QuikSCience Catalina Island Competition Awards Youth Environmental Leaders
Big Fisherman’s Cove is filled with hundreds of leopard sharks. Snorkeling with them in the shallows near the sandy beach, you can come within five inches of these six-foot-long, grayish sharks with dark spots, and they are so close you can actually pet them. It’s exhilarating, and every time, it takes my breath away.
This is a glimpse of what the winners of the ninth annual USC QuikSCience Challenge saw when they visited Catalina Island this summer — and what I often see in my job as program specialist. Sponsored by the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies in partnership with Quiksilver Inc. and the Quiksilver Foundation, the USC QuikSCience Challenge is a competition for middle school and high school students who create science projects related to marine or freshwater environments. In 2012, more than 400 participants turned in 74 projects and received guidance from more than two dozen USC undergraduate and graduate student mentors.
The first place team wins an entire week in Catalina and $500 for its school, the second place winners enjoy a four-day weekend on Catalina and $250, and the honorable mentions win $150.
Under the supervision of Project Manager Terri Bidle and myself, the teams spend a lot of time in and out of the water. They have day and night snorkels to see how the habitat changes over a 24 hour cycle. They swim with leopard sharks and glance into the eyes of lobsters. Additionally, they do day and night plankton tows to see how vertical migrations affect the microscopic community. We tour Catalina Island by going to Middle Ranch, Avalon, Little Harbor and Shark Harbor to show how the Wrigley Institute differs from the rest of the island. Located in front of the Wrigley Institute, Big Fisherman’s Cove is a Marine Protected Area (MPA), and it demonstrates its effectiveness by having bigger schools of fish, and larger fish in general.
But the winners aren’t the only ones who get a glimpse of the island. Everyone who turns in a QuikSCience project earns a daytrip to USC’s Catalina campus, the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. The students learn about Catalina’s natural ecology through a free ride to the island on USC’s boat, a lengthy kayaking trip to the nearby town of Two Harbors and a hike up the ridge behind the institute.
The students that participate in the QuikSCience program make a difference not only in their schools and their community, but also in their global environment. I love taking these students to Catalina because I am inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders — the same way that I was inspired as a high school student who participated in the program myself.
The winners from this year’s QuikSCience Challenge are:
First Place: Santa Monica High School, Car Team, Santa Monica, CA
Second Place: Kamehameha Schools, Fertilizers and Algae Team, Honolulu, HI
Best Creative Outreach Award: SOAR High School, OCEANITS GW Team, Lancaster, CA
Best Research Proposal: Gabrielino High School, APES Team, Gabrielino CA
Best Community Service: Oak Park High School, Shark Team, Oak Park, CA
Best Usage of Multi-Media: Westlake High School, Wetlands Team, Westlake, CA
First Place: SMASH - Santa Monica Alternative School House, Santa Monica, CA
Second Place (2 team tie from same school): St. Margaret's Episcopal School, Styrofoam Surfboard Team and Robot Oil-sucker-upper Team, San Juan Capistrano, CA
Best Interactive Lesson Plan Award: San Joaquin Middle School, Pollution and Sea Turtle Team, Irvine, CA
Best Adaptation of a Lesson Plan: New Horizon Middle School, Elephant Seal Team, Los Angeles, CA
Best Innovative Environmental Solution: Eastshore Elementary School, Runoff Pollution Team, Irvine, CA
Reach Contributor Dieuwertje Kast here.