Forest Charter junior receives Earthwatch fellowship | TheUnion.com

Forest Charter junior receives Earthwatch fellowship

Forest Charter student Penny Johnson's summer plans probably differ from those of her classmates'.

Instead of sleeping until noon and spending lazy days on the Yuba, Johnson, 15, will be studying marine biology on southern California's Catalina Island.

After her supervisor Rebecca Tiernan suggested she apply, Johnson was accepted as part of an expedition called Conserving Marine Life Along The Catalina Coast. The trip will last from June 26 to July 2, during which time Johnson will be exploring and observing marine life, collecting and analyzing data, and working in a lab with researchers.

The fellowship was offered by charity group Earthwatch, an international environmental nonprofit whose mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.

Catalina is one of eight channel islands off the coast of southern California. The waters surrounding the island are considered a Marine Protected Area and are home to a great variety of animal and plant species.

Johnson and other participants will be monitoring the health of the unique coastal ecosystem, and will record activity and abundance of marine mammals like whales, dolphins and seals. Additionally they will collect water samples and observe human use of the fragile habitat.

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"I really just want to have fun and learn a lot," said Johnson. "It's great for college applications. It's really great that I am able to do this because I really like marine biology. I am hoping to have a lot of fun and have a memorable experience."

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.