Post by Ahzha McFadden
The new school year at Menlo-Atherton High School started last week. With the start of the year comes a whole lot of new faces. There are the 150 new students in my history classes, many of them new to the country and almost all of them new to the school. I can't help but wonder which ones will want to join MERO when we begin recruiting in January. There are also many old faces, past MERO students dropping in to say hi during lunch or stopping by in the morning for a granola bar if they missed breakfast. One face I'm sad, but also proud, not to have seen this year, is that of Wuendi, our first MERO student to graduate. She participated in the 2017 MERO program, and we were really excited to watch her walk at graduation last June!
With the craziness of the end of the school year we never got around to posting pictures from MERO's end of the year BBQ and awards ceremony. On one of the last days of school the MERO family gathered for one last time before summer break at Flood Park to grill up some burgers, eat lots of cake, and celebrate the accomplishments and dedication of each of our students.
Alex receives his award.
Guadalupe receives her leadership award for all of her help and hard work as our MERO student coordinator.
Katherine receives her award with a smile.
Tyler grills up some burgers for the hungry kids! The BBQ was after a long day of final exams and everyone was ready to eat and relax in the park.
Last Saturday we took our second annual trip to Monterey, CA! We started out at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which for many students was their first ever aquarium visit. Their favorite part was probably the open sea exhibit, which features a giant tank (just the viewing window measures 90 feet across!) full of sharks, tuna, ocean sun fish, and a huge school of sardines. After leaving the aquarium we stopped for a pizza lunch at the municipal beach. Despite the sub-60 degree water temperatures, some of our students just couldn't resist the urge to take a swim. After lunch, we headed out of town to the Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Preserve, where we took a wildlife watching boat tour and got to see sea otters, sea lion, seals, and birds up close and personal!
Posing for a group photo. Thank you Janet and David for helping lead the trip!
Getting to feel a bat ray's skin in one of the touch pools.
Staring out into the open sea exhibit. This tank is so big you can't see the back of it.
Spying otters and diving sea birds from the aquarium's balcony.
Looking up at a school of sardines swimming in synchrony.
Hot day but cold water!
On the boat.
Looking out at harbor seals sunning on the shore. These animals sleep all day and eat all night, which our students thought was a teenagers dream lifestyle!
Checking out their first California sea lion as we left the marina.
Last week MERO got a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the coolest labs on campus. The Flight Lab studies the way birds and other animals fly to inspire and engineer the next generation of flight technologies. In the lab we got to stand inside a wind tunnel which researchers use to study how birds and small planes respond to turbulence and other wind conditions. We then walked across campus (taking lots of selfies along the way) to the cactus garden, where we used the lab's high speed cameras to take slow-motion videos of birds flying in the wild.
Taking a peek inside the wind tunnel.
Using a high speed camera to take super slow-motion videos of birds in the Stanford cactus garden.
Last weekend we did the first ever MERO backpacking trip! After loading up our packs and giving a big 'arriba MERO!' group cheer, we hit the trails at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in the East Bay. Only two of our students had ever been camping before, so this was a really cool experience and something totally new for all of them!
Laying out the gear at the trailhead.
This backpack's bigger than me!
Lunch consisted of a big stack of sandwiches prepped the night before.
Hanging out around camp...get it??
Posing for a photo after exploring one of Black Diamond Mine's namesake abandoned mines. This one went back almost 200 feet!
The calm before the storm...enjoying a few quiet moments before everyone wakes up!
This week we took some of our participants from last year's MERO group out on a reunion hike at Windy Hill Open Space Preserve. It was a lot of fun to get back out in the field with these familiar faces!
Having a picnic dinner looking out over the Bay. Sure missed those ham and cheese sandwiches we make every week!
Got a flat driving back to the school, so we got the chance to teach the students how to change a tire! Building those important life skills is what we're all about!
That's right! We had heard rumors of some recent cougar sightings at Jasper Ridge, so we decided to go out looking for them. Two weeks ago our students set up eight camera traps to get a better idea of what might be lurking in the oak woodlands we hike through each week. On Tuesday, we went back to recover the camera traps to see what we found. Scroll down to see some of our favorites!
Elisa showing off her camera. Low to the ground to catch anything walking by.
Marco putting in the memory card and turning on his camera.
Downloading the photos onto the computer.....the suspense is killing me!
A male wild turkey strutting his stuff
A grey fox peeking around a tree which fell down the night before.
A female mule deer enjoying the lush spring grass. And now for the coup de grace!
A bobcat on the prowl! And checkout the time in the bottom-right corner. It shows up just a minute later at a different camera in the next photo!
Say cheese! Thanks for making it through all the way to the end!
"Hello my name is Guadalupe Garcia. I am a junior at Menlo Atherton High School. I participated in the MERO program last year and had a wonderful experience as I had the opportunity to see the animals very close in their natural habitat. I learned many things about the ecosystem and the animals in this program. It is worth mentioning that while I was learning something new I also had a lot of fun. Tyler and Ahzha are amazing people* because they speak two languages and it is easy to communicate with the other participants of the program and help us inside and outside the program. This year I am the student coordinator of the program and I like it a lot because I can help others and give ideas for the activities of the program. I also like to be in this program because it will help me to be an ecologist."
* We promise we didn't tell her to say this! That's just how nice she is.
About 80 students from 4 local high schools participated, taking part in panel discussions on college and financial aid, visiting active research labs (where they got to touch a human brain!!!!), and braving the rain on a campus tour. We're really proud of Jack, Guadalupe, and Jeremy for taking a first step towards a career in the sciences, and are excited to see what they do in the future!
Yesterday we had our first field trip of the 2018 MERO program! This year we have 13 participants, plus a student coordinator who participated in the 2017 program. Check out the photos below of the group exploring the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve!
Learning how to use the binoculars while observing a great egret (Ardea alba) on Searsville Lake at Jasper Ridge.
Turkeys can fly!!!
Posing for a photo after finishing a biodiversity scavenger hunt.
Just when we were leaving a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) came by looking for its fish dinner. The first time any of us had seen a bald eagle at Jasper Ridge!
Welcome to La Mera Ciencia, the official blog of Menlo-Atherton Ecology Research Outdoors (MERO). Founded in 2017, MERO is a free, after-school environmental education program for high school English Language Learners that gets students outside doing ecology. Mero (or mera for feminine words like ciencia) is Spanish for "legit" or "the real thing", which is exactly the kind of science we do in the MERO program!