Meet Brittany: Intern Guardian of Our MPAs!

June 24, 2015 — Brittany Hoedemaker is a summer intern for Heal the Bay’s MPA Watch. She is currently an Environmental Studies student at the University of Southern California. Here, she writes about her first time conducting an MPA Watch survey and her observations of those mysterious oil blobs that have since been confirmed to originate from the Refugio Oil spill in Santa Barbara.  

As an intern at Heal the Bay working on the MPA Watch program, I’m spending my summer completing fieldwork along the beautiful beaches in Los Angeles’ marine protected areas. With miles of Southern California’s beaches covered with the mysterious oil blobs that first made their appearance along Manhattan Beach in late May, it could not have been a better time to be out there surveying our coastlines. 

After getting trained on how to complete MPA Watch surveys, I headed out with my fellow interns to Westward Beach to conduct an MPA Watch survey in the Point Dume State Marine Reserve (SMR). There, we practiced identifying consumptive (fishing) and non-consumptive activities (surfing, tidepooling) occurring within the Point Dume Reserve. Some activities we observed included sunbathing, swimming and even rock climbing. We were happy to see our fellow Angelenos enjoying the marine protected area while also keeping it clean and respecting its wildlife. 

Our field training continued from the beach up onto the bluff at Point Dume, where we learned to identify different types of boats and to gauge the three nautical mile distance from the shore that marks the boundary of state waters and the MPAs. To everyone’s delight, our boat-watching turned into whale watching, as three gray whales—including a calf—surfaced right below our vantage point on the bluffs. This incredible sight was a reminder of the importance of our MPAs, and a confirmation of the strategic establishment of the Point Dume SMR. The SMR encompasses an upwelling zone and a submarine canyon, providing food for the whales on their path to the Arctic.

The field training also reminded us of why our work and our MPAs are so important, as a contour of oil blackened the mean high tide line. MPA Watch interns and volunteers have been tasked with documenting and reporting the extent of oil blobs on our beaches–and we’ve already seen quite a bit. Heal the Bay will continue to provide updates from the oil spill at Refugio Beach and the connection to the recent spike in oil on our L.A. beaches. 

As we walked away from Point Dume with tar on our shoes and clipboards in hand, we felt a renewed drive to heal the Bay. We can’t do it alone, though.

If you see oil blobs on the beach, please call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

If you see an oiled animal or wildlife in distress, call the OWCN response hotline at 1-877-823-6926.

Also, take pictures (with an item in the frame for size reference) and post to Instagram with a geotag and #healthebay.

And remember: Please don’t touch the oil!

Westward Oil Blobs

(Clockwise from left: Tar on Westward Beach; Oil blob on Santa Monica beach; Tar on Santa Monica Beach looking toward the pier)













 SM Pier Oil Blobs SM Pier Oil Blobs