Revisiting the Antioch Dunes

IMG_2570Continuing their work at the Antioch Dunes, local Earth Team interns returned to the National Wildlife Refuge to continue restoring habitat.

On this particular afternoon, the interns split into three groups to accomplish three different restoration objectives. One team took on the task of cleaning up and tracking litter that had washed up onto the beach during high tide using the Marine Debris Tracker app.  This team found a lot of plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and pieces of clothing that had been dumped into the San Joaquin river somewhere upstream.

Another team was responsible for watering and checking up on native plants that a team of volunteers had planted earlier in the week.  A lucky group of students got to plant some endangered Contra Costa Wallflower, and Antioch Earth Team interns were tasked with watering them and making sure they were in good condition.

The final team of interns continued working on removing invasive species throughout the Antioch Dunes, paying particular attention to tobacco trees, which tend to be challenging to remove completely.  Invasive removal is hard work, but the team always likes to get outside and make progress on removing large invasive plants! The hard work really pays off!

At the end of the day, the group took some time to enjoy and reflect upon nature, relaxing on the banks of the river. What a beautiful place to work!




Sunny Work Day at the Antioch Dunes

IMG_2498 (2)Students from Antioch Earth Team enjoyed the beautiful weather while doing restoration work at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. The team arrived at 10:00am and broke into groups to take on different tasks.

One group was responsible for identifying and removing tobacco trees from around the dunes.  The process involved using large pruning shears to remove branches from the trees and weed wrenches to get as much of the root out of the ground as possible.  The interns did an awesome job, but said that the work was very challenging!

Another group of students worked on the inner portion of the dunes removing grasses.  Luckily, this large land area isn’t too badly affected by invasive species as the primrose grows much better there than other species.  However, the students still removed large amounts of grasses from the area.

The third group worked around the boundaries of the dunes, removing larger shrubs and clearing bigger patches of invasive species.

Earth Team Antioch finished the day by reflecting on their work at a serene beach.  Looking out onto the water, the interns shared their favorite parts of the day as well as the most challenging parts, and also shared what they’re looking forward to.  The consensus is that the team is excited to return to the Antioch Dunes and spend more time on the beautiful waterfront site!

Earth Team’s First Visit to the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

IMG_2428For their second meeting of the year, Antioch Earth Team visited the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge to get some hands on experience with the species living there.  The interns spent 2 hours exploring both sites within the refuge, and learning how to expertly identify juvenile Antioch Dunes Evening-Primrose and Contra Costa Wallflower.

The interns were able to see the sites and species that they learned about the prior week in the classroom.  Although not all of the species talked about were present or mature, the students had the chance to see and identify many Antioch Dunes Evening Primroses, some of which were small and some of which had grown quite large.  They also had the chance to see and learn about more invasive species, including winter vetch, a variety of thistles, and tobacco trees.

Being on site at the Dunes was a great opportunity for the team to ask questions with a better perspective.  Students were inquisitive about all of the other plans present at the site, and learned about many species beyond the endangered plants.

This weekend, interns will return to the site to do restoration work in an effort to protect the important species at the Antioch Dunes!

Preparation for Antioch Dunes Restoration Begins

Louis Terrazas discusses invasive plants and the threat they pose to endangered species.

As a new year began, Antioch Earth Team started preparing for their newest project: restoration at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.  For their first meeting of 2018, interns were joined by Louis Terrazas of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  He is a specialist at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, and an expert on restoration and conservation of sensitive species.

The team learned about the two endangered plant species protected at the National Wildlife Refuge, which are the Contra Costa Wallflower and the Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose. They also learned about the endangered Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly and its one and only host plant, the Antioch Dunes Buckwheat.

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Antioch Dunes Evening-Primrose in bloom at the National Wildlife Refuge.

Interns also had the opportunity to hear about different services that the US Fish and Wildlife Service provides, which started an exciting conversation about internships and possible career paths in the environmental field.  In the coming weeks, Antioch Earth Team will put their new knowledge to work, and will begin visiting the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge regularly to lend a hand with restoration efforts.

Antioch Earth Team Celebrates First Semester Success

IMG_2303Antioch High Earth Team wrapped up the year with a pot luck, taking time to celebrate the semester’s accomplishments and reflect on the fun we had!

The team of youth leaders shared their thoughts on the team dynamic, expressing excitement about how close our team grew over the semester.  As a group, a lot was learned about managing watersheds and collecting data, and the team is looking forward to a strong and exciting second semester full of fun outdoor restoration work.

Love and Happy Holidays from Antioch Earth Team!

Inside the Mind of a Watershed Steward

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This student blog reflects on the experiences of one intern who is helping to lead adaptive management practices at the Upper Sand Creek Basin throughout the first semester of her year long sustainable youth internship.


This semester we’re focusing on restoring our site, the Upper Sand Creek Basin. We’ve been visiting our site and collecting water samples, in order to run tests and see how healthy the water is. Also, we’ve looked for native species that have been planted previously to see how they’ve been holding up.

Personally, I enjoy doing the water testing through the kits instead of the probe, because it’s more hands on. The hands on experience allows us to go step by step while seeing the process happen before our eyes. Our site is out in the open and at first glance, you wouldn’t think there is anything wrong with it. However, knowing the issues within I’m glad I’m able to be part of the restoration process.

Going into Earth Team, I strongly believed we were just going to pick up trash around the school and in the community. Doing more than trash cleanup and helping the environment in other ways is a great feeling.

What I like about Earth Team is everyone is willing to lend a hand when needed. We all were strangers at one point, but through this program we were able to gain a bond while working together as team. If something were to change, I would say adding more members. I believe adding one to three more members, will allow more to get done in a given time.

For next semester, I’m hoping there’s more activities for restoration in our site. I’m looking forward to doing more water testing and hopefully soon my team and I are able to go hiking. Learning how to be in team isn’t just an important skill in itself, but with it comes with other skills such as patience and communication. In any job setting it’ll be highly important to have skills such as those. Year long projects, teaches us some things take longer than others, but it teaches us commitment and responsibility.

Through this first semester, I was able to gain experience while being in a team. 

Coast Live Oak Monitoring Practice

IMG_2172Antioch Earth Team headed back out to the Upper Sand Creek Basin to learn a new skill: plant monitoring. On this particular Tuesday, the team focused on identifying, counting, and monitoring Coast Live Oaks that were planted in the basin by volunteers years ago.

Baseline data was compiled from existing documents showing general locations of volunteer planting sites and Coast Live Oak estimated numbers. Interns used a satellite image of the basin to create a map and then developed walking routes of those location to focus their time on.

Split into three groups, the Antioch High students were able to cover almost all of the basin in their 2 hour after school meeting.  The young researchers found that many of the oaks were not present or were mislabeled.  Of the oaks that they found, some were incredibly while established, others were healthy, and some appeared to be in poor health.

Interns will continue to monitor and map Coast Live Oaks in the basin to master the process of native plant monitoring.  Hopefully, their efforts will expand to other native species present in the basin, including things like coyote brush.

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Sunset over Mt. Diablo

The Antioch Earth Team after school meeting concluded with a beautiful sunset over Mt. Diablo to wrap up a fun afternoon of exploring nature!

Weekend Workday in the Rain

IMG_2018.JPGAntioch High Earth Team suited up in ponchos to do restoration and water testing in the rain.  The group of environmental leaders from Antioch High School is focusing their effort this semester on restoration in the Upper Sand Creek Basin.  They spent this particular Saturday testing water at various locations along Sand Creek.

The water in this basin flows in from Sand Creek as well as from South Antioch storm drains.  The youths hypothesized that the storm water and urban runoff flowing into the basin would have very different water chemistry than the stream flowing out of the basin.

The students lead the day’s research project on water chemistry throughout the basin, finding surprisingly promising readings for metrics like pH and temperature.

Interns plan to return to the basin many more times throughout the semester to repeat their water testing procedures and to collect enough data to hopefully draw some conclusions about the function of the basin at purifying water beyond protecting residents from flooding in extreme rain events.

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Interns Prepare to Begin Work at Upper Sand Creek Basin

Picture1Starting on Saturday, November 4th, Antioch interns will begin participating in adaptive management efforts at the Upper Sand Creek Basin in Antioch.  The flood basin is managed by the Flood Control District, and provides wetland habitat to a wide variety of species.  The volunteer-planted willows and native plans provide natural water filtration, improving the quality of urban runoff as it flows from South Antioch storm drains into Marsh Creek.  It also offers protection to surrounding communities in the event of heavy rains, acting as a flood basin to slow water flow through Sand Creek and Marsh Creek.

In the coming months, Antioch Interns will work on a variety of projects in the basin.  One project will focus on water quality in the basin.  Interns will test “urban drool” as it runs off from nearby communities into the basin.  They will also test water originating from the natural creek that feeds the basin.  Finally, interns will test the water as it exits the basin into Marsh Creek.  This investigation will hopefully show to what extent urban runoff is contaminated and how effectively the basin improves water quality.

Another project that the interns will work on will be native plant maintenance and mapping.  Many native plants thrived naturally in the basin, and others were planted by volunteers. However, other vegetation has overtaken many of these plants, so Antioch interns will work on freeing them and documenting their establishment and success throughout the basin.

Finally, interns will participate in other small scale efforts including litter audits with the Marine Debris Tracker App and Earth Team’s Zero Litter Map.

We are excited to move forward with our projects at the Upper Sand Creek Basin! Stay tuned for more photos and exciting student blogs from Antioch High Interns!