Coal Oil Point Junior Docent Wins at Science Fair
The docent program at the NRS’s Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve has been honored with a number of national environmental awards for its success in protecting the threatened snowy plovers that nest on its beach. This April, the program produced another winner when junior docent Dana Walker garnered both a gold medal and the “Best in Junior Biological Division” award at the Santa Barbara County Science Fair.
For his project, “Distribution of Snowy Plover Food at Sands Beach, Goleta,” Dana investigated the types of prey available to the plovers and whether the prey were more common around wet or dry kelp. To answer these questions, the 13-year-old set up stick traps covered in Tanglefoot (an odorless, sticky goo) at various beach locations at the beginning of each of his docent shifts. After two hours (at the end of his shift), the eighth grader collected the traps, now covered in insects and beach hoppers, and took them to the reserve’s laboratory, where he sorted and counted his catch.
In addition to finding lab space for Dana, the reserve’s manager, Cristina Sandoval, helped him to develop a testable hypothesis and to design his experiment. Sandoval comments: “Dana and his parents, Tim and Pat, have been docents at the reserve for a while. They’re a great parent/kid docent team, and spend a lot of time educating people, fixing fences, watching out for dogs, and observing the plovers.”
In addition to his medal and “Best in Show” plaque, Dana received a $50 award at the science fair. He has also been invited to the May luncheon of the Science and Engineering Council of Santa Barbara, where he will make a short presentation and receive an additional $100 prize. On top of all this, the young scientist will be one of 26 students representing Santa Barbara County at the State Science Fair in Los Angeles, May 21-22.