Presidio-based organization helps protect environment

by Judy Kahn

The mission statement of the Watershed Stewards Project (WSP), located at the Presidio, is to conserve, restore and enhance anadromous watersheds for future generations by linking education with high-quality scientific practices.

The project is sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service and administered by California Volunteers. The Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association, also located in the Presidio, has been involved with WSP efforts for the past three years. It does field work at Redwood Creek, which runs through Muir Woods and out into the Pacific Ocean at Muir Beach.

The Redwood Creek project is one of 55 Watershed Stewards Projects being conducted with AmeriCorps throughout the state of California. The Watershed Stewards Project members serve in coastal areas in California communities from the California-Oregon border to Ventura County near Los Angeles.

Other Watershed Stewards Project placement sites include the California Department of Fish and Game at Yreka; Marine Municipal Water District; Point Reyes National Seashore; and Ventura County Water Protection Board.

Most of the funding for WSP workers is received through AmeriCorps, with each project getting supported for a three year period. At each site there are one to six people working.

At Farallones Marine Sanctuary, Grace Koyama and Jennifer Hoey are two WSP members doing field work. After graduating from college, Hoey participated in various environmental monitoring, education and research experiences. Two years ago, she participated in an AmeriCorps program with the Conservation Corps North Bay to monitor the endangered Coho Salmon population in the Russian River. After that, she worked as a field assistant on a project to examine the interaction between ecology and evolution in guppies on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. Presently, she is excited to get more teaching and education experience at the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association. After that, she plans to attend graduate school to obtain a degree in marine ecology.

Koyama has worked a variety of jobs in the fields of marine biology and education. She has raised research animals, spent a summer at the Aquarium of the Bay giving presentations to the public, and took care of sharks as an intern at the Aquarium of the Pacific. She hopes to use her time at WSP to learn more about environmental stewardship before pursuing a career as an aquarist.

Hoey said some of the most fulfilling projects she worked on was going to K-5 classrooms to teach youth about watersheds, salmonids and environmental stewardship.

Koyama said one on the best experiences she had with WSP was when the staff and volunteers from the Redwood Creek Nursery joined with their regular volunteers and spent a couple of hours planting. She looked up after a few short hours and saw hundreds of new sprouts in the ground. It was an "amazing feeling," Koyama said.

Another environmental steward, Erin Brown, said she really enjoyed the exposure she got when she received the opportunity to see and handle salmonids at all stages of their life cycle.

Sarah Grossam, a WSP volunteer who works at Klamath River, says she loves the rivers and redwoods and finds herself loving to get up at 4:30 a.m. so she can put in an 11-hour day. She enjoys hiking down steep rocky slopes with a backpack full of monitoring equipment to find the Klamath in all its glory - for her this is not work, it is love.

When Hoey and Koyama go to elementary school classrooms to educate students, their lessons range from a board game teaching the life-cycle of a salmon to a field trip to Muir Beach.

Erica Warren, a previous member of the Watershed Stewards Project, still educates the public about important environmental issues.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my year with the program and gained hands-on experience, doing salmon surveys for adults and juveniles, taking standard data for Pont Reyes and walking the creeks," Warren said. "I hope to continue to share my experience with students and the public through the visitors' center at Crissy Field through education programs and through our outdoor adventure program."

The Farallones Marine Sanctuary has some projects, depending on the season, like planting native flora, removing invasive plants and providing coverage for the visitors' center. The organization is working to restore the Redwood Creek watershed at Muir Beach by improving habitat function and quality for many endangered species, including the Coho Salmon. It also works with the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy to restore native habitat at Redwood Creek.

Through restoration efforts at Muir Beach, the Farallones Marine Sanctuary teaches school groups and adult volunteers about the history of Muir Beach and the importance of habitat restoration.

For more information about the Watershed Stewards Program, visit the website at