Marine life off the La Jolla coast is a great learning tool for area residents. Accordingly, a number of La Jolla High students recently took part in setting up an intertidal monitoring site in Bird Rock.
Under the direction of La Jolla High marine science and biology teacher David James, this official site is part of the Census of Marine Life (coml.org). This 50-year project will survey marine habitats around the planet.
Working with marine biologists from San Diego State University, the students and James are excited about utilizing the site and learning from it.
La Jolla Village News recently spoke with James about the site, how the students got involved and what they will learn from it.
La Jolla Village News: How did the marine site come about and how did La Jolla High and your kids get involved in it?
David James: The site at Bird Rock is part of the Natural Geography in Shore Areas (NaGISA) Project (nagisa.coml.org), which is part of the Census of Marine Life.
The NaGISA Project is a Census of Marine Life field project with eight regional offices and currently over 128 sampling sites along the near shores of 51 countries. Using global standards to answer local questions NaGISA members (researchers, managers and students) are producing the world’s first near shore habitat specific global census.
NaGISA is set to complete a habitat-specific, qualitative survey of the world’s ocean shores. The protocols used are simple, cost-efficient and low-tech so that they can be adopted by research groups around the world. NaGISA`s primary goal is a series of globally distributed standard transects from the high intertidal zone to a depth of 20 meters that can be repeated over a 50-year or greater time frame.
[NaGISA’s scientific goals include] creating the first global baseline of coastal biodiversity [and] to increase coastal community marine awareness…
I got involved with this project as a result of going to graduate school at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories at the same time as Dr. Matt Edwards. Matt is the regional coordinator for the NaGISA sites in Southern California. We discussed ways to get high school students involved with this project, and when I got this job at La Jolla High, we worked together to bring the students on board.
LJVN: What benefits does a project like this have for your kids?
DJ: The biggest benefit is that the students get a hands-on experience and get to do actual field sampling and collect data that will be analyzed by marine biologists. They learn how to properly conduct field sampling and identify local seaweed and invertebrate species. Some of the students were surprised that field work can actually be hard work and time-consuming.
In addition, the students interacted and worked with marine biologists from San Diego State University. This enabled them to ask questions of marine biologists and learn more about careers in the marine sciences.
LJVN: How many students from La Jolla High participated in this?
DJ: Twenty-one students from the marine science class and two students from the National Ocean Sciences Bowl team participated.
LJVN: Is the site to be permanent?
DJ: The site is permanent, and the marine science class at La Jolla High will be sampling there as part of the NaGISA program for the next 50 years. Students in the marine science class will analyze the data each year and look at the trends over time. This will allow them to see firsthand the possible shifts in community structure due to global climate change.
LJVN: Anything else readers should know about this project or how they can assist you guys if interested?
DJ: The intertidal sampling program at La Jolla High will be growing in the future. Students will work on building a voucher collection of seaweed, invertebrates and fishes. These specimens will be used as part of the learning process in labs.
I will be putting together a field identification guide of the intertidal organisms at Bird Rock. Due to limited funds, this will take some doing. I would like to initially produce a laminated color guide for students to use in the field. We also need a digital camera to take pictures of the quadrants (rectangular sampling units in which organisms are counted), which is part of the NaGISA protocol. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.
In the future, there will be a Web site on my page that will include data collected, images and natural history of the organisms and photos of the site and students collecting data.
If anyone is interested in learning more, they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.