Serra Students Measure Water Quality at San Mateo Creek
Serra Students Measure Water Quality at San Mateo Creek

Environmental Science students took to the San Mateo Creek last week to complete phase two of a water quality monitoring program in Jack Kearns' sixth period class.

Ten teams broke into groups to monitor the health of the creek, for human contact and for the salmon that come in from the San Francisco Bay to spawn.

Students came to the creek in the fall and this was the winter visit to test the water, however this February day saw spring-like conditions, with temperatures as high as 70 degrees.

"This year it's interesting because this is the driest February on record since 1854," Kearns said.

Nonetheless, students using professional water quality monitoring equipment hiked to a wide section of the creek and got to work, each with a set of supplies and group task. Some wore fishing waders and entered the water and others collected water samples in small vials to test pH levels.

"We come to document changes in the environment, to get data for individual parameters. We are analyzing everything from bacteria to pH to phosphate... people are actually testing for macroinvertebrates, which are little bugs, little critters," Kearns said. "So they actually have a kick-net and they are going to be inventorying how many macroinvertebrates they find because that's critical for also fish species, they need to have prey and food source," he added.

Senior Anthony Montenegro said he likes the idea of getting out of the classroom and into nature to study real specimens.

"It's pretty interesting because we get to dig deep and see life that we wouldn't really expect because it's just a random creek," Montenegro said of the creek adjacent to Crystal Springs Road in San Mateo. "Most people don't know about it and drive by it and there are plenty of things you can research about this creek," he added.

A quick hour-and-a-half trip outside of the classroom and into the sunshine brought 31 budding Serra scientists into a natural habitat where they collected their data. Kearns' seventh period class of 26 students experienced the same field trip last week.

"We're documenting the changes in the environment in this local area twice a year to see our relationship with nature," said Kearns. "It's also an opportunity for them to get outside the classroom--I want the students to come out and breath fresh air and connect with the water, the soil, the trees and just have an opportunity to get away from the concrete jungle."