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Under the WHALES Program, our goal is to engage students in the Orange County area to become knowledgeable environmental stewards to the wonderful nature that is around us. Orange County Coastkeeper had the honor to host a field trip for Estancia High School’s AP Environmental Science program to explore the natural wonders offered at the Buck Gully Reserve and Back Bay Science Center in Newport Beach.

Buck Gully Reserve


At the Buck Gully Reserve, students conducted bioassessment and water quality tests in order to monitor the area’s quality of life. Whether it was carefully examining the sediment for specimens or investigating the water health of Gully Creek, all of the students were eagerly engaged in the hands-on experience.

After examining the test results, students were able to learn that many human activities, such as littering and construction, affect the natural surroundings and that it is important to be responsible and maintain the health of the environment alongside community growth.


Back Bay Science Center

The students listen intently to Newport Back Bay’s Education Specialist Leslie Kretschmar.

The Newport Back Bay Science Center is a treasure trove waiting to be excavated! Students were able to collect and examine the species of Newport Back Bay by either deploying a trawl net from the boats or using clam shell mud grabbers to collect mud off the docks.

After identifying the species, all specimens were returned to the water except for Asian date mussels, which are considered an invasive species to the Bay. Instead of returning those to the bay, these mussels were fed to the resident octopus and ochre stars.

One of the greatest finds during the field trip was a beautiful Pacific Seahorse, which is a rare find off of the Newport Back Bay!




A beauty found in the bay.


Blog written by Christine H. Do for Coastkeeper.