Fourth grade students from La Honda Elementary recently took a field trip to study stream and lagoon environments. They visited two very different sites, and observed habitat and performed water quality tests at both locations.
The first site was on La Honda Creek at Playbowl. This is a densely wooded area with meandering creek and good spawning gravels and water quality. The creek had good flow due to ongoing rains, making it a great time to measure turbidity (water clarity), air and water temperature, water depth, conductivity (salinity), and pH.
The students used data sheets to record observations and test results. Observations included weather conditions, flow rate in the creek, woody debris, habitat conditions such as boulders, gravels and fish barriers. No fish were observed, but students were able to see both artificial and natural structures in the stream channel. Natural structures don’t often create barriers to fish passage, but artificial ones can.
Stream monitors from the San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center (SGERC) guided students through the use of basic water sampling equipment. Turbidity, or the cloudiness of the water, was measured by comparing black dots in the bottom of cylindrical tubes of water. One tube holds creek water, the other holds clear water while units of a clay reagent are added until the clarity of the black dots match in both tubes. Meters and probes were used to measure temperature and conductivity. pH was measured with a test kit that adds reagent to the creek water sample, which is then compared to a color wheel to determine pH level.
A short journey to San Gregorio State Beach, and we were able to observe a completely different environment, but one that is crucial to fish survival – the lagoon. Everyone read and discussed the interpretive panel at this location that describes proper lagoon function and the species that depend on it. In addition to learning the role the sandbar plays in the mix of fresh and salt water, we talked about the harm of artificially breaching it, and how that can disrupt an entire fish-rearing season.
Since the weather continued to be cold and rainy, we repaired to the San Gregorio Store to complete our basic water quality tests. We also measured Dissolved Oxygen in the water, a critical parameter for fish survival. After completing measurements and filling out our data sheets, it was time for lunch!
SGERC would like to thank the teachers, parents, students, and principal of La Honda Elementary for their efforts to make this field trip possible. We’d also like to thank Cuesta La Honda Guild and California State Parks for permission to visit these sites, and also George Cattermole and CWC for support and funding. This program was sponsored by SGERC as part of their education programs and continuing efforts to monitor and improve conditions in the San Gregorio Watershed.
(Also published in The La Honda Voice, March 2018.)
Students from Ms. Schoelen’s 5th grade class at Pescadero Elementary took a field trip to the San Gregorio Watershed recently to study stream and lagoon environments. They visited two sites, and had the opportunity to perform water quality tests at two very different locations.
The first site was on La Honda Creek at Playbowl. This is a densely wooded area with meandering creek and good spawning gravels and water quality. Stream flow was low prior to winter rains, making it a good time for students to safely measure air and water temperature, turbidity, conductivity (salinity), and pH.
The fifth graders were provided data sheets on which to record observations as well as results of their testing. Observations include weather conditions, flow rate in the creek, woody debris, habitat conditions such as boulders, gravels and fish barriers. No fish were observed, but students were able to see both artificial and natural structures in the stream channel. Natural structures don’t normally create a barrier to fish passage, but artificial ones can.
Stream monitors from the San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center (SGERC) guided students through the instruction and use of basic sampling equipment. Turbidity, or the cloudiness of the water, can be observed by looking at a Secchi disk in the bottom of a long tube of water. Meters and probes were used to measure temperature and conductivity. pH was measured with a test kit that adds reagent to the water sample, and is then compared to a color wheel to determine pH level.
Before leaving Playbowl there was time for a quick game of tag in the woods.
A short bus trip to San Gregorio State Beach, and we were able to observe a completely different environment, but one that is crucial to fish survival – the lagoon. SGERC recently assisted in the installation of an interpretive panel at this location that describes proper lagoon function and the species that depend on it. This was a good place to begin this visit. In addition to discussing the importance of the sandbar and the complicated environment and interface of fresh to salt water, students were able to repeat their basic water quality sampling. Also at this site more sophisticated monitoring equipment was shown, and a quick demonstration of Dissolved Oxygen measurement, a critical parameter for fish survival.
After sampling and observations were completed, it was lunchtime!
SGERC would like to thank the teachers, parents, students, and principal of Pescadero Elementary for their efforts to make this field trip possible. We’d also like to thank Cuesta La Honda Guild and California State Parks for permission to visit these sites, and also George Cattermole and CWC for transportation funding. This program was sponsored by SGERC as part of their education programs and continuing efforts to monitor and improve conditions in the San Gregorio Watershed.
(Also published in The La Honda Voice, November 2017.)
San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center (SGERC) invites you to join us at San Gregorio State Beach on Coastal Cleanup Day, September 16th from 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM. This is an annual event sponsored by the California Coastal Commission.
Also visit the beautiful new interpretative panel installed at the beach near the picnic area. This panel describes how artificial breaching of the lagoon affects wildlife, and introduces you to a number of the fish and birds that live in this important habitat. We’ll be on hand to provide information about the lagoon and sandbar, and how to help keep this environment healthy.
SGERC sponsored this interpretative panel, installed with the help of our local office of California State Parks. If you are interested in helping offset the cost of this panel, or any of our programs, you can make a tax-deductible contribution by visiting our website: www.sgerc.org (Tax ID # 94-3083465), or donate at this event. Our activities include a monthly stream monitoring program at several locations in the watershed (now in its 17th year), a watershed education program with local schools that is just beginning, Adopt-a-Highway litter removal on Hwy. 84, and pampas/jubata grass removal throughout La Honda and San Gregorio.
If you are interested in participating in any of these projects, or would like to propose further projects which enhance the health of the local watershed. Please send an email with your contact detail to: email@example.com.
On Coastal Cleanup Day, tons of trash and recyclables are removed from beaches, streams, parks, schools, and other areas across California with the help of community volunteers. Last year in San Mateo County, 4,145 volunteers picked up more than 22,000 pounds of trash and nearly 4,000 pounds of recyclables. The most common items are cigarette butts and tobacco products, food wrappers, paper and plastic bags, glass and plastic bottles, beverage cans, and construction materials. SGERC will have all the necessary supplies including reusable gloves and buckets. If you like, bring your own sturdy gloves and bucket to help reduce waste from the event. Wear sturdy shoes and dress in layers since the weather can be unpredictable. We will have refreshments for volunteers.
Children welcome! We look forward to seeing you at the beach!
More info at:
https://www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/ccd/cleanup/ - /map
(Also published in The La Honda Voice, August 2017.)
San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center (SGERC) will lead a training session for anyone interested in stream monitoring Sunday morning, September 9th from 10am-noon.
The session will be on Alpine Creek, meeting at Heritage Grove parking area at 10am. We'll provide everything you'll need, though you may want to wear rubber boots if you want to get into the stream.
You'll learn how to properly collect and handle water samples, perform five basic water quality tests, and keep good records. It's all fairly easy, good for all ages, and helps provide important information about the health of our waterway. Each monitor is part of a team that visits their site on a monthly basis, so it's not a large commitment of time. Most teams choose to monitor Saturday or Sunday morning, usually starting at 9 or 10am. Monitoring our streams is a rewarding experience, as evidenced by the many members of our group that have participated for more than 10 years!
SGERC would love to see more members of the community become involved in some way with our organization. If you're not interested in monitoring, maybe there's another way you'd like to assist. We sponsor a number of activities, including highway and coastal cleanups, public events and educational opportunities. Maybe you'd like to help with our website or maillist, data analysis, GIS layers, or grant writing.
Please call if you have questions about this event or our organization, otherwise hope to see you the 9th!
Neil Panton - Executive Director
San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center
PO Box 49, San Gregorio, CA 94074
(Also published in The La Honda Voice, August 2012.)
Do you like playing in the creek? Enjoy spending time in beautiful places? Do you like science and making a difference in the community? You might want to join our stream monitoring team!
SGERC’s volunteers spend a few hours each month performing simple water quality tests in La Honda, Alpine and San Gregorio creeks. They record the results and make observations that create a record of stream conditions at various locations in the San Gregorio watershed. You could be monitoring the beautiful Heritage Grove site on Alpine Creek, or El Corte de Madera Creek feeding into San Gregorio Creek. You might prefer to join a team at a site nearest to you.
This is a great activity for all, young and old, for parents wishing to involve their family in environmental awareness and community service. Most of us love the excuse to get into the creek once in a while and enjoy the solitude and beauty of this area. Why not do something to benefit the environment and the community at the same time?
Training is provided by our organization and basic water quality tests are easy to learn. You’ll be working right away with our dedicated volunteers, many of whom have monitored with us for ten years or more!
For those who would rather stay indoors, you could help with tasks that keep the organization running smoothly, like equipment maintenance, data management, publicity, education, or fundraising. Maybe you’d prefer to participate in cleanup events like Coastal Cleanup Day at San Gregorio State Beach or Adopt-A-Highway on Hwy 84.
In any case, join the fun. Call or email for more information about SGERC’s programs, or visit our booth at the La Honda Fair, June 16th and 17th.
San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center
Neil Panton – Director
(Also published in The La Honda Voice, April 2012.)
You can help protect the health of our precious lagoon! Artificial breaching may be the single most damaging factor to the health of the lagoon environment.
The lagoon and estuary are located under the Hwy 1 bridge at San Gregorio State Beach. In a natural, healthy state, the lagoon is a critical interface between ocean saltwater and the fresh waters of San Gregorio Creek. Fresh and salt water mingle throughout the season in this area, providing species like Coho and Steelhead Salmon, as well as the Tidewater Goby, a place for successful spawning and rearing.
The sandbar is the seasonal barrier between the ocean waves and lagoon waters. When the sandbar is artificially breached, whether by accident or on purpose, an entire season of spawning can be comprised in minutes. The public can be a great help in preventing artificial breaching by being aware of the dire consequences to the fish and wildlife of unnatural opening of the sandbar to the ocean.
The lagoon is opened naturally to the sea when wave action during the winter months break down the sandbar. At the same time, there is pressure from the creek side as winter rains move great volumes of water downstream into the lagoon. Once the sandbar is sufficiently weakened, water built up on the lagoon side pushes through and drains into the ocean (see photos).
We were fortunate this year to have numerous people watching the lagoon as it swelled to unusual proportions. Some were present with a camera when the breach occurred in late October capturing the event in photos. Within approximately 1/2 hour, the lagoon went from a small bay to a gently meandering stream.
As part of San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center’s (SGERC’s) current grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, daily and weekly monitoring of the San Gregorio lagoon began in October 2010. Monitors began noting both the condition of the sandbar (open, closed, about to breach etc.) as well as water quality parameters at three locations in the lagoon.
The monitors check water quality at just below the surface and just above the bottom at three sites in the lagoon. They also note the level at which the water column changes from fresh to salt water (stratification layer). Using a kayak, a handheld YSI meter, a camera and data sheet, these monitors spend several hours a week collecting data in the lagoon. This monitoring will continue throughout the year, at which point our project partners will compile and analyze the data. SGERC will continue to share data throughout the year with our technical advisors and members of the public through our Watershed Working Group.
Our goal is to understand the temperatures and water quality conditions that exist in the lagoon throughout the season, and compare them to the needs of various species. This will enable us to determine if something can be done to improve their spawning and survival. Please help us protect this important research as well as the health of the lagoon and stream system by refraining from damaging the sandbar.
Feel free to contact SGERC with any questions about the lagoon or our ongoing work in the San Gregorio Watershed. Call (650) 726-2499 or email Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct. 2010 Lagoon breach photos courtesy David & Sandra Zink
(Also published in The La Honda Voice, February 2011.)
The Watershed Management Plan (WMP) describes environmental conditions in our watershed and makes recommendations for management, restoration and research priorities. Join us October 23rd to learn about the environmental health of our beautiful community and what we can do to preserve and protect it.
The San Gregorio WMP was prepared for the Natural Heritage Institute by Stillwater Sciences, Stockholm Environment Institute and the San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center.
SGERC is a community-based, volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to scientific monitoring and preservation of the local environment.
PO Box 49, San Gregorio, CA 94074 • 650-726-2499
Email: email@example.com Website: sgerc.org
(Also published in The La Honda Voice, September 2010.)
by Neil Panton
Did you know you could read reports and studies done in the San Gregorio watershed online?
The San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center, with help from its partners, have collected and scanned documents going back as early as 1942 and made them available as .pdf files online. The website address of the San Gregorio Watershed Information System is sgreg.stillwatersci.com. The site is hosted by Stillwater Sciences, still an active partner in collecting data in the watershed and adding it to the database.
You will find everything from handwritten reports in small tributaries by Fish & Game to large studies done by the San Francisco Estuary Institute and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Topics range from fish surveys to road inventories to rainfall and flow data. Scientists, students and interested members of the public can make use of the information in this database for their own projects or studies. Some of it just makes for darn interesting reading!
If you know of scientific studies performed in the watershed, or have data to contribute to this valuable database, please contact the SGERC office at (650) 726-2499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Also published in The La Honda Voice, June 2010.)
The long awaited San Gregorio Watershed Management Plan has almost completed review and will likely be released in time for the La Honda Fair (June 12th/13th). The Plan is the result of a State grant awarded to SGERC, our local citizen watershed group and several partners. The Watershed Management Plan provides a fairly comprehensive understanding of current conditions in the watershed and makes recommendations for future actions that may improve the environment.
We are fortunate in this area to enjoy a relatively healthy stream system and natural environment. There are still areas in which improvement would benefit both the community and wildlife.
Come to the Fair and visit SGERC's booth. Learn more about our watershed and how you can participate in protecting and enhancing our beautiful area.
(Also published in The La Honda Voice, May 2010.)
Protecting the San Gregorio Watershed.