Snapping King Tides for Martin Luther King Day


SCA Alum Jessica Wonyee Sanchez on Serving as a Citizen Scientist for MLK Day 2015

This past Monday we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday by participating in the “California King Tides” citizen science project. This event was hosted by Acterra, a Peninsula-based environmental non-profit in the SF Bay Area. We had a great turnout (close to seventy people!), at the East Palo Alto Bay Trail, participating in the event. 

I work for Acterra as a Project Manager in the Stewardship Program. I engage people in habitat restoration efforts in the cities of Redwood City and East Palo Alto. My placement here couldn’t have happened without the remarkable experiences I had as a previous SCA Member, but that’s another story…

As an SCA alum, I found this event to be a perfect opportunity to collaborate with the SCA, to bring out some of their program participants to volunteer, and  have our event posted on their MLK Day of Service event webpage. SCA’s events page has info on volunteer projects all over the country, showing local participants that they’re part of a national movement, whether they’re in the Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, etc. Social media participation further enforces the feeling of being a local part of a national effort. Because of this partnership, on the day of I was surprised and excited to be able to meet the jovial youth members of the SCA Peninsula Community Crew, a mother-daughter pair from Monterey wanting to find out more about the SCA after learning about the organization on the Pacific Crest Trail, and a fellow alum who served in 1957 in the Grand Tetons, the very first year the SCA was founded!  It was a reminder to me of how extensive and far-reaching the SCA network is, in both time and place.

Service Selfie captured by SCA’s San Mateo Penninsula Community Crews, out to document King Tides for an MLK Day citizen science project with Acterra.

MLK Day is typically a day of service. It’s one of the few US holidays where to celebrate it, we serve. We give back to our communities to honor the civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Taking from Gandhi’s teachings, Dr. King advocated for “soul force,” pledging non-violence, and fighting hate with love. Without question, his teachings still resonate today. 

It just so happened that in 2015, MLK Day overlapped perfectly with the California King Tides events. How fitting! (Get it, Dr. Martin Luther King, King Tides?!) The California “King Tides” are a time when the tides are especially high due to the sun, moon and Earth being in perfect alignment with each other. These seasonal high tide events can provide a preview of what we might experience regularly in the future as a result of rising sea levels due to climate change. Volunteers were asked to take photos on their smartphones and cameras and upload them to social media to help scientists better document these tides. 

This is what a Citizen Scientist looks like!

This event combined many things that you wouldn’t normally find together – climate change education, bio-regionalism, social media, photography, celebrating the life of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., hiking, viewing wildlife and serving. Usually we don’t encourage ourselves to get on our smartphones when we’re out on the trail, trying to re-connect with nature. In fact, the author Richard Louv, from The Last Child in the Woods, cites technology as part of the problem, rather than the solution, to getting our youth outdoors. But by being open-minded, I think this unusual combination of things acted as a catalyst for a successful turnout and opened doors for future discussions of issues surrounding our environment. The event brought people together who may have initially been drawn  to it for different reasons. Hopefully they got all that they hoped to get out of it and much, much more. If not, at least they met some other cool conservation-types from their community and had a great time outside!