Tahoe Science Center to reopen with new plastics exhibit; Get involved

Michelle Gartner
Special to the Tribune
The UC Davis Tahoe Science Center will reopen June 15 with a new plastics display. (Provided by Heather Segale)

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Science didn’t stop during COVID.

Lots of stuff was happening behind closed doors and under the microscope.

On a Zoom call in mid-May, Heather Segale, the education and outreach director at UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, shared some of the accomplishments and programs that stem from various collaborations between her agency, Desert Research Institute, Keep Tahoe Blue, Tahoe Water Suppliers Association and Sierra Watershed Education Program.

She said, “We have a new plastics exhibit. It’s got some hands-on things.”

The UC Davis Tahoe Science Center will reopen its doors on Tuesday, June 15.

A visitor can clean up the beach and see what types of plastics have been recovered.

A microscope area of the new exhibit. (Provided by Heather Segale)

“You can learn about the different resin types,” Segale said. “There’s a bucket of sand with plastics in it that you can shake through a sieve and see how it breaks down into macro, mezzo, micro and nano sizes.

“Petri dishes have different types of plastics,” she added. “Foam, fibers, fragments, films etc … you can put them under a microscope.”

The exhibit also shows ways people can break free from plastic.

With tickets purchased in advance, visitors can take a deep dive into Lake Tahoe without getting wet. Each visit will be timed and abide by COVID-19 campus protocols prioritizing health and safety. Read the reopening protocols for more information.

The center is located at 291 Country Club Dr. in Incline Village.

Since COVID restrictions are loosening, there are several opportunities to get involved in science projects around Lake Tahoe.

Become a citizen scientist

Segale oversees the development of The Citizen Science app, a collaboration between UC Davis, who oversees the Water Quality and Algae Watch, League to Save Lake Tahoe who oversees Litter-Trash Report, Eyes on the Lake and Pipe Keepers and citizen scientists. There are also Tahoe Rain or Snow and Stories in the Snow reports from DRI. The app got a refresh and a new version was released Memorial Day weekend.

With the app, locals and visitors can become scientists by gathering data and, according to the website, “monitoring their surrounding environment. Citizen scientists can help researchers at Lake Tahoe by taking a few minutes to enter what they see around the lake – whether it’s an algal bloom, cloudy water, invasive species, or litter on the beach. Science needs both sides of the story, so users are encouraged to report both the positive and negative things they see.

“The Citizen Science Tahoe App is available for Apple and Android phones. Users do not need to utilize their cellular data and can wait to upload images when connected to Wi-Fi. This makes the app easy to use in even the most remote locations.”

Visit to learn more.

Become a Lake Tahoe ambassador

North and South Lake Tahoe are seeking ambassadors to help expand education on destination stewardship and community safety. Local business organizations and public officials launched Ambassador Programs around Tahoe to assist with trash clean-up, distribution of personal protection equipment and peer-to-peer communication. These efforts were established as long-term solutions to promote stewardship in Lake Tahoe communities.

For more information, visit

Sign up for docent training

A TERC docent acts as a volunteer guide by learning about what’s happening at UC Davis. They join a group of individuals who are helping to provide the best in science education and foster stewardship throughout the Tahoe Basin.

The UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center coordinates a volunteer docent program to connect the talents of community volunteers to the needs and interests of visitors and students.

Docent training is scheduled for Thursday, June 17, Tuesday, June 22, and Thursday, June 24. The training program is a combination of live virtual webinars, self-guided recordings and an in-person tour at the Tahoe Science Center. The goal is to provide comprehensive environmental education and leadership skills that act as a refresher for current docents and provide new docents with the instruction they need to assist the public in exploring the science education center.

For more information, visit

Circumnavigate the lake for science

Join Scott Fitzgerrell and TERC Director Geoff Schladow as they lead a kayak expedition around Lake Tahoe in support of the Citizen Science Tahoe app. Paddlers will travel counterclockwise in 6-10 mile segments to circumnavigate the lake over seven days. Kayaks, canoes and paddle boards are welcome.

During each day, paddlers can collect valuable water quality, algal growth and microplastics data. Science specialists will be there to update you on the latest findings.

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