“So, is it safe to swim or are we gonna grow a second arm?” This was one of the many questions I was asked this summer as I worked with Heal the Bay testing water quality in Malibu. Before working with Heal the Bay, I never knew how to even pronounce Enterococcus (at least outside of my own head).
I remember the first time someone asked me what we were doing all I could manage to blurt out was “We’re taking some bacteria.” Then we both sort of looked at each other truly wondering what I was talking about because frankly, I didn’t really know either.
So that day, I sat down with the Director of the Science and Policy Department, and asked every question I could think of. As she explained to me the science of what we were working on, it began to change the way I thought about our California waterways. I learned more about the various types of bacteria that could be in the water and I began to understand what an important impact humanity had on California waters.
My favorite part of my experience this summer was educating the curious onlookers who didn’t know much about what was in the water they were swimming in and how to take care of the outdoor resources they loved. I had the opportunity to explain to them about the bacteria we tested for like E. coli and Enterococcus which are bacteria fount in feces and when high levels of these bacteria are present, it can indicate unclean water. I also told them about different resources that could help keep them informed about their environment. Heal the Bay has a web site called the beach report card that lets locals trach the quality of their favorite beaches. The beach report card is a way to let the public know about the conditions of local beaches and what hazards might be in the waters. There are hazards like sewage and oil spills that can become hazardous to health. Samples are taken regularly of the water so that the condition can be monitored efficiently.
I didn’t expect that I would be able to inspire awareness about how important our environment and water ways are by engaging them at places they visit every single day. It seemed that everyone I met was just as excited about becoming involved in protecting what they loved.
The web site I mentioned is https://beachreportcard.orgit’s a really cool resource to use when you are deciding which beach to visit the next time you go out
The beach that I visited was Will Rogers State Beach. I chose this particular placed because I wanted to visit a beach that was different from what I typically considered a beach. Will Rogers State Beach is about 5 minutes from the extremely popular and tourist packed Santa Monica Pier. This area along the coast especially brings a variety of tourist looking to enjoy a gem of California’s coastline. It was not the typical sandy beach but instead, it was a beach that has been armored by the city. The coast that was between Will Rogers State Beach and Santa Monica Pier was dotted with nets and immaculately groomed sand. As I passed by, it occurred to be how popular this area was for more recreational actives like volleyball, kite flying, and frisbee. As I drove further down the coast, it was the first time I really noticed the large boulders that held the coast up. I never noticed or even understood the difficulty this area had keeping its sand on shore. This area is experiencing intense coastal erosion which is the depletion of the shoreline. Essentially, the beach is being washed away before our very eyes. After years of driving down this same exact road, I never gave much thought to the significance of the large stones pressed into the coast. I realized that hidden under those rocks is the complicated process of erosion and sediment loss that is reshaping our shorelines.
These rocked are placed against the roads in a desperate attempt to sustain our coast yet this technique does not address the core problem that lead to this level of coastal erosion. The area is surrounded by businesses and what I imagine to be million-dollar homes and the costal armoring is there to protect the infrastructure that have paid handsomely to be built along the coast. Erosion inland helps move sediment from watersheds and streams down to coastal regions. Other factors that can contribute to erosion include wind,rain and human activities. There are also many human activities also contribute to the disappearance of our shorelines. Things like adding more sand to a specific beach from another area, which is also known as nourishment, effects the coast by unnaturally supplementing sand where it isn’t and in the long run the stand is washed the coast by wind and waves. I recalled in lecture that there are seasonal changes to our beaches, Dr. Steele explained that late summer offers lower tides which exposes more sand, which contrasts with the first couple months of the year that shows increased water levels. Southern California beaches undergo dramatic seasonal change due to a shift in temperature and wave strength I wondered if what I saw would be considered low or high-water levels. Generally, winter waves drag the sand offshore exposing the sediment that is found underneath the sand and in contrast; summer waves push the sand onto the shore helping to replenish the sand and rebuild the coast. As I looked down the coast with this new knowledge and perspective, I started to understand why it was so important to consider every action that we make. Seemingly simple things like blocking off a small stream may have adverse consequences. Prior to this course, I never noticed or thought about the effects that changing a single ecosystem can have on an environment. Noticing rocks where sand should be never seemed out of place but now I wonder what this beach would have looked like 100 years ago and what it will look like in the future.
California Coastal environments have received more attention as people have come to realize the threat of environmental degradation and the impact it has on various marine habitats. Beaches are very fragile environments with a variety of ecosystems that are dependent on healthy beaches for survival. This weekend I participated in a nationwide event to help reduce some of the trash and debris from the Southern California coastline. It was a very important event to me because I feel that it is important for the public to be extra thoughtful about how we take care of these delicate stretches of land because once they are gone, they might never come back. As we cleaned up the beach, there was a variety of wasted blended into the natural shoreline. Pollutant where picked up by a variety of participants, things such as plastic bags, cigarette filters, and uncountable amounts of straws and plastic. It seemed that the trash covered the beach as much as sand did. There were even areas of the shore that seemed to accumulate oil and grease. It is important to properly dispose of the trash while enjoying our beaches because the more trash we are able to collect on our beaches, means less trash will find its way into our oceans. It is not only wildlife that are being killed by our waste but humans are being harmed as well. With so many various types of trash floating in our beaches, many forms of bacteria are able to grow in the water. Polluted water can expose swimmers to harmful bacteria and pathogens. When people go swimming, ocean water tends to find its way up noses and into mouths and as our beaches become more polluted the risks if getting sick increases when simmers come into contact with the polluted water. Being a part of such a nationwide cleanup of our beaches really made a difference in boosting local as well as ecological economies. In addition to helping protect our beaches and coasts, it was nice to see that there were a lot of individuals who were willing to lend a helping hand to protect our beaches. It was refreshing to see that each individual at the coastal clean up understood that it is their personal responsibility to protect what they love and it is in their actions where they can create a better environment for the ocean’s ecosystem by doing their part in keeping the beaches clean.