One Step at a Time

Marine Biology Club and its gradual process of helping the ocean


Saja Katmeh

The start of something big always begins with one small step. At least, that’s Rocklin High School’s Marine Biology Club’s mentality. Founded two years ago by Mr. Anthony Mertz, this club has evolved from a simple group of ocean-fanatics to students with a purpose.

“When I started this club, my goal was to just find individuals that liked the ocean and give them a place to meet others of similar interests,” said Mr. Mertz. “In terms of action, we didn’t do much, not like we have this year.”

Club President Olivia Diven has been there since the beginning, and she says that the club has changed for the better since their formation.

“We had a wobbly start with the beginning of Marine Biology Club last year,” said Olivia. “It was difficult to coordinate consistent lunch meetings, and the club was very small. I feel like this year we have had some great improvements, like our local watershed cleanups, and many more people joining the club.”

So this year is when the club has truly started making steps towards helping the environment, and it started earlier this year, in October. The club conducted “watershed clean-ups” where they go to a local creek and clean it up. They’ve only done two; one in Breen Elementary School and one in Springview Middle School, but the amount of trash that they have gathered was astounding.

“The fact that people think it’s okay to dump this much trash into the water is exactly why water pollution is so bad today,” said Mr. Mertz. “We only did two so far, but that doesn’t take away the good of what we’ve done.”

Mr. Mertz hopes that one day the club can do something at a larger scale than a local creek, like a beach clean-up (something he’d like to treat as a club field trip), but for now that’s all they can do. Still, that doesn’t stop the club from trying another approach to change, like their ongoing water bottle challenge.

The challenge itself isn’t much, but the intent behind it is impactful. The goal is to refill your hydro-flask as many times as possible without relying on plastic bottles. By relying on hydro-flasks, the number of plastic bottles being used and thrown away will hopefully decline. 

“It’s an indirect approach to cleaning our water,” said Mr. Mertz. “If we can decrease the number of bottles that end up in the ocean, that alone is a huge deal. My only hope is that this challenge becomes school-wide. The more students that participate in this, the more of a change we can make.”

The school filter stations in the gym, theater and front office display the total number of bottles saved, and at the end of the year, the club will tally all the numbers to see just how many bottles they and other students managed to save.

The club hopes that if more people are made aware of their group and their mission, they can make a bigger impact. Olivia and her fellow members are actively working to create a T-shirt that will “get the message across and attract attention to the club.”

That aside, the club is also planning a school-wide campus clean-up that’ll take place on Feb. 6 after school. It is no secret that RHS’s campus gets trashed and the Marine Biology club wants to do something about that.

“This is one way we can raise awareness on campus about cleaning up after ourselves,” said Olivia. “By learning to clean up after ourselves, we’ll learn to keep our trash away from places they don’t belong, like the ocean.”

Despite all that, however, Olivia still hopes to see more improvement and hopefully create something more long-lasting.

“I would love to see the club grow and continue to help keep our planet clean and healthy,” said Olivia. “I also hope to see the club get even more active in our community and hold watershed clean-up events, reaching out to a larger group of people outside of just Rocklin High School.”

But behind all this, the club isn’t just a place to protect the environment, it’s also a place to connect with others and make new friends, as was the original purpose of the club.

“I think [the club is] really important, especially concerning the politics and the environment that we’re in these days,” said senior Grace Birdwell. “I also love that we can get together and have a great time while making our community better. I’m really happy to be here.”

Mr. Mertz is similarly happy with the state of things.

“I love the passion and dedication to what we are learning and the care taken while cleaning up our local watersheds,” said Mr. Mertz. “But more importantly, I see the friendships that are made and how [the club members] all connect, and I cannot ask for more than that.”

Marine Biology Club aims to keep taking small steps in order to achieve a goal bigger than themselves, and if they make good memories along the way, then that’s one thing that will never change.