Third Quarter 2020 (July - Sept)
OC Habitats has forged relationships with other like-minded organizations since its inception in 2017. This section is dedicated to highlighting these organizations, the work they do, and the devoted people that work for them.
Effectiveness of Beach Clean Ups
A discussion with Cristina Robinson from OC Coastkeepers by Joyce Vu.
Beach clean-ups are a means of improving our beaches while raising public awareness about the threats of pollution to the ocean, but are they really an effective way of decreasing the amount of litter on the beach? Many local conservation non-profits contribute to restoration in Orange County through beach clean-ups. Two of these non-profits include our very own OC Habitats and our partners OC Coastkeeper. According to an interview with Cristina Robinson, an education coordinator at OC Coastkeeper, beach clean-ups are an effective and important form of preventing the debris from entering the ocean. Regardless of how large or small the clean-ups may be, every action matters, because those small actions accumulate over time and through a large population of people act as a major impact to benefit the ocean. Beach clean-ups are important because they serve as the last step to prevent the debris from getting into the ocean.
This directly impacts humans, since pollution can find its way into the diet of the animals and end up being consumed by us, which could negatively affect our health over time.
Beach clean-ups are a fun way to engage with the community by meeting new people with common interests while preserving our beaches and saving the marine and coastal animals. By cleaning up the beach, people gain immediate satisfaction by feeling good in helping the community, the environment, as well as themselves. To join in on these beach clean-ups, individuals can come together with a group of friends and/or family for their own event or sign up with organizations like OC Coastkeeper and OC Habitats. 80% of the trash found in the ocean and along the shores of Orange County comes from storm drains that flow directly from the city streets into the oceans. The other 20% is from indirect litter along the beaches, restaurants, roads, and highways that are left from people and overflowing trash bins that are blown around from the winds. The debris that is picked up from beach clean-ups are typically weighed and inputted into the Clean Swell App, which compiles data to provide researchers and policy-makers information to develop solutions to help the ocean. Furthermore, litter that is picked up can be used to create trash art out of the most commonly seen items, such as cigarette butts and plastic bottles, to bring awareness to the community in hopes to prevent people from littering.
Aside from cleaning up the beach, other methods of decreasing litter found on the beaches can be done through prevention. Robinson believes that important actions, such as enforcing litter laws, need to be taken on a statewide level. As part of the Trash-Free Water Policy by 2030, an increase in grate covers need to be added to help prevent and reduce trash from entering our drainage system. OC Habitats encourages the reduction of single-use items and encourages the community to increase their use of biodegradables. Individuals can also make a difference in their daily lives by thinking globally and acting locally, such as participating in the #PlasticFreeJuly event that OC Habitats has and is promoting. Individuals can do this by reusing everyday household items, going to refill stores, and educating themselves on where their seafood comes from. OC Habitats recommend using free apps such as the Seafood Watch, FishPhone, and SeaChoice App to find seafood that is sustainably sourced based on scientific research, while also suggesting alternatives to overfished species. Regardless of the amount of litter that is cleaned, OC Habitats and Robinson believe that if just one animal is saved by preventing entanglement, suffocation, and/or death through ingestion, then beach clean-ups have proven their worth.
Saving Sharks by Michaela Coats
Horned Shark Photo by Caitlin Callin
Another Shark Week just ended, and it's no question as to why the Discovery Channel chooses to dedicate a week every summer to spreading awareness of these amazing animals.
Sharks are some of the most iconic inhabitants of our vast oceans. They are mysterious and powerful creatures that roam the shallow reefs and the deep open waters; and with species that range from 7 inches to 45 feet long. Portrayed as fearsome predators by the media and Hollywood, these animals are often misunderstood by the public and even still continue to amaze researchers with new findings.
With more than 440 species of sharks that span the lengths of every ocean, there is much to learn about the species themselves as well as how to best manage their populations. Sharks have recently come to the forefront of many conservation efforts as their populations are being severely affected by the actions of humans. The strongest threat is the international demand for their fins and meat, where it is estimated that up to 100 million sharks are killed a year. Since sharks are apex predators, the consequences trickle down the food web and negatively impact entire ecosystems. Protecting species like sharks takes collaboration between government bodies, private organizations, researchers, and individuals all working together and doing their part to find the best way to protect the species and their habitats.
California State University Long Beach’s (CSULB) Shark Lab is a local group of researchers that has become internationally recognized for their work on shark conservation. Originally founded in 1966, they focus on studying the ecology of marine animals, human impacts on the ocean, technological innovation, and education. The Lab’s emphasis on education and community outreach is a quality shared by OC Habitats and has led to a helpful partnership as we create our own education curriculum. We were even lucky enough to receive shark jaws that were confiscated by US Fish and Wildlife, an unfortunate incident that Dr. Chris Lowe, the Lab’s Director, decided to turn into a beneficial one by distributing them for educational purposes (pictured).
Great White Shark Photo: Caitlin Callin
Organizations like the Shark Lab and OC Habitats are always in the business of connecting with the community and educating them on how we can do our part towards wildlife conservation. To do your part, you can:
Educate yourself and others!
Eat sustainable seafood! Programs like Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch help guide you towards the most eco-friendly options and if you are looking to eat out, the Surfrider Foundation can show you "ocean friendly" restaurants in your area!
Avoid shark products! Sharks and rays are caught for more than just food, and can be found in personal care products, supplements, and even pet products -- so do your research before you shop.
Click here for more information on the Shark Lab and their work and resources on beach safety and shark education.
We have several habitat video series projects in the works. We are hoping for the publication of several of them by the end of 2020. Keep your eyes open for a notification about these videos about our habitats of Orange County.
Join the OCH Crew!
OCH is looking for people who want to share their talents and time to improve their local environment and habitats. We have many opportunities to get involved, check them out below.
Become a Habitat Monitor
Join our Habitat Education Team
Help with Administrative Tasks
Help with Outreach and Marketing
Become a Tide Pool Docent
Work on OCH's Social Media Outreach
Help with ongoing Restoration Projects
Work with our Grant Writing Team to secure funding for our organization, programs, and projects.
Click Volunteer above for application.
College Level Students earn credit through CSUF and UCI
Gain experience in the conservation field, a grassroots nonprofit, business administration, public speaking, education, and more.
Become a film or art intern for OCH.
Click Internships above for application.
Join our Board:
We are always looking for people to help us reach our goals and mission. Submit your resume, references and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to hearing from you!
New Board Members
We welcomed two new board members to our crew in the late spring: Ross Griswold and Kimi Garcia. Ross will be taking over our monitoring programs and Kimi is our new treasurer and will focus on our marketing and financial plans for the future. Stacey and Ginny have remained on the and continue in their roles as Executive Director and Resource Interpretation Director. We have added many other volunteers and interns since our last newsletter and are going forward at full steam.
Photo from MPRNews: In this May 13 photo provided by the National Park Service, this female California condor spreads her wings. Biologists have confirmed that she laid an egg that has hatched and there is a new baby condor at Zion National Park.
National Park Service/AP
By Michaela Coats
If you have been lucky enough to see a California condor, in the wild or even a zoo environment, you have experienced the power that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has had in the world of wildlife conservation. Established in 1973, the ESA was signed into law by the Nixon Administration in the height of the modern environmental movement to protect other species from suffering the fate of extinction.
For the case of the California condors, their threat was rooted in their feeding habits. Condors, like other vultures, are scavengers which means they only eat carrion (or dead animal remains). This plays an extremely important role in their ecosystems which range from coastal beaches to mountains to desert canyons. As they soar through these habitats, they act as a “clean up crew” to rid the environment of bacteria and diseases associated with the decomposing carcasses. Their bald heads are even presumed to be an adaptation for them to stay hygienic while digging into their next meal as it helps them avoid debris from rotting in their feathers!
However, when the sport of hunting intersected with their feeding, it had detrimental consequences. While lead bullets are now banned in the state of California, their rampant use in the mid 1900s caused a severe decline in the condor population as the consumption of the bullet fragments in carcasses caused deadly lead poisoning. Additionally, being a flock species meant if one was eating more always came to join in on the feast. Their population fell to such an extreme that in 1982 the decision was made to capture all remaining 22 individuals to begin an extensive recovery program.
Yes, you read that correctly -- only 22 California condors remained. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with many organizations to help bring the California condor population back to life. But what goes into such a critical conservation program? For the case of the condors, it began with captive breeding to prepare for eventual release. Zoos such as the Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara Zoos helped take part in this program by becoming breeding and housing facilities which allowed for the optimization of breeding pairs through genetic analyses. They also played roles in outreach and education which are critical aspects of any conservation program.
The release of condors back into the wild began in 1992, which followed with routine monitoring of movement (through tracking devices), breeding and population growth, and biannual lead testing. If an individual was found to have high levels of lead, they were then taken to a facility for chelation therapy which removed the heavy metals from their bloodstream. But, handling these birds with a 9-10 foot wingspan is no walk in the park. It is more so a rappel down a cliff -- which field biologists often do to monitor nests and egg viability.
Almost 40 years later, and the Condor Recovery Program is in its final phase which focuses on creating self-sustaining wild populations. As of 2019, there are over 300 wild condors soaring between California, Arizona, Utah, and Baja California. They have even been spotted in Sequoia National Park for the first time in half a century, which is a monumental milestone for a species that was on the brink of extinction.
While the initial decision to begin such an extreme and experimental recovery program was a controversial one, the hard work and the hope held for this majestic species has paid off. Even beyond this one species, the knowledge they learned through these efforts will only aid in the recovery of species to come.
Volunteers of the Month
Joyce Vu has become a true asset to OC Habitats since she started with us in May. She is reliable, responsible, and hardworking in all aspects of her life from school, to work, to OCH. Joyce recently graduated from California State University, Fullerton with her degree in the biological sciences, which is being put to good use here at OCH. She is currently working on an in-depth tide pool project that will be shared through our education and outreach programs, once complete. As she has been working on her own projects and other programs within OCH, she has been setting the bar high by showing her knowledge in her field, her thoroughness in research, her excellent organizational skills, and taking a leadership role with her project teams. Joyce has been a joy to have on our team and has been an excellent leader to others in our intern and volunteer teams. We are thankful for her hard work and dedication.
Ginny Gregurek is one of our most inspirational volunteers and leaders. She has been with OC Habitats for well over two years and has provided our team with her vast field experience in the tide pools and local habitats. Her enthusiasm for nature and for educating others is truly magnetic and has made our educational programs fun and informative. Ginny has been a sitting board member for 2 years and recently took on the title of Resource Interpretation Director for OCH. She has already started to lead in her role by helping our interns learn all about the tide pools and getting them going on their projects related to this habitat. Ginny has a creative mind and sees the positive in all things and people, she doesn’t allow the stresses of life to get her down and always can take a stressful situation and find a positive spin. In addition to Ginny’s work with OCH, she works for Laguna Ocean Foundation where she is a naturalist and interpreter. Through this work, she has provided OCH with valuable connections that we hope to use for future partnerships once the world opens up again. Ginny has many fantastic ideas brewing and we expect to see some really fun things come from her in the coming years. We truly wouldn’t be the OCH that we are without Ginny! We love having Ginny on our OCH Team!
OCH wants to acknowledge our outgoing board members this month: Alice Carter, La Kinya Allen-Hall, and Adelle Bennett. We have had three amazing, hard-working, and creative women on our board for the last 2-3 years and their service to our organization has been the lifeblood of keeping our organization on task and growing.
Alice Carter, our treasurer for the last three years has provided not only financial advice and organization but has been an editor and problem solver when I needed help with grants, taxes, and the other fun administrative stuff of OCH. She has been a rock to our organization and will be missed in her role on our board. She is taking leave to spend some time with her children as one enters into and the other is finishing high school. We hope with a little respite she will return to our board in another capacity.
La Kinya Allen-Hall came to our board two years ago as our secretary and had excellent organization skills. She is a quiet leader who supported our work and volunteer staff in all our efforts to grow in all of our programs. She also has children that are busy in school and sports and will be stepping back as a board member but we hope to see her at some of our outreach and restoration events in the future.
Adelle Bennett came to us as a member-at-large two years ago with previous nonprofit experience, so her input was invaluable as we were making big decisions about the core values and goals of our organization. She recently welcomed her 2nd child to her family and is stepping back to put focus on them and her career. This amazing group of women has certainly made an impact on OC Habitats and their work and contributions will not soon be forgotten. OC Habitats gratitude runs both deep and wide for this trio!
OCH WEBSITE UPDATES!
OCH updated its website this summer with the help of Olivia Richardson's artist talent and great organizational skills. The site is now cleaner and easier to navigate. In addition to the updates, we have added a Blog and post weekly on current events with OCH, the local, regional, national, and global community. Subscribe today and enjoy our new site!
2020 Spotlight Interviews
We concluded our Spotlight Interview Series for 2020. We interviewed sixteen different volunteers with our organization. Some of our other volunteers were a little more shy and some were new and will interview next year. Our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, experience, and cultures and we embrace them all. Check out our videos to see how the OCH culture is diverse and welcoming.
Upcoming Events & Opportunities
Oct 10th, 10am - Virtual Happy Hour - Vote for the Environment!
Oct 31st - Halloween
Nov 3rd - Election Day!
Nov 7th, 10am Virtual Happy Hour - Food and the Environment
Nov. 11th - Veterans Day
Nov 14th, 10am - Virtual Happy Hour - GivingTuesday and GreenFast Challenge
Green Fast Challenge Begins - Nov 23rd
Nov 23-29th - OCH Closed for Thanksgiving
Dec 1st - GivingTuesday OCH Giving Event
Dec 5th, 9am-12pm, Winter Celebration and Pouch Party (@HBWC)
Dec 21st - Jan 3rd - OCH Closed for Winter Holidays
For new and upcoming events, join our mailing list.
OCH Habitat Videos
COVID-19 & the Environment
By Abby Foster
Photo by S. Chartier-Grable
Over the last few months, our world has undergone drastic changes in our lifestyles and economy due to the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus. With people making efforts to stay home and social distance, there has been a decrease in traffic, air travel, shopping, and many other activities. And as always, our environment is affected by these changes.
Globally, COVID-19 has impacted the environment in both positive and negative ways:
Now, on one hand, the fear of spreading the virus through cross-contamination has again deterred society away from reusable materials. Grocery stores were no longer allowing reusable bags; restaurants were only doing take-away, leaving you behind with plastic and/or styrofoam containers and utensils; and single use personal protective equipment extended beyond the healthcare system to the average citizen. Many reports have shown that materials such as plastic bags, disposable masks, and plastic gloves are littered everywhere from parking lots, to hiking trails, to the ocean. This tidal wave of pollution has overall become a major setback for many countries who had previously made impressive commitments to lowering waste.
On the other hand, people are staying home, not driving as much, and many industries were shut down or have reduced their output. This has resulted in a decrease in traffic, and industrial pollution which, in turn, has led to cleaner air and water. In larger American cities such as San Francisco and New York City, air quality has improved by up to 30% since lockdown began in March. In Northern China and the more industrial cities of Italy, there has also been a similar improvement of air quality by 10 to 30%. These reductions in common pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide are not only beneficial for us humans, but for wildlife as well.
Photo by S. Chartier-Grable - W. Snowy Plover Eggs
Locally, there have been notable changes in the abundance of wildlife occupying spaces that were once often packed with visitors. For example, here in Orange County we have a small population of Western snowy plovers, a shorebird species that has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1993. These birds occupy coastal dune habitats and create their nests by scraping small ditches in the sand which are extremely difficult to discern. Typically, our beaches such as Huntington State Beach experience a high amount of human activity, which deters the plovers from utilizing all of the available habitat. However, due to the closing of the beaches, we have seen Western snowy plovers nests in locations previously unseen for years. Over ten nests have been located and cordoned off at both Huntington and Bolsa Chica State Beaches this season. Fortunately, the species still has members of different conservation groups such as California State Parks, Sea and Sage Audubon, Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, and OC Habitats working to protect them from both predators and human trampling during this time.
Although these temporary changes in lifestyle have positive impacts on the environment, it is by no means a long-term solution. Eventually, lockdown will end and normal life will resume. These changes seen on both large and small scale, however, can provide politicians, scientists, and citizens with critical information on how to mitigate issues such as climate change and species extinction.
With our increasingly advanced technology, we have found effective solutions for operating at a distance, habits which could continue after the pandemic and help alleviate declines in our environment. For example, many businesses have taken to online systems which lead to a significant reduction in traffic and fossil fuel consumption. Continuing this habit for even a few days a week could be a solution for local reduction in emissions related to transportation.
More importantly, as countries enter the recovery phase of this pandemic, they will be faced with the opportunity to invest in green energy and bolster both economic and environmental health. Shifting towards renewable energy would not only contribute to a much needed economic recovery by adding jobs and increasing GDP, but would create a long-term commitment to fighting climate change and creating a more sustainable future.
Although this pandemic has spread darkness across the world, we are all presented with the opportunity to find hope and create new light for the future; and it is up to us to take it.