By Reef Check California Regional Manager Colleen Wisniewski
During August 2009, Reef Check (RC) was invited to be part of a groundbreaking new series on PBS called SciGirls. In this series, viewers follow teams of middle school girls and their mentors as they create their own inquiry-based investigations of the environment, technology, engineering, animal behavior and health. I was asked to be the mentor to two 13 & 14 year old sisters from Southern California named Meg and Elle, who are both snorkelers and scuba divers and have extensive experience on our local rocky reefs. The location for the shoot was Catalina Island Marine Institute at Toyon Bay (CIMI) as well as other dive sites on the island. CIMI hosted the girls and the film crew, and we spent three days exploring their laboratories and snorkeling and diving at various locations around the island, collecting data inside and outside a marine reserve. We developed a modified RC California protocol to allow the girls to collect data while snorkeling from the surface. Our focus was on 7 total indicator species instead of our usual 73 and the girls discovered that changes in the populations of indicator species are interconnected through predator/prey relationships on the reefs.
Episodes of SciGirls are being broadcast around the U.S. on local PBS stations throughout 2010 – check the SciGirls website for details. SciGirls is airing in Los Angeles on KLCS at 4pm on Fridays and in San Francisco on KTEH at 10am Saturdays; our episode (number 109: Ocean Ecosystems) should air in April in those two cities. It will also be available online on April 9th.
Once again, CIMI/Guided Discoveries has been an invaluable RC partner as they sponsored transportation, food, lodging, teaching space, snorkeling gear and staff. We are thrilled to welcome Elle and Meg as junior citizen scientists to the Reef Check California team! Perhaps one day in the future we will see them joining a regular scuba-based RCCA survey with some of our other volunteer divers.