From soil to water, there are new education projects at Tahoe Science Center

Students measuring plant heights and numbers in the native soil bed experiment.

Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) members Noah Shapiro and Jesse Landesman, with host site UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC), have been working on various projects to update and improve the Tahoe Science Center. Projects include a new Underwater Lake Tahoe exhibit painted by muralist Suzie Alexander and an experimental soil bed experiment in the North Tahoe Demonstration Garden.

Students completing the scavenger hunt in the Underwater Lake Tahoe exhibit, identifying native and invasive species.

The soil bed experiment is accompanied by a new field trip activity that allows students to test the pH and nutrient levels of the different soil beds. The Underwater Lake Tahoe exhibit allows visitors to feel like they are exploring the depths of Lake Tahoe and includes a scavenger hunt for younger visitors where they can identify native and invasive species in Lake Tahoe. The new soil bed experiment in the North Tahoe Demonstration garden is intended to be a 3-year study comparing the commercial soils MiracleGro and Full Circle (with soil donated by Full Circle) and these two soils amended with biochar. The experiment also includes a test of the native soils of Lake Tahoe, on its own, amended with biochar, amended with compost, and amended with biochar and compost. On field trips and in summer camps, students have been taking measurements of the chemical properties of soils, including pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They have been collecting data on the successes of the plants in each bed to decide which soil is the best. 

Jesse discussing soil measurements with students.

Both the Underwater Lake Tahoe exhibit and the experimental soil beds in the North Tahoe Demonstration Garden further the goal of educating people about the environment of Lake Tahoe, including research on whether biochar, a byproduct of fire, is a successful soil amendment to grow better plants in the fire-prone landscape of the Sierra.

Students completing soils tests to determine how much phosphorus is in the soil.

Protecting the health of the Sierra is vital for the same reasons that it is crucial to preserve all natural areas. Humans have drastically changed the environment of the Sierra and are threatening the survival of many native species. As climate change takes an even more significant toll on local ecosystems, we must find new ways to protect the habitats that have been here for millennia. 

Learn more about the work Noah, Jesse, and the TERC team do on their website

Noah and Jesse having fun in the beautiful Lake Tahoe.

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