Penn Serves LA Restores the Ballona Wetlands

By Michelle Wattana, C’09

Penn Serves LA at the Ballona Wetlands

Penn Serves LA at the Ballona Wetlands

It was a terrific day all around for the environment, community, and the twenty-six Penn volunteers who came out to help preserve native vegetation with Friends of Ballona Wetlands in Marina Del Rey! Donning hats and sunscreen, we started the morning off with a quick but informative overview on the local plants, insects, and animals found in the wetlands that are crucial to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. We learned that over the last century, invasive plant species have made their way into the wetlands (some from as far as New Zealand and South Africa!), slowly encroaching upon the beneficial species and detrimentally altering the balance of the local ecosystem. With every plant we pulled, we were going to make change that had positive lasting impacts!  And with that, we set out into the sunny outdoors to make way for the native plants that needed room to thrive, and for the insects and animals that depended on them.

Penn Serves LA Restores Ballona Wetland Acres of Vegetation to Preserve

Acres of Vegetation to Preserve

The Ballona Wetlands spans approximately 800 acres, and is one of Southern California’s precious remaining aquatic ecosystems. With only 10% of California’s original wetlands remaining today, restoration and preservation of local, beneficial species is more important than ever, as the wetlands are crucial to everything from air purification, flood protection, and fueling for the 240+ species of migrant birds that make the trek on the Pacific Flyway every year. Since 1978, Friends of Ballona Wetlands has been leading the effort to save and restore the area, working with environmental agencies, businesses, and over 95,000 volunteers to bring attention and resources toward preserving the wetlands.

Penn Serves LA Restores Ballona Wetlands volunteers learn to recognize invasive plants

Volunteers learning how to recognize invasive plants

Penn Serves LA Restores Ballona Wetlands

Penn Serves LA Restores Ballona Wetlands - family volunteering

Volunteering a family affair!

With just a pair of gloves each, Penn volunteers got right to work, pulling everything from ice plants to soft tumbleweed – adults and children alike had a great time helping the environment and getting to know one another better, while also receiving a nice morning workout! We took turns pulling, bagging, and carting off the invasive vegetation, and a few of us were lucky enough to catch sight of a hummingbird or butterfly, or two!

Penn Serves LA Restores Ballona Wetlands - smiles during break

All smiles during a well deserved break!

Penn Serves LA Restores Ballona Wetlands

Penn Serves LA board member Jane Gutman CW’73 and volunteers stacking the fruits of their labor

Penn Serves LA board member Jane Gutman CW’73 and volunteers stacking the fruits of their labor

Towards the end of the event, we stood back and marveled at our work – a good chunk of land was cleared for beneficial plants to thrive, and for seeding to take place in the Fall. We were then rewarded with a cool breeze and a beautiful view overlooking the salt marsh, reminding us just how important it is to keep the wetlands thriving. It was a true pleasure to do our part for mother nature!

Penn Serves LA restores Ballona Wetlands

The beautiful salt marsh

Penn Serves LA's Michal Clements, W'84, Jane Gutman, CW'73, XXX, and Michelle Wattana C'09

Penn Serves LA’s Michal Clements, W’84, Jane Gutman, CW’73, Elizabeth Gourlis, GED’08, and Michelle Wattana C’09 (impressive line-up of Penn attire ladies!)

Jane Gutman, CW'73, helps to clear out invasive vegetation

Jane Gutman, CW’73, helps to clear out invasive vegetation

Stay tuned for more fun, upcoming events with Penn Serves LA!

About Penn Serves LA

Penn Serves LA logo volunteering with Penn Alumni in Los Angeles

Penn Serves LA impacts the Los Angeles community by engaging University of Pennsylvania alumni, parents and families in meaningful community service activities.

Since our founding in 2012, we have done everything from serving meals to the homeless to restoring the environment to fixing homes. Six times annually, we find another great opportunity to learn about interesting nonprofits, lend a hand and enjoy fun experience with fellow alumni.

Join Us

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Stay tuned for additional fall events which will be announced soon!

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Michal Clements, W’84 | Justin Gordon, W’05 | Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Jamie Kendall, W’04 | Irene Park, C’05 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Jeff Weston, C’05 | Michelle Wattana, C’09 | Denise Winner, W’83

Read about our previous events:


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Filed under Guest blogger, Los Angeles, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA

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