Meeker students participate in research project

MEEKER | A group of eight Meeker High School students spent spring break in Baja California Sur with Ecology Project International (EPI).
During the nine-day program, they assisted with data collection for an ongoing research program, completed their own independent research projects, shared their experiences with peers at a local high school and visited a unique desert ecosystem at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.
Based at a research station on Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez, the students helped carry out a census of echinoderms (star fish, urchins, and sea slugs), which are indicators of the health of the marine ecosystem. The census required considerable time in the water, snorkeling along 25-meter transects and recording all organisms within one meter either side of the transect line. The students analyzed the data and prepared, in Spanish, poster presentations of their methods and results answering original research questions. One group found evidence for a decrease in echinoderm diversity at the research sites over the past three years, and the second group presented the first report on the effects of a recently discovered star fish parasite. Both groups earned praise from Dr. Dinorah Herroro, professor of marine ecology at the Technical University of Mexico and the principal investigator for the long-term research program. An unexpected highlight of the time at the research station was the opportunity to swim with dolphins fishing in the cove.
The students engaged in other learning activities, including games and challenges, which helped to broaden their cultural horizons as well as their understanding of issues related to conservation. The marine ecosystems along the coastline of the Sea of Cortez face increasing impact from development, including resorts and tourist beaches, which increase pollution, deplete mangrove forests, and enhance beach erosion. Data collected by the students will help the Mexican government to regulate future development.
After returning from the research station, Meeker students visited one of the public schools in the regional center, La Paz, and shared their research with local students who had also participated in the EPI program. They enjoyed visiting, sharing songs and learning new games. Many new friends were made.
On the day before departure the students hiked in the arid mountains of Los Cabos, where they visited a desert oasis tucked away in a granite gorge and swam in freshwater pools carved out of the rock. The contrast with the sea coast and the extensive Sonoran desert ecosystem was extraordinary.
The trip was an eye-opening experience both in terms of culture, science and environmental awareness.
• The students are planning a dinner on May 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Mountain Valley Bank to thank our sponsors. The program will include a slide show and stories of the group’s experiences. All are welcome to attend.