Most summers, SYRCL leads multi-day field science programs for both local and Los Angeles-based high school students to learn about meadow ecosystems and assess montane meadow health.

This year, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SYRCL made the tough decision to postpone our Youth Outdoor Leadership Opportunity (YOLO) Expedition until June 2021 at the earliest. While it was a difficult call, the health and well-being of our YOLO team (students and staff included) is of the utmost importance to us, as is working to ensure the expedition is as immersive, safe, and enjoyable as possible.

Since we had already recruited the 2020 YOLO team prior to having to postpone, we aim to maintain the team’s excitement about meadow restoration and local restoration efforts. Thus, beginning in September, SYRCL’s River Education Program will kick off a “YOLO Virtual Orientation Series,” where team members and SYRCL staff will connect regularly to get to know one another more deeply, lead environmental discussions on issues near and dear to their hearts, better understand their data collection responsibilities, and their role as citizen scientists in these vital restoration projects.

These six talented, ambitious and bright YOLO high school team members—two from Nevada City’s Ghidotti High school, three from Wheatland Union High School, and one from Pleasant Hill’s College Park High School—will get the chance to make new friends with like-minded peer environmentalists. In addition they will learn about the human impact on meadows, meadows’ contribution to biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and groundwater retention and filtration. The team will also be connected to a network of real scientists as a way to ask questions about environmental science careers, and prep for job shadowing, which is a major component of our YOLO expedition.

Why are the Sierra Nevada mountain meadows so important? Meadows have been disturbed by historic land use activities such as forestry practices, mining, over-grazing, climate change and fire suppression. Because of their unique features, mountain meadows have high species diversity and serve as a haven for many plants and animals. These meadows serve as carbon sinks, making them an important resource for carbon sequestration. Meadows collect precipitation, storing it underground, filtering water, and slowly releasing it to lower elevations – in our case, the greater Yuba watershed and Sacramento River basin.

While this year’s YOLO expedition is certainly not what we envisioned, we’re grateful for the unexpected opportunity to connect with these students on a deeper and more sustained level, learn from our YOLO team members and share passions and ideas on how we can individually and collectively further protect and restore our Yuba Watershed.

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