Activist Spotlight, Blue Water Task Force, Water Quality, Youth
January 30 2020

Activist Spotlight: Skye Schoenhoeft with the Tamalpais High School BWTF in Marin

by Colleen Henn

Please meet Skye Schoenhoeft, the fearless leader of the Tamalpais High School Club's Blue Water Task Force program. Under Skye's leadership, students take a break from the classroom to collect field samples from their favorite local recreational beaches. To date, they have collected over 50 samples and actively alert the public when high bacteria levels are found. Please hear from Skye below about her clean water work. 

Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?  

I joined the Marin Surfrider Chapter at the beginning of my junior year. A friend of mine told me about the Blue Water Task Force at his school, and I wanted to introduce the program to my school. I had no clue about all of the other work that Surfrider does , so after my first chapter meeting, I was very excited to learn about new ways I could help our environment. I started the Tam High Surfrider Club, and have become increasingly involved ever since. 

What are some local issues that affect water quality in your community? 

We live in a coastal area, so much of our community is centralized around the bay and ocean. Our school is located on a marsh extended from Richardson Bay, and with the effects of climate change, our school will be impacted quickly. Already, at high tide with rain, our football field and parking lot flood from the bay. Within only a couple of decades, the lowest level of our school may be completely flooded, and the surrounding environment may be destroyed. Our school newspaper did an in-depth analysis of the issue: https://thetamnews.org/16805/features/submerged/. In addition to our immediate perspective on climate change, much of our community is in constant contact with our local waters. From the bay and ocean to the creeks in our neighborhoods, there are many opportunities for interacting with the local environment. The number of people in our town, though, impacts the water quality, and many are not aware of the cleanliness of the water they're swimming in. While some places are safe, our club has discovered that some of our local recreational places are not clean. We are still working to figure out the reasons for certain spikes, but in the meantime we warn the community when there are unsafe bacteria levels.

How is your Club responding to those issues? 

The main focus of our club is monitoring water quality with our Blue Water Task Force lab. We have posted water quality advisories in potentially harmful areas and taught students local environmental science. Also, as a club we are trying to do our part to change the future of our planet. As mentioned before, our school already sees the detrimental impacts of climate change. We promote ways for our school to be more environmentally friendly, such as reducing student car traffic, and encourage students to be aware of their own environmental impact.  

What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?  

My highlight from working with Surfrider is the success of our Blue Water Task Force program. We officially started testing at the beginning of this school year, and we have run over 50 successful water quality tests. Our program is entirely student-run, and we are the only public school in our district to have a lab. We’ve been able to warn people of unsafe levels in recreational areas, teach students the science behind water quality, and provide an opportunity for real-life, hands-on lab work. Also, we get to cut class and go to the beach to collect water samples, because actual science is better than sitting at a desk. 

Why is being involved in the Surfrider Foundation important to you? 

The ocean has always been a huge part of my life. I want to do what I can to preserve the coasts, as no life would be the same without it, especially my own. Surfrider has given me a platform to create change in my community. I was unaware of the range of things I could do to help my environment before joining Surfrider, and now I feel like I’m doing my part to make a difference. 

How can we all pitch in to help protect clean water and healthy beaches? 

Ocean conservation is everyone’s responsibility. It is important to be conscious of the waste you create, the ethics of the businesses you buy from, and your role in your community’s environmental impact. All change starts small. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

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