Heal the Bay Blog

Earth Day is Every Day!

Earth Day 2020 may just be a few days away on Wednesday, April 22… but we protect our waters every day! Get involved, be inspired, and learn something new all throughout April. Join us this month for special guest social media takeovers, new blog posts, live videos from Heal the Bay Aquarium, and our freshly launched Knowledge Drops science education series. Scope out our full calendar below for details on how to connect and celebrate.


What’s coming up in April:

4/14 Facebook Live: Heal the Bay Aquarium @ 11AM

4/14 Instagram Takeover: Activist Melati Wijsen @ 5PM

4/15 Knowledge Drops: Community Science @ 1:30PM

4/15 Twitter Takeover: Author Joel Harper @ Noon

4/17 Knowledge Drops: Contaminated Seafood @ 1:30PM

4/20 Knowledge Drops: Kelp @ 1:30PM

4/21 Instagram Takeover: Latino Outdoors @ 9AM

4/21 Facebook Live: Heal the Bay Aquarium @ 1PM

4/22 Facebook Live: Heal the Bay CEO Dr. Shelley Luce at Noon

4/22 Knowledge Drops: The 50 Year History of Earth Day (English) @ 1:30PM

4/22 Knowledge Drops: La historia del Día de la Tierra (Spanish) @ 3PM

4/23 Instagram Takeover: 52 Hike Challenge @ 9AM

4/24 Knowledge Drops: Climate Change @ 1:30PM

4/24 Instagram Takeover: Chef Brooke Williamson @ 11AM

4/27 Knowledge Drops: Tide Pools @ 1:30PM

4/28 Facebook Live: Heal the Bay Aquarium @ 1:30PM

4/29 Knowledge Drops: Sea Turtles @ 1:30PM

4/30 Facebook Live: Heal the Bay Aquarium @ 1:30PM


Stay in the know: Follow @healthebay on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Check out even more ways to get involved and support.


Shop, Support, Save

Shop with Heal the Bay, support our work, and save $8 OFF your order with code “HTBEarthMonth” (expires 4/30). On Earth Day only, you can save $50 on orders of $150 or more with code “EarthDay50” (expires midnight on 4/22).

Eight years have passed since Marine Protected Areas started to officially be implemented in California. Heather Leigh Curtis, MPA Watch & Outreach Associate at Heal the Bay, calls out eight reasons why we should expand our network of Marine Protected Areas. Even though we can’t visit our local MPAs and beaches in LA right now, we can reflect on their critical importance during Earth Month.

California’s network of Marine Protected Areas “MPAs” sustains a variety of majestic landscapes and thriving ecosystems by ensuring precious marine life habitats are safeguarded. Just like the beach, MPAs welcome guests to visit and explore. 

Los Angeles County proudly manages 13 MPAs in three regions: Point Dume, Ranchos Palos Verdes, and Catalina Island. As part of the California Statewide MPA Network, these 13 areas have special protections in place to preserve their biological, geological, and cultural resources.

MPAs not only offer protection to the marine life and ecosystems within their boundaries, but also provide benefits to all Angelenos. Read on to learn more about all the benefits from MPAs!

1. Fun in the sun

There are so many reasons to go to the beach and visit your local MPAs! Some beachgoers are looking to relax and recharge while others are looking for adventure or physical fitness. Whatever you are searching for, beaches have a lot to offer. Activities such as swimming, surfing, stand up paddleboarding, sunbathing, wildlife watching, and tide pooling can be whole-heartily enjoyed at the beach and in our MPAs. 

2. Bigger fish in the sea

MPAs are underwater growth engines. These healthy habitats create the conditions for ample biodiversity, meaning a greater abundance and variety of marine life. Plus, wildlife populations are able to readily replenish and species can develop into larger sizes. Healthy, large animals often spillover into areas outside of the MPAs boundaries, which helps the overall ecosystem flourish.

3. A stronger blue economy

From whale watching excursions and recreational diving to seafood, the ocean is the backbone for both the tourism and fisheries industries. Prior to implementing MPAs in California, some feared that zoning off parts of the ocean from fishing could negatively impact local anglers visiting the area and the livelihoods of commercial fishers. Fortunately, a recent study suggests California MPAs boost local economies, which is also supported by similar research in the EU.

4. More resilient to pollution

The ocean is massive and incredibly deep, but it is not large enough to dilute all of the pollution from humans, nor should we rely solely on it to play that role. Some pollutants, including plastics, become more concentrated in the ocean as they enter the food chain (known as bioaccumulation). Animals high in the food chain such as sharks and sea lions can have contamination levels that are millions of times higher than the water in which they live. Stressors such as pollution and fishing are cumulative, and removing some pressure allows overall ecosystems to become more resilient. MPAs provide a natural buffer for species affected by pollution and allow them to recover. 

5. Mitigation against climate change

The ocean can facilitate extraordinary processes that fight against climate change, including carbon sequestration, oxygen creation, water purification, and storm buffering. In fact, new evidence has doubled the predicted carbon sequestration capacity of the ocean’s phytoplankton. Other research indicates MPAs are also effective at housing large, reproductive animals that could help replenish populations across the region when impacts from climate change like warming temperatures and reduced oxygen cause species to die-off.

6. Scalable science-based actions

While MPAs can help mitigate against some impacts of climate change, they can’t take on the climate crisis without our help. California’s MPAs were specifically designed as a network of several small zones to increase the area’s resilience to climate change. Changes in ocean temperature, ocean currents, oxygen availability, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and storm intensification all lead to a phenomenon known as species redistribution. In other words, as water conditions shift in the ocean, entire habitats and species follow. Few can predict beforehand exactly where habitats will move to, and a network of MPAs helps ensure that there are several stable and safe places to go. More MPAs will increase our ocean’s resilience. MPAs have the power to turn the tides on climate change, but only if we take urgent action to increase marine protection and decrease pollution from fossil fuels and plastics.

7. Learning opportunities for all

MPAs teach us how the underwater world works and what we can do to keep the ocean healthy, safe, and clean. Research divers, students, naturalists, and scientists alike can observe, study, and glean important information from MPAs. This new knowledge can be used to inform our environmental and economic policies to improve life for future generations. #bluemind

8. Inspiring ocean stewardship

Experience more wonder and adventure in your local MPA by volunteering with MPA Watch! As a volunteer, you can work alongside people who care about the ocean. You efforts will inform state and local MPA management about the specific needs of each MPA and how to keep them thriving. You’ll receive training on how to collect much-needed scientific data and stay in the loop about how MPAs are management and how they are changing.

Become a MPA Watch volunteer in Los Angeles by attending a Heal the Bay Volunteer Orientation. Or, learn more about other MPA Watch programs in California.

Maps of MPAs in LA County

Laura Rink, Heal the Bay Aquarium’s Associate Director of Operations, deepens our understanding of biofluorescence in the Santa Monica Bay and shares how local ocean animals get their glow on.

When you think about a rainbow, what comes to mind?

A beautiful archway of color after a rain? A favorite multi-colored candy? A representation of equality for all? Or perhaps the engrained acronym from early childhood, ROY G BIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet)?

Regardless of what comes to mind, one thing holds true: the colors of the rainbow are what make up visible light. This fact, however, does not hold true as one enters the world beneath the waves of the ocean. In many instances, ocean animals have the unique capability to see what humans consider to be invisible light, illuminating their world in a unique and fascinating way.

Light greatly governs our lives (think sunrises, sunsets, light bulbs, traffic lights, and rocking out to the song “Blinded by the Light”). Light also plays a large role in the life of ocean animals. 

Frequently, ocean animals use light as a form of adaptation for recognition, protection, or attraction. A commonly known use of light in the ocean is called bioluminescence. Examples of bioluminescence include firefly butts, glowing algae, and that oogey boogey fish of the deep that uses a light lure dangling from the top of its head to attract unsuspecting prey. This type of glow adaptation is a chemical process animals use to create light. See the most recent example of bioluminescence in the Santa Monica Bay in April 2020.

More recently scientists have discovered a variety of ocean animals with a protein in their skin that reflects ultraviolet light through a process called biofluorescence. How this works is the protein in the animal’s skin absorbs low energy ultraviolet blue light from the sun and reflects it at a higher energy, resulting in either a green or red fluorescent glow. This is similar to how the ink of a highlighter glows as you streak it across a textbook page, emphasizing a sentence you need to remember for a pop quiz later.

What animals might use this illuminating process, you wonder?

If we dive into the Santa Monica Bay and other Pacific Ocean areas in Southern California we find swell sharks, spiny lobsters, Kellett’s whelk snails, and a large variety of anemones who all get their glow on.   

Although the specific reason that each species glows is not entirely certain, scientists hypothesize that some ocean animals, such as swell sharks, use this process to help identify individuals. Sort of like the identifying spots on a cheetah or a unique birthmark on a human, only much brighter.

Why has it taken scientists so long to discover the biofluorescent glow of ocean animals? Most human eyes are only capable of seeing the colors of light from the rainbow and cannot see the glow of bioluminescence without some extra help. Through the use of a strong ultraviolet light source and blue light blocking lenses, humans are able to see the glow that certain types of ocean animals naturally see with their uniquely adapted eyesight.

If you would like an opportunity to see ocean animals glow and learn more about this dazzling process, stay tuned for our Heal the Bay Aquarium special night event series: “Go With the Glow”*. Guests can take a tour of our Aquarium’s darkened gallery to see the spectacle of biofluorescence in the ocean.

*Our Go With the Glow event series is postponed to accommodate physical distancing and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please sign up for our next event dates on July 3 and September 4.

Even though it is raining (and snowing) this week across the region, this season’s California snowpack is still well below the historical average for the start of April. Millions of Californians rely on this critical source of water for drinking and irrigation. A small snowpack points to the urgent need for us to conserve and reuse local water. Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay President and CEO, shares what was top of mind before the COVID-19 response, and why we can’t lose sight of our water.

At the end of last year, I was high up in the mountains with family and friends. We spent our time playing outside, laughing for hours and sledding on a snowy hillside. When I caught my breath, I took cold air deeply into my lungs. The mountain air felt so fresh. There was no wind, and the tall trees on either side of our sledding hill were perfectly still except for the bounding echoes of our joyful voices. It was a beautiful moment.

At the bottom of the hill the dark brown earth, which smelled of moss and mud, peeked through the white snow. I heard the sound of running water and looked closer: there was a stream of clear water flowing down through the tiny meadow toward the road. And I was struck: this is our water. This is Sierra snowmelt. This is the backbone, the source of drinking and irrigation water for millions of people in California. First seeping through a meadow that holds water like a sponge, then emerging as a trickle that builds to a stream that meets others to form a river that supplies a farm or a city. This is our water. And it’s in danger.

Far away on the coast people are drinking, cooking and showering with this very water. This very water is being washed down a drain, through a pipe to a treatment plant and then pushed out to sea. So much energy expended to take this very water from the mountains and valleys it nourishes, down to our homes and businesses in Los Angeles, to filter our waste out of it, to send it into the ocean and then to keep taking more and more every day of our lives. All of this is happening while the climate changes and the snowpack, that backbone, is diminishing and its future is in question.

However, we are changing this wasteful system. In 2019 Mayor Garcetti announced a plan to reuse all the water from our City’s treatment plants. That’s millions of gallons a day of water that will get reused here in LA, so we can stop draining it from our mountain streams. This is proof: we can adapt to climate change by changing a wasteful, linear process to a sustainable, circular system that supports people and nature.

This was our greatest victory last year and the culmination of decades of hard work. We have much more to do in this uncertain climate to protect our water and the awe-inspiring life it nourishes. Together, let’s take action. In the year ahead, we need to sound the alarm on the climate crisis, we need to enact strong science-based policies, and we need to remember the earthly moments that move our hearts and embolden us to take on new challenges with compassion and fortitude.

I look forward to working alongside you in 2020 as Heal the Bay celebrates its 35th anniversary! Thank you for continuing on this epic journey with us.

Dr. Shelley Luce
President and CEO


This article was originally published in Heal the Bay’s 2019 Annual Report in February 2020.



Emely Garcia, our Beach Programs Manager, rounds up some do-it-yourself activities to celebrate Earth Month while continuing to practice physical distancing.

Did you know that 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day? Amidst all of the changes, we are thinking of ways we can celebrate during the entire month of April, and hope you are too.

If you are looking for an impactful activity for you and those in your household to get involved in, we suggest a DIY cleanup and scavenger hunt in your neighborhood. The supplies are minimal, it’s a great way to get some physical activity nearby, and you can leave a spot in your community better than you found it.

I’ve rounded up some tips and instructions for a DIY neighborhood cleanup, a neighborhood scavenger hunt, and more ways to get involved below. Happy Earth Month 2020!

Neighborhood Cleanup

Before Starting Your Cleanup:

1. Gather Materials

  • Cleanup supplies: work gloves to protect your hands and an old bucket or bag to collect trash are the perfect tools for a successful cleanup. Please do not pick up trash if you are not wearing gloves.
  • Protection from the elements: Sun protective gear, such as a hat and sunglasses, and breathable clothing is highly recommended.
  • Activity essentials: Pack a few essentials like a first aid kit, a filled reusable water bottle, and some of your favorite snacks to stay safe and hydrated.
  • Trash tracking tools: Download the Marine Debris Tracker App on your mobile device or print out our Cleanup Data Card and take a pencil to track your finds.

2. Safety First

  • Watch our Cleanup Safety Video or read our Cleanup Safety Talk aloud to your cleanup crew. Have a brief discussion at the end to ensure that everyone understands the safety tips, and what not to pick up. DO NOT pick up medical waste, hazardous waste, gloves, masks, syringes, needles, sharp objects, condoms, tampons, waste materials, etc.
  • Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly once you’ve returned home.
  • Limit your cleanup group participants to only the people in your household to accommodate physical distancing and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you see other people while you are outside, make sure to stay at least 6 feet away. If you or someone in your household feels sick, please stay home.

3. Pick Your Site (please check for park, beach, and trail closures)

  • Adhere to county guidelines and respect closures and find a cleanup site that is accessible for you and everyone in your household and within walking distance from where you live. See the latest status on beach and beach facility closures in LA County.
  • Some of the best cleanup locations could be your neighborhood block, park, creek, or trail with a waste receptacle or trash can nearby.
  • When you find a site, make sure you take a photo before your cleanup effort.
  • Remember that all storm drains lead to out the ocean, and leading a neighborhood cleanup helps prevent ocean-bound trash from ever making its way down the storm drain. That makes you and your loved ones ocean protectors!
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After Your Neighborhood Cleanup:

    • Take photos of your family members getting the job done. 
    • Snap some final photos of what your site looks like after the cleanup.
    • Dump your collected trash at the nearest waste receptacle or trash can, and celebrate your work! 
    • Share your photos and finds by tagging us @healthebay and using the hashtag #healthebay. 
    • Give each other kudos for being a part of an amazing cleanup effort.


Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

While this is a fun activity for all ages, we know that the little ones will especially love it. The possibilities for neighborhood scavenger hunts are endless, but here are a few of my favorite ideas for your next neighborhood walk or cleanup together:

Things To Spot

  1. Bicycle
  2. Flowers
  3. Art or a mural 
  4. Stop sign 
  5. Something blue like the ocean or the sky
  6. Out of state license plate 
  7. Songbird
  8. Mailbox 
  9. Tiny bug
  10. Storm drain 

Things To Clean Up

  1. Snack bags or candy wrappers
  2. Cups or lids
  3. Plastic utensils
  4. Cigarette butts
  5. Glass bottles
  6. Aluminum cans
  7. Soda cans
  8. Balloons 
  9. Plastic bags
  10. Plastic pieces 

Things to avoid: sharp objects, heavy objects. If you find something that needs to be picked up by city officials. Call 311 to report bulk items.

More Ways to Get Involved

Emely Garcia, nuestra Gerente de Programas de Playas, resume algunas actividades que podemos hacer para celebrar el Mes de la Tierra mientras continuamos con las  prácticas  de distanciamiento físico.

¿Sabías que 2020 marca el 50 aniversario del Día de la Tierra? En medio de todos los cambios, estamos pensando en todas las formas  que podamos celebrarlo durante todo el mes de abril.

Si estás buscando una actividad impactante para tí y los miembros de tu hogar, te sugerimos una limpieza y un juego de buscar el tesoro en tu vecindario. Los suministros son mínimos, es una excelente manera de realizar alguna actividad física, y puede obtener una comunidad bella y limpia mejor  de la que encontró.

He reunido algunos consejos e instrucciones para una limpieza de vecindario, una búsqueda de tesoro y más formas de involucrarse a continuación. ¡Feliz mes de la Tierra 2020!

Limpieza de barrio

Antes de comenzar tu limpieza:

1. Reúne materiales

  • Suministros de limpieza: guantes de trabajo para proteger tus manos y una cubeta o bolsa para recoger la basura son las herramientas perfectas para una limpieza exitosa. No recojas la basura si no usas guantes.
  • Protección: se recomienda usar equipo de protección solar, como sombreros, gafas de sol, y ropa transpirable.
  • Elementos esenciales: Empacar un botiquín de primeros auxilios, una botella de agua reutilizable llena y algunos de tus refrigerios favoritos para mantenerte seguro e hidratado.
  • Herramientas de rastreo de basura: descarga la aplicación Marine Debris Tracker App en tu dispositivo móvil o imprime nuestra tarjeta de datos de limpieza  Cleanup Data Card y toma un lápiz para rastrear tus hallazgos.

2. Seguridad primero

  • Mira nuestro Video de seguridad de limpieza  Cleanup Safety Video o lee nuestra Seguridad de limpieza  Cleanup Safety. Habla en voz alta con tu equipo de limpieza. Ten una breve discusión al final para asegurarte de que todos entienden los consejos de seguridad y lo que no se debe recoger. NO recojas desechos médicos, desechos peligrosos, guantes, máscaras, jeringas, agujas, objetos punzantes, condones, tampones, materiales de desecho, etc.
  • Asegúrete de lavarte bien las manos una vez que hayas regresado a casa.
  • Limita a los participantes de tu grupo de limpieza solo a las personas de tu hogar para acomodar el distanciamiento físico y ayudar a reducir la propagación de COVID-19. Si ves a otras personas mientras estás afuera, asegúrate de permanecer al menos a 6 pies de distancia. Si tú o alguien en tu hogar se siente enfermo, quédate en casa.

3. Elije tu sitio (verifica el cierre de parques, playas y senderos)

  • Adhiérete a las pautas del condado y respeta los cierres y encuentra un sitio de limpieza que sea accesible para tí y todos los miembros de tu hogar.
  • Algunos de los mejores lugares de limpieza podría ser la cuadra de tu vecindario, parque, arroyo o  sendero con recipientes de basura cercano.
  • Cuando encuentresun sitio, asegúrete de tomar una foto antes de tu limpieza.
  • Recuerda que todos los desagües pluviales conducen al océano, y llevar a cabo una limpieza del vecindario ayuda a evitar que la basura con destino al océano llegue al drenaje pluvial. ¡Eso te convierte a tí y a tus seres queridos en los defensores del océano!
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Después de la limpieza de tu vecindario:

    • Toma fotos de los miembros de tu familia realizando el trabajo.
    • Toma algunas fotos finales de cómo se ve tu sitio después de la limpieza.
    • ¡Tira la basura colectada en el recipiente de basura más cercano y celebra tu trabajo!
    • Comparte tus fotos y hallazgos etiquetándonos @healthebay y usando el hashtag #healthebay.
    • Felicítense por ser parte de un increíble esfuerzo de limpieza.


Búsqueda del tesoro del vecindario

Si bien esta es una actividad divertida para todas las edades, sabemos que a los pequeños les encantará. Las posibilidades de búsqueda del tesoro en el vecindario son infinitas, pero estas son algunas de mis ideas favoritas para tu próxima caminata o limpieza del vecindario:

Cosas para detectar

  1. bicicleta
  2. flores
  3. Arte o un mural
  4. Señal de Stop
  5. Algo azul como el océano o el cielo
  6. Placas vehiculares de difernte estado
  7. Pájaros cantores
  8. Buzón
  9. Insectos pequeños
  10. Drenaje pluvial

Cosas para limpiar

  1. Bolsas para refrigerios o envoltorios de dulces
  2. Tazas o tapas
  3. Utensilios plásticos
  4. Colillas de cigarrillo
  5. Botellas de vidrio
  6. Latas de aluminio
  7. Latas de refresco
  8. Globos
  9. Bolsas plásticas
  10. Piezas de plástico

Cosas a evitar: objetos afilados, objetos pesados. Si encuentras algo que debe ser recogido por funcionarios de la ciudad, llama al 311 para informar.

Más formas de involucrarte

  • Conviértete en voluntario de Heal the Bay y asiste a nuestra Orientación virtual para voluntarios Volunteer Orientation en este Mes de la Tierra.
  • Regístrate para nuestras limpiezas de playa beach cleanups este verano.
  • Guarda la fecha 26 de septiembre para el Día de limpieza costera  Coastal Cleanup Day 2020. 
  • Haz un regalo del Día de la Tierra para mejorar la bahía y dona Donate.

Recent school closures mean many students are not getting the daily education they need. While we all should be practicing physical distancing at this time, we also need to put our brainpower and creative energy to good use and innovate to give students more opportunities to keep learning remotely.

Heal the Bay is responding with a new interactive science education series “Knowledge Drops”, where our team of scientists, experts, and advocates explores the water world and offers fun lessons about the marine environment. Each session is about 1-hour long and includes a live presentation, Q&A, polls, and videos. Our new webinar series is generally geared for 3rd – 8th grade students, but all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend!

See all recorded Knowledge Drops.

RSVP to Upcoming “Knowledge Drops”:

Keep scrolling for past recordings and resources below.

3/20 – KNOW THE FLOW 💦
4/3 – PLASTICS 🥤
4/20 – KELP 🌿
4/27 – TIDE POOLS 🦀
4/29 – SEA TURTLES 🐢
5/20 – PLASTICOS 🥤
6/15 –  HOW DO I EAT? 🥄

If you are a teacher with a topic suggestion, please contact us with your idea.

Resources and Videos:

All previously recorded Knowledge Drops webinar videos are posted here as an ongoing marine science education repository for you to access. (To view the webinar recordings please visit the ‘gotowebinar’ links below and enter in your contact information. We will only use your email address to update you about upcoming “Knowledge Drops” and you can opt out at any time.)

Knowledge Drops: The Sewage System

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Knowledge Drops: Know the Flow

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Knowledge Drops: Marvelous Mollusks

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Knowledge Drops: Storm Drains

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Knowledge Drops: Marine Protected Areas

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Knowledge Drops: Sharks and Rays

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Knowledge Drops: Beach Report Card

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Knowledge Drops: Plastics

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Knowledge Drops: Sea Jellies

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Knowledge Drops: Echinoderms

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Knowledge Drops: Clean Water Act

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Knowledge Drops: Coastal Shore Birds

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Knowledge Drops: Community Science

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Knowledge Drops: Contaminated Seafood 

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Knowledge Drops: Kelp

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Knowledge Drops: History of Earth Day

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Knowledge Drops: La historia del Día de la Tierra

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Knowledge Drops: Climate Change

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Knowledge Drops: Tide Pools

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Knowledge Drops: Sea Turtles

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Knowledge Drops: Streams of the Santa Monica Mountains

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Knowledge Drops: Conoce el Flujo

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Knowledge Drops: Viruses and Water Quality

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Knowledge Drops: MicroSafari

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Knowledge Drops: Desagues Pluviales

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Knowledge Drops: Algal Blooms

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Knowledge Drops: Penguins, Our Ocean Friends

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Knowledge Drops: Plasticos

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Knowledge Drops: Nature-Based Solutions

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Knowledge Drops: Pescados Contaminados

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Knowledge Drops: Blooms Algal

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Knowledge Drops: Nick Gabaldon Day

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Knowledge Drops: History of World Oceans Day

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Knowledge Drops: Virus y Calidad del Agua

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Knowledge Drops: Aquatic Toxicity: Sources and Solutions

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Knowledge Drops: How Do I Eat?

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Knowledge Drops: Sitio Superfund

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Knowledge Drops: Sea Level Rise and Climate Change Adaptation

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Knowledge Drops: Seahorses and Other Fantastic Fathers

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Knowledge Drops: Aquario y Limpieza Costera

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Knowledge Drops: River Report Card

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Knowledge Drops: Marine Bioluminescence & Biofluorescence

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Knowledge Drops: Áreas Marinas Protegidas (MPAS)

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Knowledge Drops: Crustaceans

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Knowledge Drops: MicroSafari (en Español)

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Activity Guides

See Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO, do a beach cleanup with her family in between rainstorms on Monday, March 16, 2020.

UPDATE: In light of LA’s Safer At Home order, and the recent news about overcrowding on trails and beaches, as well as the subsequent beach closures, we urge you to postpone your solo beach cleanup plans until this order has been lifted. Instead, here’s how to do a cleanup in your neighborhood while practicing physical distancing. Thank you.

Are you practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 response? Yes? Good! If you are looking for something productive to do, to get out of the house while still protecting your wellbeing and the health of others, we recommend doing a cleanup. We believe it is healthy to be outside volunteering, just not together in large groups at this time. So get ready for a dose of fresh air, fill up your reusable water bottle, and follow these instructions on how to do a cleanup.

It’s important to do cleanups, especially now, because the much-needed #LArain we are experiencing has created a surge in runoff and pollution in our neighborhoods, parks and beaches. The majority of waste that ends up in the environment is plastic, which harms wildlife, natural habitats, and public health. The good news: we can all clean up this trash at any time!

Nearly 80 percent of pollution in our marine environment comes from the land. Runoff from more than 200,000 storm drains on L.A. streets flows out to the Pacific Ocean causing the majority of local ocean pollution. By removing tons of pollution from neighborhoods and parks, in addition to beaches and waterways, cleanup participants reduce blight, protect animals, and boost the regional economy.

Here are helpful instructions on how to do a cleanup AND contribute to Heal the Bay’s ever-growing database of over 4,000,000 pieces of trash and debris from the last couple of decades in Los Angeles County, California. We use this trashy data to help inform public policy decision-making and aid businesses and organizations in adopting best practices.

Cleanup Instructions

1. Watch our Cleanup Safety Video or read our Cleanup Safety Talk (we follow this brief outline of safety tips and related topics to give talks before our group cleanups, not all of it will apply to your individual cleanup). This required viewing will help you determine what to do if you find a sharp needle (Don’t pick it up! Report it) and if lightning strikes (head inside immediately!) or how to avoid sneaker waves if you’re doing your cleanup at the beach.

2. Download our Cleanup Data Card (print it and bring the Data Card with you to your cleanup along with a pencil) or track the trash you collect with either the Marine Debris Tracker App.

3. Grab a reusable bucket and a pair of gardening gloves (or at least one glove for the hand you use to pick up trash) and head outside. You can do a cleanup for 15 minutes or an hour – whatever your preference is, please always prioritize safety first!

4. Don’t forget to post your cleanup pics and results on social media using the hashtag #healthebay and tagging us @healthebay. We can’t wait to see your trashy finds and give you well-deserved kudos for volunteering to protect the outdoor places we all cherish.

Learning Resources

Now that you’ve done a cleanup, here are some resources to learn more about the pollution we commonly find at cleanups, and how to prevent it from winding up there.

To do our part in reducing the spread of COVID-19, Heal the Bay is following guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Health and suspending all public programs, including programming at Heal the Bay Aquarium effective immediately. Heal the Bay Aquarium is temporarily closed and all Heal the Bay public program activities are suspended until further notice to accommodate physical distancing and help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The health and safety of our supporters, partners, staff, and community-at-large are our top priority. We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will abide by any recommendations from our local health agencies and the CDC. We urge you to follow LA’s Safer At Home orders at this time to help #FlattenTheCurve and save lives.

Suspended public programs include: Speakers Bureau, Beach Cleanups (Nothin’ But Sand, Suits on the Sand & Adopt-A-Beach), Angler Outreach Program, Wednesday Volunteers, Marine Protected Area Watch as well as Heal the Bay Aquarium (Birthday Parties, Field Trips, public hours & special events).

We will provide updates as new information becomes available. Our Aquarium staff will remain working at our facility to provide care for the animals and conduct maintenance. Heal the Bay staff will work remotely and in the main office during this time.

For the health and well-being of all, please take proper precautions to limit the spread of illness. Please follow these guidelines:

  • Please stay home if you feel sick and/or have a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
  • Wear a fabric face mask or facial covering when you are out in public.
  • Practice physical distancing by staying at least 6-feet away from people who are not in your household.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. (If a tissue is unavailable, use your upper sleeve or inside your bent elbow.)
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Make frequent use of hand sanitizer if available.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Follow all directives and guidelines by your health care provider and local health officials.
  • Get a flu shot to prevent influenza if you have not done so this season.

For more information, visit Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and view the LA Mayor’s Directive about COVID-19 LA City Guidelines.

If you have any questions, please Contact Us. If you are looking for marine science education resources, check out Knowledge Drops.


Last updated: June 23, 2020

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by shining the spotlight on five environmentalists who inspire us.

Women of color are impacted by environmental issues like water pollution and climate change impacts at disproportionate rates as a result of systemic inequity and injustice.1 Racism and a lack of access to education, economic status, and health resources often leave women and people of color out of the conversations and decisions that impact them the most, specifically about land use, natural resources, and environmental policy.

Despite these challenges, women of color continue to create powerful and lasting change in their own communities and abroad.

We thank the environmentalists and activists who continue to fight for what is right despite facing opposition for their bold ideas and for simply being who they are. Women and girls are leaders in their communities and agents of change. Supporting and listening to them will benefit the health of our planet and people for generations to come.

Get to know five environmentalists who have an inspiring legacy of activism.

Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011), Kenya

Founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted over 51 million trees, Professor Maathai focused on environmental conservation and women’s rights. She studied biology in her undergraduate and graduate school programs and later won the Nobel Peace Prize for her vast contributions to sustainable development.


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Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores (1971 – 2016), Honduras

Berta Cáceres was an indigenous environmental justice activist and grassroots leader who created the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH) in Honduras. She fought courageously against illegal and harmful mining and logging as well as the construction of a dam that would cut off water, food and medicine for the indigenous Lenca people. Cáceres Flores was tragically murdered in 2016, sparking international outrage. The Cáceres family continues to demand justice for this corrupt violation of human rights. 2


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Isatou Ceesay (b. 1972), The Gambia

Isatou Ceesay is known as the Queen of Recycling in The Gambia, and rightfully so. Though she was kept from finishing school, she created the Njai Recycling and Income Generation Group, which turns plastic bag waste into purses, creating revenue streams for local women. Ceesay also educates and empowers women through environmental advocacy.


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Winona LaDuke (b. 1959), White Earth Indian Reservation

Founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth, LaDuke is an environmentalist and political activist with Indigenous communities. She focuses on sustainable development, renewable energy, climate change, and environmental justice. The White Earth Land Recovery Project is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the United States dedicated to recovering original land and maintaining tribal food, water, and energy rights. Follow Winona on Twitter and Instagram.


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Vanessa Nakate (b. 1996), Uganda

Vanessa Nakate founded The Rise Up Movement and uses her voice and platform to share stories about activists in Africa who are striking due to inaction against the climate crisis. Recently, she spoke at the COP25 event in Spain (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) and joined dozens of youth climate activists from around the world to publish a letter to attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos urging them to take immediate steps to prevent further harm. Follow Vanessa on Twitter and Instagram.


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About the author: Mariana Estrada is a digital advocacy intern at Heal the Bay. She grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles where she enjoys a lively community of close-knit families and great food. She became interested in environmental issues like air quality at an unusually young age due to living in the city. Estrada’s area of focus is combining humanities and environmental issues to create effective and meaningful storytelling that renders real results. She studies English Literature and double-minors in Environmental Systems and Society and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

1 Gender and climate change-induced migration: Proposing a framework for analysis. Author Namrata Chindarkar. Published by School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. Published on 22 June 2012. Retrieved from
2 Berta Cáceres: 2015 Goldman Prize Recipient South and Central America. Published by The Goldman Environmental Prize. Retrieved from