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People: David Bernstein at Jasper Ridge
Junkride 2009

SLAC Today

Wednesday - May 27, 2009

People: David Bernstein at Jasper Ridge

(Photo - David Bernstein)
David Bernstein. (Photo by Lauren Schenkman.)

At a time of day when most graduate students are rolling over for another three hours of sleep, David Bernstein, a graduate student at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, is standing thigh-deep in chilly water with a fishing rod. The newly-risen sun is gilding the grassy hills of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, just a few miles west of SLAC. Scrub oaks cast long shadows over Searsville Lake, where Bernstein is hoping to catch a largemouth bass—an invasive species of fish, and the perfect lesson for the East Palo Alto sixth graders who will arrive in a few hours.

Bernstein has always loved the outdoors. He credits this to his mother, whose idea of vacation differed considerably from that of their Philadelphia neighbors. "People went to the Jersey Shore, but we always rented these super quiet houses in Cape Cod, where there's nothing to do at all," he says, recalling summers spent chasing frogs through reeds and trying to catch fish. "I never really grew out of the 'I want to chase a snake and catch it' phase."

But exploring nature was just a hobby until Bernstein took Jasper Ridge's docent training class last year. Lasting for two quarters, the class covers "everything ecological," says Bernstein, including geology, hydrology, soil science, herpetology and local flora and fauna. "I can't rattle off the Latin names of every species I see, but I'm always biting off pieces," he says.

Bernstein now regularly leads tours of Jasper Ridge, sharing his knowledge with visitors. He's also one of the volunteers who teach a weekly ecology class to sixth-graders from Eastside College Preparatory School. Among other things, he's shown the students how to identify local endangered and invasive species, track mammals and measure the pH of water samples.

"It's amazing the level of the concepts they can grasp," he says.  Read more...

(Photo - Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen on a tandem bicycle)
Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen. (Photo courtesy of Anna Cummins.)

Junkride 2009

All are invited to Panofsky Auditorium on June 3 at 12 p.m. to hear Algalita Marine Research Foundation members Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen discuss the impact of consumer plastic on the ocean. The talk is part of the Foundation's three-part campaign that included collecting samples of the "plastic soup" swirling in the North Pacific Sub-tropical Gyre and sailing a raft, constructed out of 15,000 plastic bottles, from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Cummins and Erickson are bicycling from Vancouver to Tijuana, giving 40 presentations along the way to build awareness about the growing problem of plastics pollution and what people can do to mitigate it. The Foundation regularly sends research expeditions to the Gyre to measure the accumulation of garbage there.

(Image - event poster)

"On our last voyage, we found that the density of plastics on the surface of the ocean had doubled in just ten years," said Cummins, who added that plastics can absorb chemicals that flow into the ocean through watersheds. "We know through our foundation and other research that plastic particles laden with toxins are now being eaten by fish that humans directly consume, and also by fish that are eaten by larger fish that humans eat." By sharing their findings, Cummins said, the Foundation hopes to change the consumer habits that have lead to this mass pollution.

The event is free and open to all. Please note that parking is limited; off-site attendees are encouraged to carpool or use the Marguerite shuttle. Photo ID is required to enter SLAC campus.


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