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Wetland Exploration Program

Note: The Wetland Exploration Program is currently undergoing a remodel and is not currently available to schools. The program will be available in the Fall of 2021!

The Bolsa Chica Conservancy's (BCC) Wetlands Exploration Program (WEP) is a STEM-based program that provides opportunities for middle, high school and college students and teachers to learn about wetland ecology through inquiry-based learning modules that engage them in hands-on research.  The program engages students in a variety of field studies that stimulate critical thinking using math, science and technology. Today, local high schools and middle schools include the Conservancy's Wetland Exploration Program as an option for AP and IB students or regular science classes to select in their curriculum choices, as this program fulfills the field study requirement for these classes.  For more information, please contact Whitney Thompson at whitney@bolsachica.org.


Research Opportunities

Plant Biodiversity of Coastal Sage Scrub and Dune Communities



Students will survey two important habitats within the reserve to determine which is more bio-diverse in terms of plant communities. They will use plant survey techniques such as transect lines to record native and non-native plant populations, and by using this data, they will calculate a Shannon-Wiener Diversity Index for each community. This data will then be used to make a decision on which habitat is more diverse.

Plant Structural Characteristics



Students will investigate plant structure differences between two important habitats in the reserve. They will use tools such as calipers, measuring tape, and plant ID books to collect data on different plants in each habitat. This data will be used to perform a statistical t-test and determine what traits are characteristic to certain habitats in the reserve.

Soil Study



Students will investigate the differences in various soil parameters between Coastal Sage Scrub and Dune Habitats in the reserve. They will be using various soil test kits to test the soil's pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels, as well as the soil's sand, silt, and clay contents. The data collected will be used to determine which soil parameters are characteristic of each habitat.

Migratory Waterfowl Survey



Students will identify and count specific species of waterfowl within different locations at Bolsa Chica at different times of the year (winter vs. spring). Two surveys must be done in winter months (Nov-Jan) and two in the spring months (Feb-Mar). Students will be going into the field to collect data on the individuals found and their observations, and this data will be used to construct 6 t-tests. They will then use this information to compare the abundance of waterfowl in winter and spring months.

Harlequin Bug (Murgantia histrionica) Survey



Students will investigate plant preferences of the Harlequin bug in the reserve. They will look at Harlequin bug abundance on three specific plant species (Bladderpod, Coastal Sage Brush, and California Sunflower), and will use data collected to run a 2 tailed t-test. This data will then be used to compare Harlequin Bug preferences between these three native plants.

Horn Snail Study



Students will investigate size differences of horn snail populations between muted and full tidal areas at Bolsa Chica. Students will use quadrats to sample both muted tidal and full tidal areas in the reserve. They will then use data from counting the number, length, and weight of the horn snails to construct 2 t-tests comparing horn snail lengths and weights between muted and full tidal sites.

Water Quality of Full Versus Muted Tidal Areas



Students will determine which areas have more favorable water conditions for marine life (full tidal vs. muted). To do this, they will be testing water in different areas through the reserve for parameters such as dissolved oxygen, nitrates, phosphates, turbidity, pH, and temperature. They will use this data to construct t-tests for the individual parameters to compare the water quality for full and muted tidal sites.

Channel Salinity Study



Students will determine the salinity of the Wintersburg Channel in 30 m increments up to the channel. They will be collecting data by testing the silinity of water samples from different increments from the shoreline. This data will then be used to construct 2 tailed t-tests in order to determine the correlation between distance along the channel and salinity levels.

Trash Debris Analysis



Students will take quadrat samples of trash from two locations in Outer Bolsa Bay to analyze similarities and differences in amounts and types of trash debris found. They will be using quadrats to collect and analyze trash by recording the different types of trash found within the quadrat. This data will then be used to construct a 2 tailed t test on various categories of trash and to find a correlation between types of trash and their location within the reserve.
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