By Susan Murphy
Hundreds of 7th grade students in City Heights will have a unique opportunity this year to become citizen scientists in a national park. The Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma was one of four National Parks across the country selected for the prestigious project.
“So they can see the power of conservation, the power of how protecting these places really matters,” said Alex Warneke, a science program coordinator at Cabrillo National Monument. “It’s giving these kids the opportunity to come out here, to collect data, so in the future they can become the next environmental stewards.”
Warneke will be working with the students in their classrooms and at the park to study the Mediterranean coastal sage scrub in relation to the region’s watershed.
“They’re going to be analyzing it, they’re going to be measuring it, and they’re going to be comparing it between their community in City Heights and here at their national park, the Cabrillo National Monument,” Warneke said.
“It really allows us to connect to these students, some who have never been to a national park,” she said.
The project is in collaboration with the Ocean Discovery Institute, which is opening its new Living Lab in City Heights this fall. Students will use the $15 million research center to analyze their findings.
But the project is far more than just collecting data, Warneke said. It is about inspiring scientific careers and compassion for the fragile earth.
“We’re going to be relying on them to protect the health of our planet and the future of our national parks,” she said.
During their visit to the park, students will also be exposed to the park’s many offerings.
“We celebrate our beautiful old Point Loma lighthouse right here on the tip of the peninsula,” she said. “We commemorate the voyage of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Kumeyaay that lived here before him, and also our role in World War II history.”
The three-year project called Citizen Science 2.0 in National Parks is being funded from a $1 million donation from the Veverka Family Foundation to the National Park Foundation.