Backyard Science

The value of the Academy's studies in threatened areas of China, Myanmar, and the Galápagos Islands
cannot be overstated. But some of our most important research is going on right under our noses. Work at Mountain Lake is turning science students into student-scientists.

Arial view of Mountain Lake
Arial view of Mountatin Lake

In a corner of the Presidio is Mountain Lake, one of the few natural freshwater lakes in San Francisco-and a perfect outdoor laboratory. Jack Laws and Joseph Kinyon of the Academy's education department bring area students there to conduct research: they assess water quality, monitor zooplankton and bird diversity, and observe reptile and amphibian activity. Participants learn how (and why) to observe carefully and collect data; then, how to use these data to evaluate the lake's health.

Human activity has harmed Mountain Lake. It used to be over 30 feet deep. But fill from construction in the surrounding area was dumped into the lake, and today it is only nine feet deep and roughly half its original size. Additionally, runoff from the neighboring road and golf course and invasion by nonnative species continue to plague the lake ecosystem.

The student-scientists will continue to provide necessary information to restore the lake and return a thriving natural community to our backyard.

Caption for Photo of Mt. Lake Our work at the lake is part of the Mountain Lake Enhancement Project, which is managed by the Golden Gate National Parks Association, National Park Service, and Presidio Trust. City College of San Francisco, California State University of San Francisco and the following area schools participate: Kittredge Elementary, University High, Wallenberg High, Presidio Middle School Girls Science Club, and Galileo Academy of Science and Technology

students take sample near lake
Two students take samples near the lake.


example from student notebook
Example from student notebook.