On September 4, 2013, I went on a Save the Bay field trip with my AP Biology class and the students from Environmental Science in Action. It was afun-filled day with digging, analyzing, and learning. As soon as we arrived, we all split into separate groups. The first thing my group did was measure the pH, moisture, and salinity of four different types of soil in a restored area. We found that the soil closest to the water had a low pH and a high level of salinity, while the soil farthest from the water had a high pH and a low level of salinity. During this activity, my group also observed the biodiversity of the four different areas. One of the plants I saw in the area closest to the water was pickleweed. I learned that pickleweed has a high tolerance for salt, which allows it to live in soil with a high level of salinity. When the plant takes up salt, the tips of the plant turn from green to red. After a quick lunch, my group then went on to remove mustard plants from the ground. The mustard plant is an invasive species in the San Francisco Bay. The mustard plant is not a California native and was bought over by Europeans for edible purposes. They are very fast reproducers, which affects the biodiversity of the area by increasing the competition among plants for resources. We went at them with picks to dig them out of the ground. While we were working, one of us spotted a praying mantis. We all stopped to gaze at this organism that apparently changes color to blend in with its environment. The one we saw was a tan color, similar to the color of the dead mustard plants and soil of the area. The day ended with a big group discussion.
This field trip was a very fun and interesting experience for me. What made it particularly special is that I could draw connections from what I learned at the site and what I had learned in my AP Biology class. For example, the praying mantis’ color-changing adaptation is a result of evolution. Natural selection, a term created by Charles Darwin to explain evolution, means that an organism of a species with a favorable characteristic is more likely to survive than another organism of the same species that lacks this characteristic. The praying mantis gleaned its color-changing adaptation through this process; its ancestors were less likely to become prey when they blended into their environment, therefore, they were more likely to survive and pass on this trait to their descendants. Another connection I made was how the introduction of the mustard plants to the Bay Area is just one way humans impact the environment. In class we learned that the some types of human activity that affect the environment are overharvesting, overhunting, and introducing non-native species. The introduction of the mustard plant by our European ancestors is an example of human activity having a lasting impact on the environment. These connections that I made, made the subjects I learned about in AP Biology seem more tangible.
Something I will remember forever from this field trip is digging the mustard out of the ground. While it was hard labor and I have a bruise from hitting myself with the pick, it made me think of how much of an impact one’s actions can have on the environment. It only takes one person to hurt the environment, but it also only takes one person to help the environment. The service learning aspect of the trip impacted me by showing me why it is important to save the bay and the environment in general. The bay is our home and we need to treat it as such. I had an amazing time, however, I wish there was more time for discussion. I wanted to discuss what I learned with others more in depth than what was allowed. All in all, the trip as a great experience and I would definitely recommend this trip for others. The knowledge and experience you can gain from this field trip makes it worthwhile. I definitely plan on revisiting this Save the Bay restoration site in the future to see how it has progressed.
Listen to my Audioboo about Pickleweed.this trip for others. The knowledge and experience you can gain from this field trip makes it worthwhile. I definitely plan on revisiting this Save the Bay restoration site in the future to see how it has progressed.
Click here to visit the Save the Bay website: Save the Bay