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Student Activist Spotlight: Annalia Henderson With the South Bay Blue Water Task Force

Meet Annalia Henderson with the South Bay Blue Water Task Force Teach and Test program

Annalia is a freshman from Palos Verdes High School, and recently conducted an independent research project using South Bay BWTF past results to look at how marshes and other natural systems are important to improving water quality and safety. Annalia entered this research project into the Palos Verdes School District Science Fair, for which she received first place in Environmental Engineering. Annalia is passionate about ocean conservation, playing in her school's orchestra, and hanging out with her pufferfish.

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

I learned about the Surfrider Foundation from my high school science teacher, Mrs. Maemoto, when asking for research opportunities involving the preservation of our aquatic ecosystems. I talked to many groups including the Cabrillo Aquarium and the Surfrider Foundation. At Surfrider, I met Mary, the co-chair of the Teach and Test initiative,  who explained the mystery of high bacterial levels in the Ballona Wetlands. I was intrigued and saw an opportunity to use Blue Water Task Force’s data to find the missing pieces to this puzzle.

Q: What is your favorite subject or activity in school and why?

My favorite subject in school is music; I play the cello in our orchestra. I love creating music and then sharing it with audiences in concerts and in adult senior living homes. Along with the cello, I also enjoy jamming on the piano and gayageum (a traditional Korean harp).

Student Activist Annalia Henderson playing the Gayageum, a traditional Korean harp

Q: What did you most enjoy about your water quality research project with the South Bay Chapter’s Blue Water Task Force?

I enjoyed sharing my findings with others most of all, especially in interactive presentations, such as the Palos Verdes Science Fair and the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair. I shared the impact of my research findings with the Blue Water Task Force and Surfrider investigators and with the West Basin Water District Board of Directors.

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

Though storm drains clear away excess water during floods, they also carry pollutants right into the wetlands which lead into the ocean. The level of pollution correlates with high levels of bacterial counts recorded by the Ballona Wetlands Water Sampling Teach & Test Team.


Above: Annalia made this great short film that highlights her study of the Ballona Wetlands.

Q: What inspires you to be active in ocean conservation?

My passion for marine conservation stems from my love of swimming, paddleboarding in dolphin-filled waves, snorkeling, and caring for my pet puffer fish. While spending time in our local waters, I realized that the quality of the water has a direct influence on our health. This winter, beaches were closed because of excessive urban runoff into the ocean after heavy rains. I was saddened that even in our environmentally friendly state, our ocean water is so polluted that at times it is not safe for people to enjoy recreating in. While engaged in the Science Research Program at my school, I realized that by highlighting the importance of improving water quality in the Ballona Wetlands in improving water quality, I could make a positive impact on my communities efforts to protect our local aquatic ecosystems.

Q: What are some ways everyone can pitch in and help to protect clean water at the coast?

To keep our waters clean we must engage at multiple levels. As individuals, we can bring a friend with us when we participate in beach cleanups and encourage them to join the Surfrider Foundation Teach &Test program. Together we can engineer solutions, such as the Ballona Freshwater Marsh, which was engineered to purify urban runoff or the solar-powered, Interceptor 007 boat that was deployed at the mouth of the Ballona Creek to reduce the amount of trash that enters our ocean. Lastly, we can join the efforts of the Surfrider Foundation when they annually go to Washington, D.C. to motivate legislators to take action to promote and protect water quality.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

One challenge I have faced during my research is limited access to local data. Though cities and counties routinely monitor local water quality, most of their records are not readily accessible to the public. My research and findings are based on the widely accessible data from the Surfrider Foundation. This data is invaluable and presents a great opportunity for science and environmental enthusiasts to dig in and make a difference!

Student Activist Annalia Henderson With the South Bay Blue Water Task Force


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