Diamond Valley Lake & Nature Reserve Exploration

Latest update August 29, 2019 Started on October 22, 2018
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Our school, Western Center Academy, is on the site of the Southwestern Riverside County Multi-Species Reserve and Diamond Valley Lake. DVL is a manmade drinking water reservoir in Southern California. Millions of bones of mammoths, mastadons, saber-toothed cats, camels, horses, and giant sloths were discovered during the excavation and are now housed in the Western Science Center Museum with whom we share a campus.
We have partnered with the nature reserve management board to do research in the reserve and one such piece of research has already been published and another is in process. https://goo.gl/Hv3oh1 We will continue to expand upon this research in the future. Our aquatic biology lab class also researches the water and aquatic organisms in Diamond Valley Lake. We have recently installed 5 Eco-Cycle aquaponics kits to further investigate. Open questions that remain, "Are there quagga mussels in DVL?" "Have any other invasive species found their way into the lake?" "What caused the recent algae bloom in the lake?" We have used wildlife cameras to study the wildlife corridor that passes through the reserve and will continue to study these animals. We have an active nature photography club that documents hummingbird nests, coyotes, osprey, and bald eagles in the area.

October 22, 2018
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Preparation

Update: We met with The Metropolitan Water District today to work out some of the details of using the ROV in Diamond Valley Lake. They had some questions for us and we had some questions for them. In the end, there were no deal breakers for either of us, but we will need more meetings before we can start exploring.


We have another meeting set up with their Concessionaire to work out specifics for how, when, and where we can launch in the lake and we will update again when we have more information.

We met with each of our grade bands last week (6th, 7th/8th, and high school) to brainstorm ideas for projects. The students had some great ideas and we will now follow up with some of the necessary preparation work.


Some of the ideas that the students came up with are:

-Exploring an artificial reef in Diamond Valley Lake (permission required) -Investigating indicator species in local lakes that will help determine the health of the lakes. -Building a device to do water sampling at different depths. -Searching local water bodies for endangered species and invasive species. -Investigating whether a local desalination plant is harming wildlife. -Marking abalone to determine how far they move in a day/week/month. -Making a 10 m square that can be lowered to the bottom of local harbors to count plastic pollution per 100 m^2 area and comparing. -Search for tagged specimens -Comparing local high-traffic lakes to no-access lake (with permission) -Start a project similar to https://naturalhistory.si.edu/education/teaching-resources/life-science/biocubes-exploring-biodiversity

The list was much longer and we will continue to narrow them down and begin to put some of them to work. Now we are just waiting for it to stop raining . . . yes, in Southern California.

In The Field

Each year, our students take a trip to Catalina Island. While there, they snorkel, kayak, hike, swim, and learn about the local wildlife. The variety of marine life in the sanctuary is like nowhere else in Southern California. One of our students has begun a catalog of species that students have observed while snorkeling there.


Currently, the catalog is simply a list (see photo). He would love to put a team together and use an underwater drone to make a photo catalog website for naturalists and visitors to the island. This would also allow him to make more specific identifications. He knows that he has seen multiple species of perch, but without photos, cannot determine which ones.

This young man also would like to do surveys on the same day each year to see how climate change is affecting the marine diversity in the sanctuary. He would GPS plot out an area and each year, scan the area with an underwater drone on the same day of the year (weather permitting) and compare the species that he sees each year.

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At Western Center Academy, we have a very active marine biology club called Marine Mammoths (our mascot is the Mammoths). Marine Mammoths focus quite a bit of effort into plastic ocean pollution. Every student on campus has received a metal spork and refillable water bottle. They have done garbage audits and beach cleanups.


Marine Mammoths would love to use an underwater rover to evaluate plastic pollution on the bottom of harbors of Southern California. Many are finding ways to clean up floating debris, but very few have analyzed bottom debris. Students would like to adapt an underwater rover to be able to pick up small to medium sized plastic pieces from the bottom of lakes and harbors in the area.

Below are some photos of the Marine Mammoths and some of their expeditions.

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When we proposed the idea of what we could do with an underwater rover to our students, they came up with so many great ideas. We put one idea in our original post and we will keep adding new ideas as students flesh out the details.


We currently have a nature photography club that does an amazing job with flowers, birds, and insects. This club was really excited about the idea of what they could do with fish, shellfish, and underwater plants. We are literally located on the same property as the Diamond Valley Lake reservoir where they could begin their work. We are 10 minutes from Lake Skinner and Perris Lake, 20 minutes from Lake Elsinore, and an hour from the Pacific Ocean.

Here are some examples of the work that they've done above water so far.

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Another thing that our students have proposed using an underwater rover for is to improve the performance of their solar powered boat for the Solar Cup competition sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Some teams use underwater cameras to see if their propeller is cavitating or to look for any signs of unnecessary drag. The competition is so fierce now, that these kinds of minor modifications can make all of the difference in a slim victory. Being able to see the boat moving through the water would be a great benefit in designing an efficient boat.


Students from all of the schools get together and build exactly the same hull and then modify the hulls with electronics, batteries, safety features, and solar panels to race other teams at Lake Skinner in Temecula, CA. Students then compete in an endurance race and a sprint as well as completing technical drawings and making presentations.

More information can be found here: http://www.mwdh2o.com/inthecommunity/education-programs/Pages/Solar-Cup.aspx

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Preparation

As another part of our research, we decided to get some aerial photos of Diamond Valley Lake in order to track the water level. The lake is used for drinking water in times of drought and there has been a long drought in Southern California. We will repeat this photo annually and we can triangulate the height of the balloon and the size of the lake from them.

Our balloon went up to about 90,000 feet, but it is very cold up there and our cameras stopped working at about 30,000 feet.

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Expedition Background

Our school, Western Center Academy, is on the site of the Southwestern Riverside County Multi-Species Reserve and Diamond Valley Lake. DVL is a manmade drinking water reservoir in Southern California. Millions of bones of mammoths, mastadons, saber-toothed cats, camels, horses, and giant sloths were discovered during the excavation and are now housed in the Western Science Center Museum with whom we share a campus.
We have partnered with the nature reserve management board to do research in the reserve and one such piece of research has already been published and another is in process. https://goo.gl/Hv3oh1 We will continue to expand upon this research in the future. Our aquatic biology lab class also researches the water and aquatic organisms in Diamond Valley Lake. We have recently installed 5 Eco-Cycle aquaponics kits to further investigate. Open questions that remain, "Are there quagga mussels in DVL?" "Have any other invasive species found their way into the lake?" "What caused the recent algae bloom in the lake?" We have used wildlife cameras to study the wildlife corridor that passes through the reserve and will continue to study these animals. We have an active nature photography club that documents hummingbird nests, coyotes, osprey, and bald eagles in the area.

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