Science Projects Receive Awards; Events

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Anneli and Mathilde Macdonald, 8th graders at Jacoby Creek School, stand in front of their first-place project about nitrogen isotopes in tree rings. Photo: courtesy of Sierra Club.
Anneli and Mathilde Macdonald, 8th graders at Jacoby Creek School, stand in front of their first-place project about nitrogen isotopes in tree rings. Photo: courtesy of Sierra Club.

For the 12th year, North Group sponsored an award for the best project relating to environmental issues at the annual Humboldt County Science Fair held in mid March. (The projects were so competitive in 2018 that a second prize was given.)

The $50 first-place award went to Anneli and Mathilde Macdonald, 8th graders at Jacoby Creek School. They investigated whether levels of a nitrogen isotope (15N) found in tree rings (by decade) of a Sitka spruce near Freshwater Creek could be correlated with populations of past salmon runs in that creek.

Anneli and Mathilde hypothesized that as fish numbers have decreased over the past 40 years, the marine-derived nitrogen in spruce would decline also. When salmon smolts go to the ocean, they eat organisms that contain concentrated 15N. When adults return to their home creek to spawn, they die and decompose into the river or its bank. Plants take nitrogen from the soil; thus, marine-derived nitrogen from the salmon is used by trees near
the water.

The girls found a strong correlation (coefficient of 0.69) between the spruce within 25 meters of the creek and past salmon runs, whereas another spruce 200 meters away from the creek had almost no correlation (coefficient 0.006). Thus, the 15N in tree cores could be used to roughly estimate past salmon populations in a creek. [The twins also won first place from North Group in 2017 for a project on how log jams affected macroinvertebrates in Freshwater Creek.]

Samantha Gaiera, second-place prize winner. Photo: courtesy of Sierra Club.
Samantha Gaiera, second-place prize winner. Photo: courtesy of Sierra Club.

A $25 second-place prize was awarded to Samantha Gaiera, an 8th grader at Sunny Brae Middle School. She investigated the question: how does ocean acidification affect copepod mortality? Samantha thought that survivorship would decrease as pH decreased and tested it by infusing carbon dioxide (CO2) into jars of sea water containing copepods. She used a species that can survive extreme environmental changes, so if that organism was affected, “implications for less resilient species are a cause for concern” (plus copepods are the base of the marine food chain). Survivorship in the control samples was 100 percent, compared to 63 percent in the test samples. [An interesting sidebar to her experiment was that her grandfather’s Master’s thesis studied how salinity and temperature affect copepods!]

Both projects were among the only 16 selected to represent Humboldt County in the California State Science Fair competition held in late April.

 

Events

One need not be a Sierra Club member to participate in these outings. Please join us!

Saturday, June 9—North Group Smith River NRA-Jedediah Smith State Park Hike. From the trailhead off South Fork Road, we climb past a succession of botanical communities and stunning views to about 2000 feet through serpentine, and end up in redwoods at Howland Hill Road. Bring food, water, good hiking boots, and a hat. No dogs. Medium difficulty,10 miles, less than 2000 feet elevation change. One-way hike with a car shuttle. Meet 9:30 a.m. Hiouchi Ranger Station (Hwy. 199 opposite Jedediah Smith Campground entrance). By reservation only. Leader Ned: [email protected], 707-825-3652 message phone. Bad weather cancels.

Saturday, June 23—North Group Russ Park’s Lytel Ridge Trail Hike.  Climb switchbacks in Ferndale’s “verdant wilderness park,” through thickets of thimbleberry and passing scenic look-outs of the Eel River Valley, shady canyons filled with fern, and a pond in a Sitka spruce forest.  We will lunch in a redwood, grand fir, and alder grove and then return, passing through a eucalyptus grove.  Wear long sleeves and pants because of poison oak and stinging nettles. Bring water and lunch. Friendly dogs OK on leash. Medium difficulty, 1.5 miles, less than 1000 feet elevation change. Carpools: Meet at 10 a.m. at the Elk River Road/Herrick Park & Ride lot (off Highway 101 South).  Leader Allison: 707-268-8767. Rain cancels.

Saturday, July 14—North Group Redwood National Park Trillium and Lost Man Trails Hike. Come and enjoy the redwoods in the summer! This hike passes a mossy waterfall and blooming trillium on the Trillium Trail and then continues up Lost Man Creek through old growth redwoods and maples before returning.  Bring water and lunch. No dogs. Medium difficulty, 10 miles, less than 1000 feet elevation change. Carpools: Meet 9 a.m. Valley West (Ray’s Food Place) parking lot, or 9:30 a.m. trailhead Elk Meadow Day Use Area off Davison Rd. By reservation only. Leader Ned: [email protected], 707-825-3652. Rain cancels.

Saturday, July 21—North Group Guthrie Creek Dog Walk. Bring your canine friend for a great walk on a trail south of Centerville Beach.  While the walk is rated easy, the return from the beach follows an old ranch road with an elevation gain of 400 feet.  Dogs will be required to stay on leash but will have the opportunity to run off leash and swim in the lagoon near the mouth of Guthrie Creek.  There should be outstanding views north and south as the walk descends to the beach.  Limited to 10 friendly dogs on leashes and their persons.  Children welcome with parent. Easy hike, 2 miles, less than 1000 feet elevation change. Carpools: Meet at 10 a.m. at the Elk River Road/Herrick Park & Ride lot (off of Highway 101 South).  Leader Allison: 707-268-8767.

 

Please Join Us!

The North Group’s Executive Committee meets on the second Tuesday of each month in the first floor conference room at the Adorni Center on the waterfront in Eureka.  The meeting, which covers regular business and conservation issues, begins at 6:45 p.m. Members and non-members with environmental concerns are encouraged to attend. When a new person comes to us with an environmental issue or concern, we often place them first or early on the agenda.