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The Friends of Wagner Ranch Nature Area

Grant amount:


Orinda, California

A dozen high school students will design and document a 12-month biodiversity study in the Wagner Ranch Nature Area, which was badly damaged by winter storms in 2023.  Monthly, on weekend afternoons, students will work in teams of three to discuss and select their own restoration research plots within a hectare of the Nature Area. Students will learn the scientific method as they explore the site, and discuss their ideas for experimental projects to restore biodiversity. For example, students may want to compare the regrowth of native herbs and soil organisms on eroded soil versus healthy soil using temperature and soil moisture probes and invertebrate sampling methods as part of their data collection. In teams of three, students will select paired plots (each, two by two meters square), flag the boundaries, and take baseline measurements and photographs that relate to their hypothesis. Each team can also choose to monitor their site for wildlife using a RECONYX camera. Teams will be encouraged to propose approaches that will enhance biodiversity based on the results of their experiments.To encourage the access of students from nearby underserved communities, participants will receive a monthly stipends for transportation. The grant will also fund display materials and printing costs of pamphlets developed by teams to share their experiences and results at schools and at community festivals conducted in the Nature Area. The Friends of the Wagner Ranch Nature Area, (non-profit ID# 30-0472974) will provide sprouts, seedlings, and seeds of native species, camera traps, soil organism kits, funds from local donors, and more than 300 hours of lead research staff time working directly with participants. The results of the student research will be published on-line, in newspapers and disseminated to the community through presentations at local schools and festivals. The students will also post their results on social media and youth websites.

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