Marine Research & Education, Inc. provides Lake Tahoe students the chance for hands-on experimentation |

Marine Research & Education, Inc. provides Lake Tahoe students the chance for hands-on experimentation

Autumn Whitney
Tahoe Valley Elementary School students listen to a Marine Research & Education, Inc., volunteer discuss plankton.
Autumn Whitney / Tahoe Daily Tribune

About half the students aboard the Prophet on Monday, June 11, had never been on Lake Tahoe before, despite growing up in the basin.

The group of Tahoe Valley Elementary School third graders boarded the 45-foot, U.S. Coast Guard-certified vessel just before 10 a.m., ready for two hours of environmental instruction.

Thanks to Marine Research & Education, Inc., over 400 Lake Tahoe Unified School District students get the opportunity to study the lake up-close each spring, learning about environmental awareness and conservation via hands-on, scientist-level experiments — and it’s a Tahoe tradition that has been in existence for nearly 20 years.

Marine Research & Education, Inc. formed back in 1999 thanks to the Dean Lockwood and John Shearer families (the latter provides the vessel). Today, a small team of volunteers runs the nonprofit with one primary goal: to promote environmental awareness and the basin’s conservation via easy-to-understand methods and language. Over the past 13 years it has served over 13,500 students, mainly through field trips taken in third grade.

These trips consist of two segments: on-the-water instruction and an on-shore lesson. During the first hour students are welcomed aboard the Prophet, where they learn about the importance of plankton before breaking into groups and rotating between three stations.

The first is a lesson in lake clarity, and students watch as a Marine Research & Education, Inc. volunteer drops a Secchi disk into the water and talks about the tool’s purpose and ability to measure lake clarity. At the second station students receive a lesson on local fish and plants, learning the difference between native and non-native species. The on-the-water portion’s final station is all about water: its temperature, salt and pH levels.

“The lessons describe how both natural and human activities can affect the ecosystem of the lake. Through this understanding, the lessons emphasize the importance of stewardship that minimizes the adverse effects to the ecosystem of the lake,” states a release from Marine Research & Education, Inc.

On the drive back to Ski Run Marina, students are invited to eat the plankton caught at the start of the field trip. On June 11, one student enjoyed it so much he asked for a second helping.

The latter half of Marine Research & Education, Inc.’s instruction takes place on the shore at Ski Run Marina. Here, children learn how Lake Tahoe was formed and how water gets into the lake through a demonstration via a diagram resembling the basin — in short, it’s a lesson on local geology, biology and hydrology.

Together, the on-the-water and on-shore lessons have been designed to achieve grade-specific, science-based standards for both California and Nevada.

“We believe that educating our youth is the starting point for protecting our environment, for not only do the children take home information to share with their families, they are the future stewards of the land. Education is a key component for developing our community’s environmental awareness and ecological values,” continues the organization’s release.

The nonprofit receives its funding primarily from grants. The program costs roughly $450 for each class that attends, and Marine Research & Education, Inc. requests a $10 voluntary donation from each participating student. Lake Tahoe Educational Foundation grants funds to cover the voluntary fee for students who are unable to afford it, and additional funding comes from other organizations — in 2018, contributors were Vail Resorts’ EpicPromise Foundation and Bessie Minor Smith Foundation.

Marine Research & Education, Inc., does not have a website; the best way to learn more is to contact Harold Singer at 530-721-0698.

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