Education: Making Waves

Promoting marine science literacy and educating the next generation of marine and coastal scientists and policy makers is part of the California Sea Grant Extension Program mission. This is accomplished via collaboration with a variety of partners. This program involves citizen science projects; single events such as teacher trainings, public talks, and volunteer events; and mentoring students with research.

Making Waves uses scientific research to encourage environmental stewardship and community well-being by strengthening connections between our citizens and coastal ecosystems, by better understanding how to get people engaged and active, and by enhancing and restoring our local urban ecosystems.

It also includes the following projects or classes:

1. A Commercial Fisherman Apprenticeship Program to train new fishery entrants

2. Developing a Citizen Science Program Model to Engage Underrepresented Minority Groups

Project completed.

Project team: L. Goodwin, S. Fisler, R. Mothokakobo- Ocean Discovery Institute; R. Ruzic- Ruzic Consulting; T.S. Talley- CASG  Collaborators: SCCWRP, T. Von Bitner- AMEC Consulting, San Diego Bay Debris Working Group, City Heights community;  Funding: NSF AISL 

While interest in citizen science as an avenue for increasing scientific engagement and literacy has been increasing, understanding how to effectively engage underrepresented minorities (URMs) in these projects remains a challenge. Based on the research literature on strategies for engaging URMs in STEM activities and the project team’s extensive experience working with URMs, the project team developed a citizen science model tailored to URMs that included the following elements: 1) science that is relevant to participants’ daily lives, 2) removal of barriers to participation, such as transportation, faced by URMs, 3) hands-on, authentic science, 4) work alongside a scientist, 5) opportunities for repeated and ongoing participation, 6) leaders who are reflective of the community, 7) experiences that are guided as opposed to self-guided. To develop the model, we conducted a citizen science project entitled: City to Sea Science: Testing the sources and pathways of trash through our watershed to improve the health of our communities. The goal was to collaboratively develop scientifically-based management recommendations that will reduce urban trash in coastal waterways. Specifically, we (i) classified and determined the spatial and temporal distributions of plastics trash, and (ii) tested the pathways of common plastics items. We also worked with the San Diego Bay Debris Work Group and community volunteers to help assess the status of the trash problem in all habitats associated with San Diego Bay, from upstream to bay bottom.

3. Building Climate Resilience of Urban Waters, Ecosystems, and Communities. 

Project in progress

Project team: L. Goodwin, J. Barkan- Ocean Discovery Institute; E. Bowlby- San Diego Canyonlands; T.S. Talley, N. Venuti- CASG; Funding: CA Coastal Conservancy Prop 1 Funds

Climate change preparation should include water quality improvement and conservation measures, particularly in urban ecosystems. The project site, Manzanita Canyon, is located in the heart of a “disadvantaged” community where action is needed to increase resiliency of both the urban community and the ecosystem. This project integrates urban native greening, invasive plant and trash removal, and the engagement of the community and local decision makers in order to sustainably improve water quality, and the climate resilience of urban ecosystems and an underserved community. See our recent progress report.

4. The effects of climate change on local canyon ecosystems and the potential for citizen science

Project completed.

Project team: C. Adams- ESYS intern, UCSD; T.S. Talley, N. Venuti-CASG

Preparing for climate change requires a strong understanding of how natural ecosystems may respond to change, and transfer of the information to communities so that they may better prepare and even minimize changes. This winter-spring 2017 project tested how ambient climate conditions were expressed over local scales in microclimates associated with the sides and floor of the canyon, and how microclimates in turn affected plant phenology and butterfly presence. We also tested the feasibility of using GLOBE citizen science protocols to conduct our research and more easily incorporate community members. Results revealed that the canyon ecosystem buffers ambient temperature and light levels, and provides a consistent supply of soil water through the rainy season.  Microclimates exist between the canyon floor and slopes, with the canyon floor subject to greater daily temperature fluctuations and faster loss of soil moisture when seasonal rains subsided. Average percent leaf growth decreased steadily throughout the winter on the slopes but variably on the canyon floor with growth pulses 3-4 weeks after large rain events.  Twice as many butterflies were sighted throughout April 2017 on the slopes as the floor of the canyon. While the GLOBE protocols served as an important framework for data collection (soil moisture, greening up), they were not feasible for use with this type of study due to the focus of protocols (and costs) on small-scale, intensively monitored, temperate region projects. We suggest several modifications for use in semi-arid areas and on xeric plants like those found in Southern California. 

5. Coastal Ecology (ENVR 120, Muir College, UCSD)

This course focuses on the ecology and natural history of southern California coastal ecosystems including coastal sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodland, freshwater stream, riparian, rocky intertidal, salt marsh, and sandy beach.  We  also discuss the interactions of humans with these ecosystems. The class  mostly consists of field trips and involves getting wet and/or dirty, having fun and learning as much as possible about the plants and animals around us. Mini-lectures and discussions of the various ecosystems and of basic principles of ecology and natural history are held both in the classroom and in the field.

Course Goals

By the end of this class students are familiar with:

  • The major ecosystems of coastal San Diego County, their common inhabitants and interactions among inhabitants
  • Broad- and fine-scale controls on species distributions within coastal systems
  • How to observe and study natural ecosystems
  • The interactions of humans with these systems, and the consequences of interactions
  • How to communicate scientific information


Kids in Canyons 2017
MZ Prop1 team-CASG

Co-principal Investigators

  • University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography