Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Get Involved

July 14, 2016 — This past spring Heal the Bay hosted our first-ever BioBlitzes at two of Los Angeles’ remaining wetlands: Malibu Lagoon and Ballona Wetlands. BioBlitzes bring people together to rapidly (over a period of a few hours) catalogue and identify plant and animal life in biodiverse areas. Wetlands are unique and critical ecosystems that are in trouble – in the last couple hundred years, Southern California has lost over 90% of its native wetlands.

Wetlands provide many services, which often go by unappreciated. They help regulate climate, store surface water, control pollution and flooding, replenish natural aquifers, protect shorelines, maintain natural communities of plants and animals, and provide opportunities for education and recreation. (For more information about Southern California’s wetlands, check out Unfortunately, years of development and degradation have destroyed the flow of water, altering the habitat for wetland animals and plants. Heal the Bay supported the restoration of Malibu Lagoon from 2012 to 2013 and now we’re lobbying for the restoration of Ballona Wetlands as well to bring it back to a healthy, functional state. Our BioBlitz events helped capture and illuminate the amazing biodiversity of these areas. After crunching the numbers from these events, it seems timely to share our findings leading up to this Saturday’s beach cleanup and sneak peek at the Ballona reserve.

Malibu Lagoon species diversity pie chartMost of our observations were of the amazing plants that rely on the wetlands to thrive. Plants form this environment’s base, providing a natural filter for water as it passes through. They also provide habitat, food, and shelter for the populations of birds, insects, and reptiles that live in wetlands. We found both sites were host to dozens of bird species including great blue herons, snowy egrets, and brown pelicans. Every year, almost one billion birds migrate along the coast of California in an area known as the Pacific coast flyway. Wetlands in Southern California are a crucial pit stop for migratory birds and the diversity of species we observed is promising. In just three hours at Ballona, we saw 17 different species of birds – almost a third of the bird species found in an extensive wetlands survey conducted by The Bay Foundation that spanned months. This shows the power of BioBlitzes to capture important data for conservation.

Malibu Lagoon species diversity bar graphFrom 2012 to 2013, Heal the Bay advocated for an ecological restoration of Malibu Lagoon which involved removing invasive species, replanting native ones, and adjusting the hydrology of the wetland. Inventories done by The Bay Foundation showed only six species of native plants prior to restoration, while almost 41 were noted after the restoration! Since plants form the base of an intricate web of life in the wetlands, bringing back natives can also bring back other species – including those that are threatened. At both sites our BioBlitzers found four threatened species, but that number will certainly increase with more sampling.

We found more than 20 introduced species at each site, which means they arrived through human influence. These invaders include everything from the delicate cabbage white butterfly to the crystalline ice plant. Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to healthy wetlands because they can outcompete native species and overtake the habitat. Since the restoration at Malibu Lagoon, the pervasiveness of non-natives has decreased. While Ballona is still struggling with invasive species, we hope planned restoration efforts will allow this wetland to reach its full potential.

Thanks to all of our “blitzers” for helping us Blitz the Bay in Ballona Wetlands and Malibu Lagoon. Keep exploring, enjoying, and fighting for our wetlands!

Citizen Science Coordinator Catherine Hoffman led these successful blitzing efforts.

California native legless lizard Brown Pelican by iNaturalist user @glmory A couple junior BioBlitzers looking for fauna in the creekbed


July 7, 2016 — Over the last ten months, citizen scientists of all ages helped our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium survey the humble Pacific Mole Crab (commonly known as the sand crab). More than 60 volunteers collected an immense amount of data about these sand crabs on the beach just outside the Aquarium’s doors – what did they learn?

Last year the Aquarium partnered with the Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students (LiMPETS). This statewide program activates people along the entire California coast to do real science through hands-on data collection – at the Santa Monica Pier we focused entirely on sand crabs, an indicator species useful for measuring the health of the entire ecosystem. We observed how rainfall, water temperature and tides affected the size, sex and abundance of sand crabs.

After consistently collecting data for almost a year we are beginning to see some trends. What is most exciting is the sheer number of sand crabs we’ve been seeing lately. In the winter, if we found two sand crabs we knew it was a good day. Now we’re consistently finding 15-25! What’s behind this drastic change?

Plotting average abundance of sand crabs over timeThe answer has to do with the sand crab’s life cycle. Adult sand crabs have a mating season between November and February. Their eggs develop for 30 days, before hatching into planktonic larvae. These larvae float around in the ocean for a little over four months and go through six different life stages (which ensures that they become widely dispersed and colonize new areas)! They eventually settle onto shore as juveniles, or “recruits,” and about a month later become fully grown adults. This explains why we are currently finding so many sand crabs, especially many of the recruits that were laid in the early months of mating season, drifted as plankton for months, and have now made the Santa Monica beach their home. As they continue to feed and grow, they will soon start the process all over again.

So if you joined on a sand crab survey trek in the winter, be sure to come back and help us find, count, and measure all of the sand crabs we have been finding on the Santa Monica beach!

Taylor Spesak, Public Programs AssistantTaylor Spesak is the Aquarium’s public programs educator. Join him every Wednesday at 3pm for sand crab monitoring. The program is included with Aquarium admission.


We couldn’t do our work without the committed volunteers that are the backbone of Heal the Bay. This is especially true in the month of September, when we coordinate Coastal Cleanup Day for LA County.

On September 19th, 9,475 volunteers removed 21,310 pounds of trash from over 60 miles of territory (including three underwater sites). A huge thank you to everyone who cleaned our beaches, parks and waterways on a sweltering Saturday, and to the LA County Board of Supervisors and the Coastal Cleanup Day site captains.

We are so grateful to our sponsors:

Mattel, REI, City of Santa Monica, LA Department of PublicWorks, the California Coastal Commission, Anheuser-Busch InBev, simplehuman, Union Bank, and Kaiser Permanente.

The Wednesday before Coastal Cleanup Day, Heal the Bay gives more than 700 students from underserved schools a day at the beach, where they learn about ocean conservation through a series of games by the shore and visit the marine life at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium It’s all-hands on deck for this action packed day, and by the time the kids are back on their buses, staff and volunteers have worked up an impressive appetite. Thanks to Grey Block Pizza, we weren’t hungry for long. The donation of a variety of delicious pies was greatly appreciated.

And it was so neighborly – and generous – of Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the Pier to name our Aquarium as their beneficiary during Santa Monica’s Buy Local/Get Local week. Rusty’s donated a portion of the week’s sales to the Aquarium.

Heal the Bay will receive proceeds from General Admission of Venice’s sales at this weekend’s Abbot Kinney Festival as well.

And lastly, thanks to the Environmental Learning Center at Hyperion for hosting our Speaker’s Bureau training this August.  Congrats to the 19 new volunteers who graduated from the training.



June 24, 2015 — We love celebrating Nick Gabaldón Day each May, recognizing the first documented surfer of African-American and Mexican descent, and showcasing the heritage of the historical African-American beach site in Santa Monica, formerly referred to as the “Inkwell.” Gabaldón’s legacy and his passion for the ocean has inspired many surfers of color and continues to inspire us. We are so thankful for the support of the following groups and individuals who make this day possible:

And mostly, three cheers to all the brave youth from Alliance Neuwirth Leadership Academy and Concerned Black Men International who took the plunge and surfed their hearts out!

Coastal Cleanup Day – scheduled for Sept. 19th this year – will be here before we know it; thank you, REI for already contributing to help us make the biggest volunteer day on the planet a success.

Nick Gabaldon Day

An organization is only as strong as its foundation – and our foundation is made up of amazing volunteers, partners, and supporters.  We’d like to thank Heal the Bay’s very own “lucky charms” who helped make our St. Patrick’s Day-themed Volunteer Party last week truly memorable.

Thanks to Bodega Wine Bar for hosting; the food was superb, the staff welcoming, and the special green drinks created exclusively for the party – the “sea kelptini” and “luck of the Super Healer” — were a big hit.

Hotpoint’s video booth had everyone giggling and creating funny videos, and the Frozen Yogurt and Dessert Bar, a local mom and pop shop, satisfied everyone’s sweet tooth.

Local businesses that donated raffle items included REI, Patagonia and Pacific Park, along with gift cards from Yogaworks, Pono Burger and Kippy’s Ice Cream.  Photographer Michael Kriskovic captured the night in pictures.

And finally a big thanks to those who made the unforgettable decorations: Jennie Ledesma and family, Noriko Niwa, Chloe Wisdom, and Sheana Penley. Bodega liked its holiday-themed creations so much that staffers kept them up for Saint Patrick’s Day.

On another note, our branded merchandise offerings received a boost recently. We’re very grateful to Bob and Karen Hopper for donating dozens of high quality beach towels to be embroidered with our logo. Stay tuned – they’ll be for sale at a tabling event near you soon! 

Photo by Michael Kriskovic

Heal the Bay has been advocating on behalf of the ocean and clean water for 30 years. Last week, we took time out to revel in this milestone with staff, Heal the Bay members, and friends at two super celebrations: an evening “Party like it’s 1985” Birthday Bash for adults, followed two days later by a family party at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

Whether dancing the night away to 80’s tunes or decorating fish-shaped cookies at the Aquarium last Saturday, everyone had a terrific time celebrating the organization and all its accomplishments. Of course there are many to celebrate or their contributions to the festivities.

The gorgeously painted surfboards available at the silent auction were the work of artists Lindsey Nobel, John Colqui, Meex One and Norton Wisdom.

We are so grateful for the following vendors who helped make our evening Birthday Bash tasty, refreshing and fun:

Simmzy’s provided a delicious array of bites; thanks to Sam’s Club of Torrance for the yummy cupcakes; and Malibu Rum was the key ingredient of a signature 30th cocktail. Thanks also to Golden Road Brewing for sharing their L.A.-brewed IPAs and lagers.  

Fruit of the vine was flowing thanks to several wineries: Cline Cellars, Frontera, Rodney Strong, Francis Ford Coppola Winery  and Deutsch. And a very special shout-out to Corey Cline, long-time volunteer and former intern, friend of Heal the Bay, and principal wrangler of wine donations on our behalf!

Thanks also to Hotpoint – for donating a video booth that had everyone mugging and dancing up a storm.

Wells Fargo gave Heal the Bay a birthday present to last the year by sponsoring one free day a month at the Aquarium for the remainder of 2015. The Feb. 28 Family Birthday Bash was the first free day. Thanks also to the Los Angeles Public Library’s Store on Wheels for bringing their traveling book store/gift shop to the party.

And the party continues! For the remainder of 2015, Well Fargo’s generous present allows Aquarium visitors free admission the first Wednesday of the month from 2-5 p.m.

Thanks so much to Kevin Weatherly, the senior vice president of programming at CBS Radio, and to all our friends at KROQ for their annual support through the station’s Weenie Roast benefit concert. We recently dropped by the station to pick up a very generous donation. We’re extremely proud of our 20-year partnership with KROQ!

Specials thanks also go out to the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation for its continued support of the Youth Environmental Education Program at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. The foundation’s support has made it possible for us to educate thousands of underserved youth throughout Los Angeles County.

Boys at the Touch Tanks

And they SCOOOOOooo-o-o-o-o-re!! The amazing staff at the Staples Center that is. Our passionate and devoted volunteers who make up the Heal the Bay Board of Directors were treated to a very special quarterly board meeting hosted at the Staples Center on Jan. 14.

With the important business of the day wrapped up, staff and board members enjoyed a Los Angeles Kings hockey game from their own plush suite in Hyde Lounge, complete with tasty beverages and snacks, and the best seats in the house.

Though our beloved Kings lost to the New Jersey Devils 5-3, everyone came away feeling like a winner, thanks to the gracious hospitality and generosity of Brian Hart, general manager at Hyde Staples, Laurel Washburn, sales and marketing Coordinator at Hyde, Ashley Sinclair, special events coordinator at Staples and Sanjay Bawan of RYG Events — definitely the “A” Team of event coordination!  Heal the Bay is deeply grateful for the support.

Speaking of support, last month’s Heal the Bay Youth Summit in Hermosa Beach received delicious help from Jeff Belandi, owner of Watermans Safe House for Surfers in Hermosa Beach. Belandi’s surf-centric restaurant provided lunch for our high school students, volunteers and staff. 

And finally thanks to Boeing for hosting a Corporate Healer Beach Cleanup earlier this week.  Fifty-nine employees cleaned the beach in Santa Monica, collecting 47 pounds of trash.

A big thank you to Subaru Pacific for sharing the love with us this holiday season. The car company runs a national campaign – Share the Love – each year; for every car Subaru sells between the last week of November and January 2nd, they will donate $250 to one of six charities.  Heal the Bay is thrilled to be one of only two local charities chosen. Twenty-six of Subaru’s customers have already selected Heal the Bay as their charity of choice – the goal of raising $10,000 looks to be within reach!

We are thankful for the rain – and incredibly grateful that the employees of Team One were signed up to do a corporate cleanup at Venice Beach shortly after the first round of rain.  Thanks Team, for removing 114 pounds of trash and 2,214 cigarette butts from the beach.

And finally thanks to Madewell, which shared a portion of sales from a recent evening of holiday gift tag decorating at The Grove. We honestly appreciate HonestlyWTF for choosing us as the beneficiary of that crafty fundraiser. 

A huge thank you to Adventure Voyaging for including Heal the Bay in last month’s Catalina Cruisers Weekend – two days full of fun at Two Harbors. Additional thanks go out to Peter Ellis and friends who served up the famous “Buffalo Milk” beverages at Saturday night’s party, donating every drop these sailors drank back to clean water. These may have been some of the most delicious dollars we’ve received recently!

When a swimmer was bitten in July by a white shark struggling to be free of an angler’s hook next to the Manhattan Beach Pier, the city banned fishing from the pier to protect public safety. The ban was lifted at the end of the summer, but the unfortunate incident prompted coastal communities with piers throughout L.A. County to consider similar bans. As an alternative, Heal the Bay recommended the establishment of a pier and sport angler educational program, where on-the-pier ambassadors educate the fishing public about local sharks and marine life and how to avoid catching these sharks.

The cities of Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach along with L.A. County embraced the shark ambassador program, and all have contributed to support it. Kudos to these partners, who are helping us educate anglers on the important role sharks play in the ecosystem.

Corporate Healers play an integral role in cleaning our beaches while encouraging stewardship among their employees – not to mention providing their workers with a day at the beach. Thanks to Wells Fargo and Macerich for joining the program.

Students from low-income schools will have the opportunity to visit our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium for field trips thanks to the support of the UPS Foundation. Thanks so much for sponsoring youth education.  

And last but not least, happy 5th anniversary to the The Grilled Cheese Truck – and thanks to this traveliing wagon of cheesy goodness for donating proceeds from its celebration to Heal the Bay.