By CHAZ PLAGER
Residents driving down Temescal Canyon Road, may have noticed what looked like a group of teens and a teacher digging. The group was near the bluffs, just below the alternative high school, digging before Thanksgiving vacation. Was it bones or buried treasure they were seeking?
It was treasure hunt of a different sort: the Palisades High School Envirothon club was digging to measure nitrogen in the groundwater.
Led by teacher Steve Engelmann, the Envirothon club meets once a week to prepare for the titular Envirothon, held in in April. Much like an academic decathlon, students are tested on multiple categories and their points are totaled at the end to determine the overall winner.
Unlike the academic decathlon, however, Envirothon is exclusively based around the environment (as you may have guessed).
Knowing how to test the groundwater is a skill necessary for the Envirothon Aquatics section, as well as testing ocean water for macroinvertebrates, whose population numbers can tell whether or not the ocean ecosystem is healthy.
Under Engelmann, students will also learn forestry and animal tracking.
The Envirothon begins with the state level competition and the winning teams of each state meet for the national championship during the summer. The national competition is held in a different place each year. This year, contestants will meet in New Brunswick, Canada to determine who comes out on top.
Pali has gone to the national eight times and placed third overall once in 2016.
“Everyone got to go home with checks for $1000,” Engelmann said. “It was a really big deal- once you get to the national level, you’re playing the World Series. Getting into the top 10 is a big deal by itself.”
Charlie Shortt, a PaliHi junior and a member of the club, said, “It’s just fun, you know? It’s not really that big a deal to me, the competition, but I learned how valuable and fragile the environment is. I think more people could learn that.”
That fellow with the beard looks like John Muir.
And speaking of environment and water, big rains are expected this Thursday so for Giving Tuesday homeowners could throw an eye on the gutters and curbs in front of their homes to ensure they are free of leaves, fronds, trash, etc allowing an unfettered flow of water to the storm drains or drains to the ocean.