Team AP Bio went on a field trip to the Palo Alto Baylands Save the Bay location! I learned so much about habitat restoration and how important biodiversity is to an environment!
I learned how to put a concrete number on biodiversity by using Simpson’s Biodiversity Test. We measured how many individuals of each species there were and how many species there were in the whole sample. To make this possible, we limited our sites to 5 small sites. Simpson’s Biodiversity Test rates habitats on a scale from 0 to 1 on how much biodiversity is present (0 being the lowest and 1 being the highest).
I also learned that the farther away from the water an environment is, the less conductive the soil will be. This is because there is less salt in the soil. Salt water is a great conductor of electricity, so by measuring how much salt was in the soil, we were able to multiply that amount by a constant to get the conductivity of the soil. Estuaries and marshes, such as the one we visited, contain salt water, so it makes sense that the closer the environment was to the water, the more salt the soil would have!
I also learned about many new species of vegetation! We did not see any animals (except for snails and birds), but we did see many types of plants. I learned about Pickle Weed, Coyote Bush, Russian Thistle, Salt Grass, Fleshy Jaumea, Non-native Annual Grass, California Buckwheat, California Sage, and much more! Learning about all of these different species of plants was so amazing. They were all so interesting to look at!
Recently in class, we have been learning all about Evolution, Natural Selection, and populations. It was interesting to see how, when invasive species migrate into new environments, they are not yet part of that food chain. Because of this, the invasive species does not need to focus on survival or protection. Instead, they can spend all of their time and energy on reproduction, which is why invasive species completely take over. This was seen in how invasive species of grass were almost everywhere in large quantities at sites in the marsh. Also, we have been learning about applications of math to biology and populations, such as the Chi Square Test and the Hardy-Weinberg Equation. On this field trip, we learned yet another useful way to organize, analyze, and compare data using math: Simpson’s Biodiversity Test!
My main job while we were gathering data was to test the salinity and conductivity of the soil. This was done using a super cool tool with a copper metal tip that I had to rub with sand paper before sticking it down into the soil for the tests to be run. Rubbing the copper with sand paper excited the electrons and made it more receptive!
I loved how we not only learned on this trip, but we also helped the community! We were taking data that will be used to analyze the health of the restored marsh. The work of Save the Bay is so important because it is crucial that we restore and preserve the biodiversity in the stunning natural environments around us that have been depleted and ruined by humans.
I would not change anything about this experience — except make sure to wear sunscreen! This was an amazing field trip and I highly recommend visiting the Baylands and helping Save the Bay because not only do you get to learn loads of new information, but you get to be in nature, get exercise, and help the environment!
The link to the Save the Bay website is here if you want to take a look at their amazing work. Check out this slide show of the pictures I took in this beautiful habitat! (Just in case the slide show isn’t working, here is the link to it.)