's Headquarters. All are welcome and admission is free.

Last updated: September 19, 2016