On day 1, not a single one of the 9 high school students who arrived from Los Angeles to take part in SYRCL’s Earthwatch Meadows Project had ever set foot in or even seen a meadow. On day 3, each and every student can tell you how meadows help to store water that feed streams and rivers throughout the year, how conifers are encroaching on meadow systems because of changes in fire regime, grazing, and maybe even climate change, and how mosquitoes prefer the understory of aspen groves- buzzing and biting them as they take measurements and make observations.
SYRCL is collecting data to help us understand the ecological and hydrological condition of our Yuba meadows. We are doing this by collecting data on the density of encroaching conifers and aspens and the degradation of stream channels. One of our efforts focuses on Van Norden Meadow where SYRCL works in partnership with a handful of other organizations (including the Truckee Donner Land Trust, UC Davis, UC Merced, Gateway Mountain Center, and Balance Hydrologics). SYRCL and our partners are collecting data to understand the groundwater, surface water, and vegetation of this meadow and to develop a monitoring program that can be used to assess change when the proposed meadow restoration takes place.
Another very important meadow that SYRCL will be visiting with the Earthwatch student group is Loney Meadow, where we work closely with the US Forest Service out of the Tahoe National Forest and have received funds from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, The National Forest Foundation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to plan and implement meadow restoration actions that will help aspen populations and restore sections of Texas Creek.
By day 9, these high school students will have an in depth understanding of a handful of our Yuba meadows and will have fully immersed themselves in the Sierra Nevada and the outdoors. For some students this is the first time they have ever been outside the city of Los Angeles. The partnership between Earthwatch and SYRCL is exciting and valuable because it allows SYRCL to conduct concentrated data collection efforts while engaging and educating young citizen scientists who we hope will feel inspired to get more involved in their local communities or pursue a science related career in the future.
One of the teens explained our Yuba meadows best when she said “Now I understand why people sing and twirl in meadows!”