On March 4th, Team AP Bio took a field trip to the Palo Alto baylands to volunteer time with Save the Bay. We arrived wearing sweatshirts, but quickly shed layers thanks to the full and beaming sun, which also ended up giving me a sunburn. We met our group leader and headed out to the worksite. Standing in a circle, we learned more about the program we would be participating in, which was all about evaluating the effect of wetland restoration on soil and biodiversity. For years Save the Bay had been working to restore the wetlands in the bay, since these areas are crucial to sustaining life. The wetlands filter water coming in from all over California, but are often seen as dirty or unnecessary.
To test how this restoration was actually affecting the life around the wetlands, we performed some soil tests at sites that were at varying distances from the actual water of the bay. We tested for soil moisture, salinity, pH, and quality. The first three required tests run by special devices, and the last was a hands-on, feeling the dirt kind of test. First, we had to break up the soil with a pick and get rid of rocks, twigs, and branches that might get in the way. To test moisture, we inserted a delicate two-pronged probe into some soil and pressed down on the soil on top. This gave us a reading indicating the level of moisture in the dirt. For salinity, we squirted some distilled water into the soil and dug a small hole into the ground to fit a pointy metal device into. The water was added since salt is a good conductor of electricity in water, and conductivity is another way to test salinity. To test the pH, we patted the soil down and pressed a small rod to the surface. The soil quality test consisted of a group member picking up a handful of dirt and determining if the soil was smooth, gritty, or sticky, among other adjectives.
To measure biodiversity, we went around our different sites with a grid-like square made of PVC pipes and string. Then, we catalogued the amounts of different species within our square and how many of each species there were.
This trip was an amazing way to experience firsthand what work might look like working towards restoration. Getting to do actual soil tests gave me better insight into what people at Save the Bay do every day, and learning about the wetlands made me really see the importance of our work. Being out in nature was such a great bonding experience as well, enjoying the weather and seeing rabbits and snakes. I’m so excited to see how we analyze our data and how the data we collected compares to what other AP Bio classes have done in the past.