APES students visit Año Nuevo to observe elephant seals

March 11, 2016 — by Frederick Kim and Jay Kim

The school’s AP Environmental Science students traveled  to Año Nuevo Natural Preserve in Pescadero for their annual trip on March 10. 

The school’s AP Environmental Science students traveled  to Año Nuevo Natural Preserve in Pescadero for their annual trip on  March 10.

Organized by AP Environmental Science teacher Kristen Thomson and Biology and Anatomy and Physiology teacher Kristofer Orre, the trip allowed more than 50 students to spend the day observing elephant seals in their natural habitat.

According to Thompson, Año Nuevo is noteworthy as it is one of the few places in the country where people can see elephant seals from just feet away. The trip underscored the importance of environmental protection for the students.

The students also hiked up the Año Nuevo Point Trail, which  ended at a sea lion reserve.

“Our tour guides were super nice and had a lot of good, on-hand stories,” senior APES student Luke Salin said.

This trip helped students reinforce what they had learned in class, since they had recently watched a documentary about elephant seals.

“The hike was very long, but when we finally reached the beach, we saw many elephant seals and [their] pups,” senior APES student Nate Ney said.

The classes learned about how elephant seals have limited numbers because they were once hunted close to extinction and face environmental obstacles as a result.

“Starting from a small founder population, the elephant seal population severely lacks genetic diversity,” Ney said. “Due to the population’s similarity, we need to closely monitor their numbers to ensure a disease does not kill them off. Hopefully, they will continue a steady recovery.”