Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
CARLSBAD: Students Discover Nature's Revival at San Dieguito Lagoon
California-Nevada Offices , April 30, 2009
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Students view birds foraging at the San Dieguito Lagoon, Del Mar, Calif. (photo: Lauren Radack/SDG&E-Sempra Energy)
Students view birds foraging at the San Dieguito Lagoon, Del Mar, Calif. (photo: Lauren Radack/SDG&E-Sempra Energy) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Stephanie Weagley, Carlsbad FWO
Six hundred third graders from eight Del Mar-area schools discovered their natural world at San Dieguito Lagoon on April 13-15, 2009.  They were celebrating Earth Day and the plants, animals, and fish that rely on coastal wetlands in southern California. 


Staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, Carolyn Lieberman, Jonathan Snapp-Cook and Stephanie Weagley, along with Chantel Jiminez of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, joined other scientists and volunteers from various federal, state, and local agencies to provide students with an opportunity to learn about the wildlife and habitat that is being restored in and around the San Dieguito Lagoon.  In addition to representatives from the Service, participants included the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration Team, California Department of Fish and Game, California Coastal Commission, U.S. Geological Survey and the San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority.  The event was sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric.  


The excited third graders had many activities to keep them engaged.  For example, the Service brought along several bird and egg specimens and photos showing the federally endangered California least tern, threatened western snowy plover and endangered California brown pelican that live along southern California’s shoreline, rivers and estuaries.  Carolyn Lieberman, Carlsbad’s Coastal Program Coordinator, explained to the students “at least four new nesting areas have been created for the tern and two areas have been created for the snowy plover around the lagoon”.


“Another fun and interactive activity the students enjoyed was locating and counting the snowy plovers nesting in their habitat as shown in a photograph.”  “The students were amazed at how well the snowy plovers were camouflaged,” said Lieberman. 


Additional event activities included a touch tank with lagoon fish and invertebrates, water quality sampling, planting pickleweed, making native plant seed balls, and viewing bird species through binoculars. 


Five informational stations staffed by the participating organizations focused on subject matter specific to the lagoon’s biological resources, conservation efforts and history.  Each station was placed beside the lagoon boardwalk allowing the groups of 10-24 students to stay at each station for approximately 15 minutes before rotating onto the next station.  By providing these types of hands-on experiences, “we hope the students will appreciate and thus care for the world around them,” said Lieberman.


The field trip was organized by Del Mar Hills science teacher Nancy Swanberg as part of the student’s science unit on plant and animal adaptations, and it is her eighth-year taking her students to the lagoon.  Over the years, interest in the lagoon spread throughout the school system and this is the first time all Del Mar-area third graders are able to participate in this annual event.


The San Dieguito Lagoon, located in the City of Del Mar in San Diego County,  is currently undergoing a major restoration effort.  The project entails reopening the lagoon to the ocean to re-establish the natural tidal influence; restoring at least 150 acres of coastal wetlands; creating nesting habitat for the endangered California least tern, the Belding’s savannah sparrow, the snowy plover and the light-footed clapper rail; and planting of native vegetation.  The Service’s Carlsbad Coastal Program was a core team member in planning and implementing the restoration project, providing technical expertise on restoration design and serving as the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) lead for the project.


In 1997, a restoration plan for the San Dieguito Lagoon was approved and work began on the wetland project.  The project is estimated to cost approximately $86 million, all of which is funded by Southern California Edison to offset impacts associated with the operations of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.  Restoration efforts are expected to be completed in December 2009.



Contact Info: Stephanie Weagley, 805-644-1766, stephanie_weagley@fws.gov
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