Jesse Wade Robinson
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San Dieguito Estuary Native Plant Rehabilitation Project

How can we best rehabilitate native plants? How can we get rid of the non-native plants? How can we best rehabilitate estuaries?

Students measure out plats and identify plants with help of a ranger.
Students work on native plant experiments with Ranger Natalie Borchardt.

In groups of six, students designed conducted and carried out experiments on how to best restore native plants in the San Dieguito Estuary. Students then wrote lab reports about their findings, which they presented to the San Dieguito River Park Rangers and to the greater community. Students then created individual projects that would disseminate their research into the community, such as a booth at the San Diego Science Festival, a public display in the San Diego Central Library, and a Facebook account devoted to the project.

During this project, students learned about ecology and about one of the most important problems facing their generation, biodiversity loss. Students also learned about experimental design: the importance of a large sample size, how to create controls, how to represent data visually, and how to write scientific papers.

This project spanned for several months, so the students learned about other science concepts.  The students worked on this project approximately 1-2 days per week. 

  Student observes plants and records them in her lab notebook.

Project Deliverables:

  • Initial observation data
  • Preliminary lab experiment report
  • Typed lab report on field study findings
  • Professional community outreach project. 

Project Benchmarks:


Visit the Tijuana Estuary and the Chula Vista Nature Center to see examples of healthy estuaries and native species.

September 29th, 2009


Visit the San Dieguito River Park to observe the rehabilitation, native species and take a survey of the native and non-native species.

October 12th, 2009


 Anaylze your initial observation data.  Classify your plants in terms of Natives and Non-native plants. Save your photos and spread sheet in the classes share. What are the initial questions that come up?

October 13th and 15th.


Conduct a preliminary laboratory experiment to examine the effect of salt water on water movement in plants. 

October 29th and 30th


Write a lab report on your preliminary experiments

November 2nd


Do background research on methods for eradicating non-natives or bringing back native plants. Type a rough draft of your findings.

November 6th


Combine analyzed SDRP percent non-native data and create groups.  Create a question. Create test plot areas.

November 9th


Revise your question. Design your experiment.  Type up your ideas and create a diagram of your experimental design. Create a data table for your results.

November 10th


Gather materials.

November 13th

STEP 10:

Do initial observations of your test and control plots.  Set up experiment and write down all observations.

November 16th

STEP 11:

Return to site and record results

December 7th

STEP 12:

Create a proposal for your outreach project. Make a plan for your outreach project.

December 8th

STEP 13:

Return to site and record results


STEP 14:

Confirm feasibility of project with contacts. Revise proposal based on feedback.

January 20th

STEP 15:

Return to site and record results


STEP 16:

Type a draft of your results section of your lab report

February 24th

STEP 17:

Rough draft of outreach project.  Critique and revise.

February 25th

STEP 18:

Analyze your results and type a discussion section of your lab report. Write an abstract for your lab report and a works cited. Edit your introduction to include all information pertinent to the experiment.

March 2nd

STEP 19:

Revise lab report according to peer feedback. 

March 4th

STEP 20:

Revise lab report according to peer feedback.

March 5th

STEP 21:

Final Draft of Outreach Project Due

Mid March TBA


Description of Content Taught in this Project:

Students started off this semester long project learning about ecology, the importance of biodiversity, and biodiversity loss--one of the most important problems facing their generation. They then learned about how estuaries are local biodiversity hotspots and that less than 5% of estuaries remain in Southern California. Next students visited a local healthy estuary, the Tijuana Estuary, and a nature center specializing in endemic estuarine species. Students made observations about the organisms that they saw at the healthy estuary and nature center.

Then students visited the San Dieguito Estuary, an unhealthy estuary in the middle of the restoration process. The San Dieguito Estuary would be the site of their experiments on native plants. There tudents mapped a specific experimental location and made observations and recorded their findings about the native and non-native plants found there. Then students went back to the classroom to research methods for removing non-native plants and restoring native plants. Students then designed small laboratory experiments that would help them design experiments in the field. Next designed and revised experiments that would test the effects of a treatment designed to remove the non-native plants. Students returned to their experimental site for four months, each time collecting data to determine the effectiveness of their treatments. Students then analyzed their data, and wrote detailed laboratory reports, that they shared with the San Dieguito River Park Rangers. In doing this, students learned about many aspects of experimental design, including the importance of a large sample size, how to create controls, how to represent data visually, and how to write scientific papers. Finally students created community outreach project designed to educate the community on local biodiversity loss, the importance of estuaries, and their own experiments with native plants.

This project is academically rigorous beacuse students designed all aspects of a four month long ecology experiment. Students brainstormed experimental questions, conducted research, made predictions, designed treatment methods, designed data collection methods, and designed data analysis methods. The experiments were designed to help the rangers decide what methods they should use to remove the non-native plants and restore the estuary. Therefore, students worked on a real problem, non-native plant infestations, and helped come up with solutions to treat the problem.

Student Work Samples: