Engaging Oakland students in the conservation of endangered salmon habitat
While other teens were pursuing the myriad and occasionally mundane adventures of high school life, Tony Marks-Block was advocating on behalf of environmental justice, and even helped organize an effort to shut down a polluting power plant near San Francisco Bay to promote clean energy and restore adversely affected wetlands. As a program coordinator with the East Bay Academy for Young Scientists (EBAYS), the Cornell University Bachelor’s degree holder in Natural Resources made it his mission to develop and implement curriculum that gives young people the opportunity to be a part of conservation projects and campaigns through scientific research.
As a TogetherGreen Fellow, Tony lead a project based out of the East Bay Academy for Young Scientists (UC Berkeley) geared toward stream conservation and research in Oakland, California and the Tomales Bay Watershed in Marin County, California. Through this project Tony served over 130 middle and high school students in Oakland by engaging them in research and restoration in local creeks and estuaries in Oakland. In concert with local research and conservation, Tony and his team have taken forty-eight of these youth on eleven field trips to the Tomales Bay watershed in Western Marin County to engage in restoration efforts for the endangered Coho Salmon. They partnered with the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) to contribute to habitat restoration efforts for the Coho, and to explore and learn about a watershed and estuary that have a history of ecological conservation. They have contributed to the re-vegetation of two riparian habitats by planting native plants and by taking cuttings of a native willow species to construct a fence to reduce erosion in a section of San Geronimo creek (a tributary in the watershed).
Tony also met students from local high schools and created a program to study local watersheds and estuaries. These students raised $10,000 to restore a portion of Courtland Creek with native riparian species they’ve learned about from excursions to the Tomales Bay Watershed in Marin County. These students removed invasive plants along the creek banks, and did extensive outreach throughout the community to counteract garbage dumping into the creek-bed. These students presented their research at the American Geophysical Union conference on December 5th, 2012.
The youth in EBAYS programs actively gained and shared knowledge with their community. They demonstrated their hard work and understanding of complex conservation issues to partner organizations. They continue to help build connections between urban communities and rural communities with very different demographics. EBAYS is now poised to develop a long-term relationship with SPAWN through the development of new grant-writing and other projects.