“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