CHANNEL ISLANDS STUDENTS ON THE FRONT LINE: DOCUMENTING, UNDERSTANDING AND EXPLAINING THE REFUGIO BE
Our foundation was invited as a President Circle’s member to be among the first guests to see the newest building (Sierra Hall) on campus at California State University Channel Islands (CI). During the visit on August 13, 2015, we took a tour of many laboratories and high tech rooms that are available for students to use beginning this semester. It is a beautiful facility with the latest in safety features should a fire occur.
A reception was held when we first arrived and they served beverages, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and scrumptious desserts. After socializing a bit, we went to one of the classrooms and received a welcome by President Richard R. Rush. He then introduced the speaker for the evening Associate Professor Sean Anderson.
Dr. Anderson is Associate Professor of Environmental Science & Resource Management at CI. He
spoke about when he first heard about the Refugio Beach oil spill. He began to gather his research team of CI students and met them at the beach that was affected by the oil spill. He explained how they monitored and documented the condition of the Refugio Beach area since the May 19th oil spill this year. This proved to be a very interesting and informative topic. Many of the students were present at this event. They told how valuable this experience was to them because they were now able to put actual practice procedures to work and obtain data and samples that proved to be useful to the public. We also learned about previous oil spills going back as far as 1910. He refreshed our memories about the 1969 Santa Barbara and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spills. Dr. Anderson showed how the clean up was accomplished and how the sandy beaches were affected as well as the marine life. He said this spill was due to the onshore Plains-All American Pipeline leaking up to 101,000 U.S. gallons (2,400 barrels). The spill filled a gully and then flowed through a highway drainage culvert, with about 21,000 U.S. gallons (500 barrels) of crude oil reaching the ocean. The Refugio Beach oil spill had an ecological impact on the birds, sand crabs, and grunion eggs. The student team did a survey over 33 beaches to show how they were affected and to what degree each one was impacted. On June 8, 2015, it was reported that 44% of the oil spill was cleaned. Refugio State Beach was reopened July 17, 2015.
Dedication of Sierra Hall will take place on the CI campus on Tuesday, September 15 at 10 a.m. We left this event feeling it was time well spent in learning more about how such accidents can impact our ecosystem.