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By DAVID BRO / For THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

DANA POINT -(CA)- Kami Parsa, a fifth-grader at Westpark Elementary School in Irvine, loves worms.

Well, maybe she doesn’t love them, but they were the 10-year-old’s favorite part of this year’s Kids’ Conferences on Watersheds hosted by Dana Point’s Ocean Institute.

Article Tab: A young couple stands together last Tuesday afternoon near the Dana Point Tidepools where students began a study in September and October on watersheds, culiminating this week with final reports on their projects.
A young couple stands together last Tuesday afternoon near the Dana Point Tidepools where students began a study in September and October on watersheds, culiminating this week with final reports on their projects.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The ninth annual program, involving about 2,200 Southern California fifth-graders, began Jan. 9 and continues through Tuesday. The students have worked since September and October on projects meant to illustrate the importance of watersheds and how they contribute to a healthy ocean environment. The conferences feature presentations from area experts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a watershed as an “area of land where all the water that is under it or drains off it goes into the same place,” such as a river, an ocean or another body of water. The EPA quotes geographer John Wesley Powell as saying a watershed is an area “within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course.”

Given the task of investigating the watershed they live in, students put together their own studies of the effects on ocean health of pollution, land use and natural events.

A watershed is separated from other watersheds by elevated land features defining that area as unique. Orange County has 14 distinct watersheds; the continental United States has more than 2,100, according to the EPA.

South Orange County has four watersheds: Aliso Creek, Salt Creek, San Clemente and San Juan Creek, which has an overall surface area of almost 160 square miles.

Kami’s fifth-grade class did a project titled “Benthic Habitat Viability Study,” aimed at testing the ecology of Balboa Bay where the Newport Bay Watershed drains.

The class collected mud from the bottom of Balboa Bay and placed Neanthes worms in it to see whether the mud would provide a healthy environment for them. The worms are a sensitive marine species also called clam or pile worms.

The baseline for the study came from the students’ time aboard an Ocean Institute vessel last fall checking out the worms’ habitat in the open ocean. Those worms thrived; the worms in the Balboa Bay mud didn’t make it.

The results led Westpark Elementary fifth-grader Jeremy Rim, 10, to a conclusion:

“Respect nature,” he said.

  • VIDEO: Students experience O.C.’s watersheds

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