Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Careful Inventory

A Careful Inventory

The wind and waves roared on Asilomar Beach as the teen scientists carefully measured with calipers the dozens of tiny sand crabs they had dug up from the beach.  First a little squeamish, by the end of the afternoon the five teams were enthusiastically collecting, counting, measuring, determining gender, and recording data.  All for the glory of God.

I’m back to writing about Blue Theology, after returning home to our house mercifully unburnt by the Soberanes Fire.  Thanks for all good wishes and prayers.

When I last wrote about our ocean ministry, on July 20, I told of our week of hosting 90 teens from Central Coast Catholic parishes who live in migrant labor camps.  How their Blue Theology backpacks identified them as pilgrims following God’s call to ocean stewardship and spirituality.  The pic showed a group spending the morning at the Aquarium.

Each afternoon we walked back to the church, got on the school bus and rode to Asilomar Beach for the “serving” part of our “learning/serving” day.  Sometimes our groups do beach cleanups or native plant restoration, but today we affirmed that God loves research (“God gave us brains for a reason and is glad when we use them” is how I put it) and our mission project was “citizen science.”

In particular we were trained by the great folks at LiMPETS ( “Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students”) on how to survey the distribution and abundance of Pacific sand crabs.  Scientists call these tiny herbivores an “indicator species” because they indicate a beach ecosystem’s health. We learned how to identify male and female crabs, measure them and distinguish moms with eggs.  Females like this one in the picture lay 45,000 eggs each year and live for 2-3 years.  Our good baseline data will help other scientists studying the effects of oil spills or ocean acidification on invertebrates and ecosystems.  LiMPETS has trained thousands of students to collect this data up and down California’s coast in partnership with National Marine Sanctuaries.  

So we had fun, did the research and ran around on the sand.  But as we returned to the church for the closing worship to be led by the Diocesan staff, I had a nagging worry that we had not made explicit the connection between measuring sand crabs and giving glory to God.

The religious education staff person leading worship used quotations from Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and climate change, “Laudato Si.”  She had students come forward and read.  One was:

“Because all creatures are connected each must be cherished with love and respect for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.  Each area is responsible for the care of this family.  This will require undertaking a careful inventory of the species which it hosts, with the view to developing programs and strategies of protection with particular care for safeguarding species heading towards extinction.”

There was the connection!  We had made “a careful inventory!” This “indicator species” was indicating that it was part of a common family of mutually dependent living creatures.  God loves sand crabs and is happy when we do too.  I once heard NIH Director/geneticist and Evangelical Christian Dr. Francis Collins say that doing research was for him a form of worship. Data and sand crabs, for the glory of God.

( for info on our learning/service groups – openings still for late summer and fall.)

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