As a certified California naturalist, conservation is something I care about deeply and I am actively involved in a variety of ways.
I am proud to be a long term volunteer with the Wildlife Conservation Network where I was introduced to the people and projects they manage around the globe.
One of these is Cheetah Conservation Botswana where in 2011 I spent a month at their field operations in the Kalahari. I continue my support by producing their bi-monthly newsletter.
In 2016 I visited Projecto Titi in Colombia where I had the rare opportunity to see and photograph the critically endangered Cotton-top Tamarin in its remaining habitat. Seeing first hand the incredible work and the challenges these organizations face is a privilege indeed and I hope to visit more in the future.
Although it is amazing to visit and see wildlife in exotic locations, it is also important to understand that conservation is just as important in our own back yards. Over the past couple of years or so, I have become involved with Point Blue Conservation Science and their efforts to save the threatened Western Snowy Plover.
I have also been involved for many years with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory both as a volunteer and by participating in their annual photography fundraising event.
Most recently, I have joined the Black Oystercatcher Monitoring Project (BLOY), where I will be observing, photographing and logging behavior throughout the nesting season in the Monterey Bay area.
In recent years I have been visiting the polar regions on a regular basis and this is now becoming a new area of interest, particularly in relation to global warming and the exploitation of natural resources. The impact is very apparent, not only in the changing landscape, but in the wildlife both on land and at sea that is having to somehow adapt and not necessarily in a positive way.
I hope by sharing my work, stories and love of the natural world, others will be inspired to also get involved.
Other organizations I support include: Audubon California, Birdlife International, California State Parks, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Friends of the Sea Otter, KIVA, Land Trust of Santa Cruz, Native Animal Rescue of Santa Cruz County, Return To Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary, Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, Sierra Club, WildCare.
Black Oystercatcher Monitoring Project
It has been several months since I moved to the Monterey Bay area and I am continuing my involvement in local conservation efforts.
One of these is "BLOY" which stands for Black Oystercatcher Monitoring Project. I heard about this while walking along the coast in Pacific Grove and getting into a conversation with a lady who was watching birds.
Black oystercatchers are a species of high conservation concern due to their small population size, low reproductive success and dependence on habitats highly vulnerable to human disturbance. The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife has placed black oystercatchers on a high priority status for further investigation and conservation.
This project’s purpose is to assess the Black Oystercatcher (BLOY) as a Federal Species of Concern by monitoring BLOY habitat and BLOY reproductive success. The monitoring project recruits community science volunteers to assist in the collection and timely reporting of observational data from March through September.
The project is coordinated by Audubon California in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and in conjunction with the US Bureau of Land Management's California Coastal National Monument (CCNM). The project includes collaboration with CA State Parks and the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.
I will be monitoring a potential new site in the Carmel area over the summer months where I have seen quite a bit of bird activity, so we are going to see if there are any signs of nesting behavior and if so, I will then monitor, log and photograph what I see.
Becoming a Sanctuary Steward
As a resident of the central coast of California, I am on the doorstep of one of the planets most amazing natural wonders...Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It is the largest protected ocean area in the continental United States, encompassing 6,094 square miles (15,783 km2) of ocean—from waters north of San Francisco to the southern end of the Big Sur coast.
A unique combination of geology, weather patterns and currents makes it one of the most productive ocean ecosystems on Earth. Each year animals travel thousands of miles just to reach these rich feeding grounds. It's home to 34 species of marine mammals, more than 180 species of seabirds and shorebirds, at least 525 species of fishes, and an abundance of seaweeds.
From a photography perspective, I could not ask for a more beautiful location. However, just like the rest of the planet, there are challenges to face, including the effects of climate change, pollution and development. My personal experience to date has been pollution and trash on the beaches. Every time I venture out I am picking up something, whether that is cigarette butts or plastic waste of some sort. This all ends up in the ocean and in many cases in the stomachs of wild animals and birds.
Having been previously involved with Save our Shores donating my time as an event photographer, I decided to revisit what they do and see if there was something else I could do during those times when I am not traveling. I came across their Sanctuary Steward program and decided to sign up for their four week training. I learned a great deal about the unique and fragile ecosystem in Monterey Bay, climate change and the ongoing problem of trash and pollutants entering the ocean. We were schooled in the various ways we can host and participate in events to educate the public and were asked to make a commitment as far as our time. We were also encouraged to sign up for an upcoming event where we can see first hand how they are run. My initial interest lies in the beach clean ups and I am looking forward to hosting one in my particular part of Monterey in the near future.
To learn more about how you can get involved and their Sanctuary Steward Program, visit here.
Conservation in Costa Rica
For the past several years or so, I have been a volunteer with the Wildlife Conservation Network and each year attend their annual expo in San Francisco. It is a wonderful and rewarding way to not only contribute in some way to conservation, but to also meet with some of the amazing people who have dedicated their lives to to saving wildlife around the globe.
Since I will be heading to Costa Rica in mid-November with UnCruise on their Unveiled Wonders tour, I felt it only appropriate to visit and chat with Germán Sibaja, the founder of the MESO American Rescue Center which is located in Chilamate, Costa Rica.
Costa Rica accounts for only 0.03 percent of the earth's surface, yet it contains nearly 6 percent of the world's biodiversity. Sadly, it has over 100 species on the endangered species list, many of which are listed as critically endangered due to deforestation, human development, unsustainable fishing and hunting practices, poaching, and the illegal pet trade. While amazing efforts are being made to protect the native wildlife and diverse ecosystems, the future of many species is uncertain.
Although the center is relatively new at less than three years in operation, I learned from Germán about the amazing work and commitment the center has to rescuing and rehabilitating the native birds and wildlife in Costa Rica. These are some of the amazing creatures I hope to both see and photograph and as a visitor, knowing that they are faced with many challenges to their survival, makes me want to share not only their beauty, but their plight, as is the case with so many wild species around the globe.
The center also promotes animal welfare including a spay/neuter program in the communities that surround Costa Rica's nature reserves. Feral dogs and cats are an issue as they both injure and kill the native wildlife. Other programs include animal crossings signs, reforestation by planting trees, school education programs and some wonderful volunteer opportunities.
I really enjoyed meeting Germán and learning about the commitment to his beautiful home and its non-human inhabitants. I have no doubt in his success and I truly wish him all the best!