By Andrea Swayne
High school students in Advanced Placement Environmental Science at San Clemente, Dana Hills and San Juan Hills high schools took part in a habitat enhancement project and contest for the endangered Pacific Pocket Mouse at the Center for Natural Lands Management Dana Point Preserve at the Headlands on Nov. 15.
The second annual volunteer project pitted teams from the three high schools in three categories of friendly competition—quantity, quality and teamwork.
“We had students from each high school remove dead shrubs and woody debris from a pre-designated, 25-square-meter grid cell area on the Preserve to create more open sand areas to benefit the Pacific pocket mouse,” said Lee Ann Carranza, preserve manager for the CNLM.
After nearly four hours of hard work, the teams gathered for a pizza lunch hosted by Sean Vogt, Dana Point natural resources protection officer at the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center.
San Clemente, under the direction of their teacher Lisa Kerr, won the day’s teamwork award. Dana Hills, directed by teacher Dolores Dang-Wright won in the quantity category. They were also the first team to complete and entire grid cell. San Juan Hills students were recognized for the quality of the material they removed, leaving great improvement to the habitat areas cleared.
Their collective effort enhanced over 60 square meters of pocket mouse habitat, a great accomplishment, according to Carranza, considering the Preserve is only 29.4 acres and the average home range of the Pacific Pocket Mouse is expected to be about 8 meters.
“Their three and a half hours of work was also the equivalent of one person working for 70 hours,” she said. “CNLM would like to thank Dana Hills, San Clemente and San Juan Hills High School AP Science students, their teachers and the City of Dana Point.”