Contact Sara Witt

Grassroots Ecology offers high school students the opportunity to take part in real-world studies of local habitats. Teachers interested in bringing these programs to their school should contact the staff member listed above.

Creek Program

In this real-world biomonitoring study, students sample benthic macroinvertebrates or “creek bugs” from a local creek, identify the bugs to family level, and process the resulting data to develop metrics of creek health. Because some creek bugs are known to be pollution sensitive while others are quite tolerant, the types of bugs we find at a site can tell us much about habitat quality there. Students follow careful field and lab protocols based on those used by the State of California and biologists around the world. Our expectations for the students are high as this level of work is consistent with upper-division college coursework.

Terrestrial Program

Students carry out two methods of vegetation surveys — modified point-intercept and random quadrat — to estimate the percent cover of various plants species in the study area. It is always a surprise to the students to learn how non-native plants have taken over local open spaces and what this means in terms of ecosystem health and native wildlife species. We also introduce students to some of the methods used by entomologists to sample terrestrial insects in the field such as pitfall traps, sweep nets, and beat sheets.