Throughout the months of January and February the Marine Science Institute’s research vessel will be taking 5th grade students from the Contra Costa County into their local Delta water system. These students will get an up close and personal look into local creatures (native and non-native).
Let us take a look at a native fish called the delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus). This tiny fish is endemic to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River watershed, which means they live nowhere else on earth. They are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment, of which there have been many. Levees, water diversion, farming, and increasing salinity levels have all contributed to a decline in the delta smelt population over time. In 1993, they were put on the endangered species list. Efforts to protect the delta smelt are sometimes seen as being at odds with other important things that local residents rely on the delta for – such as drinking water and farming irrigation. It’s a good example of what a challenge it can be to strike a balance between the needs of a watershed’s human and non-human residents. MSI students learn about the stresses on Delta Smelts but because of the smelts status are unable to get up close and personal.