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Environment & Science

Orange County groups educate kids about green abalone, foster citizen science

O.C. high school kids feed abalone kelp as they grow in a classroom.
O.C. high school kids feed abalone kelp as they grow in a classroom.
Get Inspired/Nancy Caruso

As a result of the first genetic study of once-abundant green abalone in Southern California’s, some L.A.-based scientists have gotten a grant to breed captive abalone in a lab, as we report on the radio today.

But the scientists aren't the only ones working to bring abalone back. Programs in Orange County also seek to demonstrate the viability of restoring green abalone populations in coastal waters.

In Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos, high school students have worked over the past year to breed and nurture green abalone that will later be released into the ocean by marine biologist Nancy Caruso, who runs a nonprofit that brings marine education into schools.

Caruso got permission from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to try selective “outplanting” of abalone, releasing classroom-grown specimens into the wild.

Amanda Bird is with Orange County Coastkeeper and one of the co-authors of the newly published genetic study. She has overseen a green abalone restoration project for several years.  Bird and volunteer divers collected 26 tissue samples from wild abalone, leaving them in place and without harm, for analysis.

Coastkeeper volunteer divers are now surveying potential "outplant" locations for green abalone between Newport Beach and Dana Point. The effort is funded in part by individual donors through an “adopt an abalone family” program.  (Coastkeeper says they're seeking more divers AND donors.)

Green abalone has been listed as a "species of concern' under federal law since 2004. The following year, the state of California created an abalone recovery and management plan. To improve the lot of this once thriving animal; scientists, educators and activists say no single effort is a silver bullet. Their goal is to encourage funders that paying for green abalone restoration is worth it.