FLOW Program's Fourth Year of Success
By Jennifer Robins

FLOW (Follow and Learn about the Oceans and Wetlands) had another successful year introducing middle school, high school and college students to the world of Phytoplankton. In the spring of 2016, Amigos was honored to have been awarded a prestigious Whale Tail grant. This allowed us to have a consistently employed Curriculum Developer and Program Manager for a year, and it allowed us to purchase some major equipment and supplies for plankton analysis as well.

During the 2016-17 academic year seventeen classes of 543 students participated in the Educational Component of the FLOW program. Many of the teachers that accompanied the students have brought their classes to FLOW since the inception of the program. They feel this hands-on activity provides their students the ability to learn about methods, techniques and equipment used to collect and analyze plankton, and also about the importance and applicability of monitoring programs for coastal management and conservation purposes.

Nine of the schools that took part in this program are Title 1 schools. This means that the schoolsare certified as having a high percentage of low income students. Amigos de Bolsa Chica thanks Southern California Edison for their generous grant that allowed us to assist the schools with bus transportation cost for their trip to Bolsa Chica.

Amigos de Bolsa Chica volunteers become Citizen Scientists by coming out on Fridays and taking water samples from the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and the Tidal Inlet. They use microscopes to view the phytoplankton and identify the species. Measurements of water quality variables, such as temperature, salinity, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and pH are taken and recorded. The experienced Citizen Scientists become mentors for the students that visit the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and State Beach. Jerry Donohue, Terry Jorris, Bill Stern, Judy Huck, Rick Beard, Jim Robins and Jennifer Robins acted as mentors for the FLOW program’s Educational component this past year. To be qualified to work with the students at a California State Park completion of a Volunteer Application, a LiveScan and a DMV certificate is required.

Also as a result of the Whale Tail grant, the Amigos hosted seven FLOW Seminars which invited members of the community to participate in free talks about various ocean and wetland health topics from specialists in those fields. We again want to thank Kelly O’Reilly, DFW; Gabrielle Dorr, NOAA; Priya Ganguili and students from the Earth Science Department at UCI; Kurt Lieber, Ocean Defenders Alliance; Erica Seubert, PhD, Pasadena City & Chaffey Colleges; and Michael Mori, Environmental Resources Specialist, County of Orange. The final FLOW Seminar will feature Nancy Caruso, “Get Inspired Changing the World: Community Based Restoration,” on August 17, 6:30 pm at REI Bella Terra in Huntington Beach.

We would like to thank REI at Bella Terra for hosting some of the presentations and their continuing interest in partnering with the Amigos. We also thank Curriculum Developer Joana Tavares for her expertise, patience, perseverance and enthusiasm. She developed the FLOW program for Amigos de Bolsa Chica and has been behind us all the way. Special thanks goes to our two program managers, Gwen Noda, who worked with us from May to December, and Melanie Cox, who took over for Gwen in January and worked until the grant funding ended in June. Running a program like FLOW is not easy and without them we could not have had such smoothly coordinated efforts between the teachers, the buses, the students, the Citizen Scientists, the State Beach staff, REI staff, and the seminar speakers.

The Amigos are proud of our FLOW program which has been in existence for four years. Citizen Scientists have attended every Friday for these four years to complete sampling, microscopy and chemical analysis. While the objective is to determine the presence of any harmful plankton species and send a sample to the California Department of Public Health each week, the experience of learning about the importance for phytoplanktion in wetland and ocean health has been invaluable.

Anyone with some curiosity about our world and a little time on Fridays is welcome to join us with the continuing FLOW adventure.