First Quarter 2020 (Jan-Mar)


Quarterly News

Featured Partners

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.

Matt Yurko is the Restoration Education Program Manager for the California Coastal Commission's Community-Based Restoration and Education Program and has been with the program since 2005. With a BS in Biology from Loyola University Maryland and an MS in Environmental Education from Lesley University Matt enjoys sharing nature with everyone he meets and thinks Orange County is an excellent place for appreciating the natural world. 

What is Project Grow’s Mission?


We grow healthy ecosystem by developing knowledgeable and inspired people.


What is your role within Project Grow?


I am the Program Manager. As the only paid staff person, I manage all aspects of the program: educational content and programming, restoration and field work, and administrative duties such as fundraising. I also train and manage interns as “Environmental Leaders” who assist our programs, which helps us build capacity to take on more volunteers at our events. 


What is the most memorable positive feedback that you have received from students or volunteers?  


The feedback I enjoy the most is when participants come back after a period of time away and they still remember having a positive experience. Better yet, they’re still motivated by a connection to a place (that they developed with our program) to keep learning more and applying what they learn to restore more habitats at the bay or elsewhere. 


What are the different stations that Project Grow offers during ROOTS events? Are these offered during every ROOTS event or do they vary based on weather and group size?


ROOTS events will vary mostly base on the season and the restoration work that is prioritized at the time of the event. In general, we provide opportunities to learn more about the ecosystem—it’s plants and wildlife, how the water flows through it etc.—as well as understand how humans have used and impacted these ecosystems. The contextual information increases the understanding and motivation of the volunteers to make a difference on site.


How does Project Grow’s location enhance the learning experience? 


At the Upper Newport Bay (and particularly around the Back Bay Science Center) We have access to salt marsh, riparian, and coastal sage scrub ecosystem. This variety of ecosystems, and the interplay between them, provides and endless supply of landscape to explore and understand better. The location lends itself to an enjoyable one-time visit or repeated visits by volunteers. Plus it’s a beautiful place to visit and work during the restoration events. 


What groups/schools does Project Grow serve? 


We are open to the public but most of our volunteers are high school and college age students, retired persons, and community volunteers including corporate groups, faith based groups, and scouting groups.


By the end of Project Grow ROOTS events, what do you expect students and volunteers to have learned. 


First, I hope each person has had a positive experience in nature. The basis for all future relationships with the environment has to be a positive interaction. Then I hope they remember one of the plants or wildlife they have encountered such that, if they see it again, they’ll remember it almost as “friend” that they want to see again. Finally, I expect that they have a greater grasp of the direct impacts humans have on the environment and how there is hope, particularly through ecological restoration, for our society to find greater balance between our needs and the needs of a healthy environment.


How does OC Habitats contribute to Project Grow?


OC Habitats has been a wonderful partner contributing volunteers and their hard work for our programs. Additionally, OC Habitats has provided tours and restoration opportunities in ecosystems where we don’t usually get to work (such as coastal dunes). Finally we look forward to partnering in fundraising so we can build upon our collective efforts to educate people and help make habitats healthy. 

Environmental News

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Environmental News

Ocean Quest by Sheen Sidhu

OCH’s Featured Partner is Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest (Ocean Quest/OQ) Citizen Science Program. Ocean Quest’s Citizen Science Coordinator,Devon Ohlwiler, has been our main point of contact during our partnership and allowed us to interview her about their program. 

Since 2017, OCH has partnered with Discovery Cubes's Ocean Quest nonprofit. Ocean Quest's Citizen Science program gives students form local schools a chance to explore the coastal habitats, the species that live within, and the issues the habitat currently faces. During the field trips, students are able to get a hands-on learning experience and gain insight into the possible career options they can persre such as: water quality testing, monitoring endangered and threatened species, and collecting data on microplastics in the environment.

What is Ocean Quest's mission?


OQ is a campus location that is part of the Discovery Cube Science Center and the Discover Science Foundation. The Discovery Science Foundation as a whole has four core initiatives that are used to prepare the generation of teachers, students and life-long learners. These four initiatives are: Early Childhood Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Proficiency, Healthy Living and Environmental Stewardship. Discovery Cube has three campus locations; Santa Ana, Los Angeles and Newport Beach. OQ’'s mission is to teach children about STEM and Environmental Stewardship through exhibits and hands-on learning experiences with our various field trip programs. 


What is your role within the organization and what are some significant contributions you have made?


My title at OQ is Citizen Science Coordinator. OQ hosts Citizen Science Field trips. These are special trips for 6-12th graders in which they participate in actual scientific research and collect data for various partner organizations. I work behind the scenes to create curriculum for this program, as well as teach the content to students both in the classroom and here at OQ. I make sure the process from start to finish runs smoothly, from booking with the teachers, to waving goodbye as the students leave OQ. Since this is a grant funded program, I also help write evaluation reports to send to donors. In addition to the Citizen Science program, I also manage the Marine Mammal Education Programming we do on site during the summer and on weekends. We partner with Davy's Locker Whale Watching and offer educational presentations about local marine mammals to their patrons as well as the public. I also do staff training for any new education staff here at OQ.


What are the different stations that OQ offers during field trips? Are these offered  during every field trip or do they vary based on weather and group size? 


OQ offers two main types of field trips. The first program is our Citizen Science Program, which is a special grant-funded program for 6th-12th grade. On this trip there are three to four learning stations depending on the size of the group.  For 15-90 students we do a 90 minute boat ride through the harbor and out to see the sea lions at the buoy. We also conduct an MPA (Marine Protected Area) Watch and learn about the White Sea Bass Grow-Out pen in the harbor. The students also collect a water sample in the harbor. Once off the boat, they come into the lab to test the water they collected for bacteria, enterococcus, which is a bacteria found in fecal matter. This data gets sent to the Surfrider Foundation. Students then go to the beach to look for microplastics in the sand. We send that data in to Algalita. If the group has 90-130 students, we add a 4th rotation on the beach with OCH, in which they learn about the dune habitat and the animals there, and then do some bird monitoring. We do these activities rain or shine. However if there is a torrential downpour, we may have the students come into the exhibit area instead of going to the beach. 

Our second program offers a general field trip for kinder-12th grades. This is a three hour trip where they tour the harbor on our boat for one hour, spend time in the exhibit for an hour, and then go to the pier to go crab fishing. The content only changes based on age


How does OQ's location enhance the learning experience? 


OQ is located in Newport Beach, California on the Balboa Peninsula. This puts us within walking distance of both the harbor and the beach, and we utilize both on each field trip. Some of the students we work with have never been on a boat before. This location is perfect because it allows students to experience the natural environment, and they are able to see first hand the different habitats where animals live. This not only makes for a fun and unique experience, but by seeing animals in their natural habitat, it is our hope that students will gain greater love and respect for the animals and the environment, and will then strive to protect them both by becoming environmental stewards. 


What groups/schools does OQ serve? (ex: Title I schools, public, private, or charter schools)


For the grant funded Citizen Science program, we sponsor Title 1 schools to participate. Both of our programs are available to public, private and charter schools as a paid program. In the summer, we also offer the K-12 field trips to summer camps, church groups, and other community groups such as the YMCA and The Boys and Girls Club. 


By the end of an OQ  field trip, what do you expect students to have learned? 


At the end of the Citizen Science field trip, our goal is to have students walk away knowing that they can be scientists, and can make a difference. Whether it is by collecting and submitting data on their smartphone, simply picking up trash on the beach, or recycling cans and bottles, we want them to understand that small everyday choices can make a big impact on the environment. 


How does OC Habitats contribute to OQ? 


OC Habitats (OCH) has been a partner of Ocean Quest's Citizen Science program since it began 2 years ago. For each field trip that is larger than 90 students, OCH sends educators to teach students about the local dune habitat and conservation efforts. OCH Educators walk the students through the habitat and help them identify various species of plants and animals. 



How does OC Habitats contribute to OQ? 


OC Habitats (OCH) has been a partner of Ocean Quest's Citizen Science program since it began 2 years ago. For each field trip that is larger than 90 students, OCH sends educators to teach students about the local dune habitat and conservation efforts. OCH Educators walk the students through the habitat and help them identify various species of plants and animals. 


OC Habitats wants to give thanks to Wendy Marshall and Jill Lemon for their efforts in facilitating OC Habitat’s partnership with Ocean Quest at the beginning of this partnership. A special thank you to Devon Ohlwiler for her efforts and collaboration with OCH over the last two years and agreeing to do this interview. 

Volunteers of the Month

January 2020

As we wrap up 2019, we also bid farewell to our longest standing intern, Sheen Sidhu.  Sheen has working hard for our organization as an intern since January 2019.  Her passion, drive, and eagerness to learn were well noted and, therefore, she is our OCH Volunteer of the Month.  Sheen came to us as a college freshman studying to earn her degree in environmental policy and joined OCH to learn more about the nonprofit and environmental industry.  She took on every task in her intern agreement and more.  Her eyes sparkled at the idea of taking on challenging projects and she thrived under these circumstances.  She learned how to monitor, to be a naturalist/environmental educator, and how to organize and lead a restoration project.  She became more and more comfortable with speaking events and ended speaking at three or more events this last year. She also earned the position of Lead Intern as she showed excellent leadership skills in her intellect, her reliability, and attention to detail.  She helped our newer interns get settled in our program, acted as a support to them, and helped to organize a variety of projects that we were working on.  Sheen worked hard on our habitat video project and was an integral part of getting this off the ground as well as providing OCH with her invaluable Adobe skills.  Sheen leaves us to pursue the rest of her college education and degree at USC in Los Angeles, her dream school.  We will miss her greatly for so many reasons but do hope she will keep in touch and visit us when she comes back to see her family. 

February 2020

Kristi Caldwell has been with OC Habitats for over two years. She has been a dedicated monitor for several of our monitoring programs over the last two years: 1) OCH Coastal Dune Habitat Surveys, 2) EONS (Bolsa Chica Tern and Plover monitoring), and 3) California State Parks Tern Preserve (Tern and Plover monitoring).  Kristi was involved in our education programming in the early going and helped with some of our administrative tasks but had to scale back when she took a job that had less flexibility. Kristi likes to be outdoors, loves to learn, and has a passion for all creatures, big and small.  Her love for the earth makes her a perfect fit as a crew member of OCH.  In addition to helping out with many of our weekly tasks, she also has attended many of our events like our Annual Bird Tours and Classes to continue to learn and sharpen her habitat and species identification skills.  Even though she has been busy working full-time and recently pregnant with her first child, she continued to take habitat segments till right before the birth of her daughter.  Kristi is still on maternity leave from OCH but will return once she gets her new mom routine nailed down.  We look forward to her return as she is a valued member of our organization and her passion for the planet, her hard work and reliable data are an important OCH resource. 

March 2020

December’s Volunteer of the Month is Ross Griswold.  Ross has been such a vital part of our organization and has supported our work since the very beginning.  Ross has become an expert in Western Snowy Plovers in the last decade and works with both government agencies like USFWS and CDFW as well as many nonprofits like Bolsa Chica Conservancy, San Diego Zoo, Sea and Sage Audubon, and, of course, OCH. He is well known among the birding communities through the coastal part of Orange County and his past and present work is valued by all.  Ross is a graduate of USC and worked in business for the majority of his career and found SNPL’s in his retirement.  Something about the Snowy Plovers touched him and he has been forging ahead in hopes that these little guys will thrive again here in Orange County. Ross volunteers countless hours to the conservation of this species through weekly monitoring, quarterly surveys (more detailed) and serving on various conservation boards over the years.  Ross is a proud dad of three boys who are now starting their own careers and philanthropic journeys, which he gets to help and guide them in with all his experience.  Ross has offered to help train our monitors and when they get a chance to survey with him, there is a lot to learn as he covers a lot of ground during his survey days (Wednesdays).  Not only is Ross quite the scientist, he is also a fabulous photographer.  He has shared many of his photos with our organization for educational and outreach purposes and we are so thankful for his generosity.  In addition to monitoring and photography, he has helped OCH with their training programs each year.  In 2019, he helped to build our monitoring orientation program that we hosted in February 2019 and led our field trip.  We hope that he will be willing to do it again in 2020!  With all Ross has to offer our community, OCH feels incredibly lucky to have him on our team.

Volunteers of the Year


Crystal Ryan and

Trevor Stocking

Crystal joined OCH in 2017 and got settled into our monitoring program well enough to start training others, including her long-tern partner, Trevor.  Trevor arrived in Orange County and right into OC Habitats in 2018.  Since then, these two have worked as a pair for our crew and what a pair they are!  Crystal is currently studying Environmental Science and Policy at UCI and Trevor has his BS degree in Biology from Hawaii Pacific University.  Once Trevor was fully trained the two of them took on our south county habitat segments and have proven themselves quick learners.  They were quickly asked to help with training of new volunteer monitors, which they excelled at.  In addition to monitoring, they have worked in almost every other aspect of OCH including restoration work, education planning, and grant writing.  They worked hard on our grants in 2018-2019 and helped in securing our LUSH grant (see LUSH article to the left). They have both worked their way into higher roles with OCH since they began due to their intelligence, hard work, passion for our mission and goals, and their desire to grow their knowledge and experience in the environmental field. In addition to providing so much to OCH, they are both in the midst of pursuing their careers in the environmental field.  Trevor has worked with Bolsa Chica Conservancy, Department of Agriculture, and is currently with California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Crystal has been working her way through school working as a chef in a variety of hip restaurants in South County.  With all of this and their own commitment to each other and their families, these two are hard working and driven young professionals. OCH appreciates these two to the utmost and feels they have been force on our team that is hard to match.  

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

April 2020

  • Sunday, April 5th - Harding Nature Trail Restoration, Irvine Regional Park,  8-11am (Join)

  • Wednesday, April 22nd - Earth Day 2020

  • Tern Preserve Training with State Parks

May 2020

  • Sunday, May  - Harding Nature Trail Restoration, Irvine Regional Park,  8-11am (Join)

  • Tern Preserve Monitoring Begins

June 2020

  • Sunday, June  - Harding Nature Trail Restoration, Irvine Regional Park,  8-11am (Join)

July 2020

  • Sunday, July - Harding Nature Trail Restoration, Irvine Regional Park,  8-11am (Join)

OCH is continually updating it's events and opportunities .  For a  current and more detailed list visit our website, WWW.OCHABITATS.ORG and check our OCH Events Page.

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All Rights Reserved.

EIN # 82-2478090

15333 Culver Drive, Suite 340-763, Irvine, CA 92604

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 OC Habitats does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations.  OC Habitats has no religious or political affiliations.  All photos provided with permission of photographers: ©RossGriswold.2018, ©S. Chartier-Grable.2018, @BillHalladay.2018, and @DannyRivas.2018. All Rights Reserved.