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Local Sustainability Projects - Early College High School

Local Sustainability Projects - San Clemente High SchoolA cornerstone of the GSP is the requirement that students provide 40 hours of direct service to a nature conservancy or nonprofit ecology organization in their community. The Foundation strongly believes that students should develop an ethic of responsibility for their environment, both locally and globally. The Foundation requires this hands-on service to allow the students to “pay forward” the opportunity they have been afforded in participating in the Earthwatch expedition.

Zooplankton Study at Newport Bay. A new project has been started recently to monitor the zooplankton of Newport Bay and the nearby ocean. The project involves collecting zooplankton with a net, either from various docks or from a boat, bringing it back to the research laboratory at University of California, Irvine (UCI) and analyzing it by photo-or video-microscopy. One of the interesting aspects of zooplankton is that it contains both adult stages of organisms that spend their lives in the plankton, but also the larval stages of organisms including mollusks and annelids, which usually settle on to ocean or bay floor or other solid substrates when they approach adulthood. Matching up the larval stages with the adult counterparts has always been difficult and expensive, since it usually involves rearing these animals in captivity. However, the same goal can now be achieved by DNA barcoding, in which individuals of a given species will share a DNA sequence that is absent from other species. We are, therefore, collecting both larval and adult specimens of as many animals as we can find, and using them to obtain this species-specific DNA sequence information.

We anticipate that this approach will provide a new and efficient method for assaying the biodiversity of these aquatic ecosystems, so that scientific monitoring can be carried out in order to detect changes that would be much more difficult and time-consuming to obtain using other methods.

A reasonable level of effort on the part of a GSP student could lead to a collection of 95 specimens which would provide a substantial start to this program of matching larvae with adults. Students will be assigned to work with a UCI student who has already acquired significant expertise in the collection and analysis of zooplankton. The UCI lab will be open to ECHS students working on this project from approximately 1pm - 6pm on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Specific details of the project logistics are in the works.