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Walnut fifth graders size up Monterey sand crabs for research project
walnut monterey trip 2
Walnut Elementary School fifth graders in Bret Sutterley and Dave Suttons classes were in Monterey as part of the Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students program. - photo by Photo Contributed

Walnut Elementary School fifth graders in Bret Sutterley and Dave Sutton’s classes were more than prepared to ditch their desks for the beach earlier this week during their field trip to Monterey Bay, where they participated in a Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students program.

As part of the organization’s Sandy Beach Monitoring Program, students traveled to Salinas River State Beach on Tuesday to research and collect data on Pacific Mole Crabs, also known as sand crabs.

“The LiMPETS organization has all the materials on site to do field research,” said Sutterley. “Students measured the number of sand crabs and identified them by size. The kids got to collect data that actually goes into a larger database. They became part of the research project.”

Sutterley said that the Pacific Mole Crab is an indicator species for the health of the ocean, meaning that a beach that is bordered by water affected by an oil spill or any other type of ecological mishap will have less sand crabs than that of a healthy beach.

“By measuring the number of sand crabs, we have data about what a healthy beach looks like and what the number of sand crabs should be,” said Sutterley.

Prior to visiting Salinas River State Beach earlier this week, students were trained to survey the Pacific Mole Crab through standard training activities in the classroom. Sutterley and Sutton were also required to complete a training session by a local LiMPETS coordinator.

“This trip hopefully opened windows to their future education and leaned them towards a science background by giving them the opportunity to do research at an early age,” said Sutterley. “Hopefully they go on and develop a love of science and become caretakers of the earth.”

Students not only got a chance to participate in the Sandy Beach Monitoring Program at Salinas River State Beach, but they also got to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium—all for free.

Sutterley said this trip was made possible through a donations account managed by the Turlock Education Foundation—where he serves as a Board member—as well as TUSD Local Control Accountability Plan funding and transportation grant from the Pacific Grover Museum of Natural History.

 TUSD’s involvement in the LiMPETS program began when retired Stanislaus State professor Pamela Roe shared her dream to send every Turlock student to see the ocean and learn about the sea.

As a result, TEF partnered with Roe’s friends, retired Modesto Junior College professor Richard Anderson and his wife Lynn Hansen, who decided to act on Roe’s dream in order to send students from the Central Valley to participate in the program.

“Pam wanted all Turlock kids to go to the beach and experience the beach habitat. Since then we have received several donations from friends of hers, so we set this up as her vision,” said Sutterley. “There are a number of students that have never seen a beach, so this is a real opportunity for those kids to see a part of California that they might not have.”

Now in its fourth year running, Sutterley said that the program is estimated to send over 300 students from approximately five Turlock Unified School District schools to Monterey Bay this year for the LiMPETS Sandy Beach Monitoring Program.