According to its website, the mission of the San Diego Audubon Society is “to shape a culture in San Diego where nature is a common interest of all – where people learn to appreciate, understand, and actively protect the natural world.” As is the case with most naturalist societies, this endeavor requires work on two fronts: conservation (or, if you have the ability, preservation) and education. While I set out on this co-op with the hopes of learning more about resources management and the natural world (and I have found myself educated in these fields, but more on that later), I have found myself increasingly drawn to the education aspect of the Audubon Society.
When I first began volunteering at the Buena Vista Lagoon, I was working with their Audubon Society’s gardening crew, watering plants that needed extra help and picking invasive weeds. That week, another member of the crew took me to Oceanside Elementary School, where I would help dig a bioswale to make their landscape more water efficient. There, I had the opportunity to work with young students and teach them about nature, and I found my passion for educating rekindled.
The month of May has been a heavy one for tour groups at the Buena Vista Lagoon, so I signed up to become a Nature Guide and give trail tours. This has helped me on the conservationist front as well, since becoming a Nature Guide meant learning more about the native plants and ecosystems in Southern California. This has given me several unique opportunities to become a better environmentalist- taking samples of the lagoon water to observe under a microscope, learning the Luiseno Indian Tribe’s uses for native plants, and, because it wouldn’t be the Audubon Society without a focus on birds, learning about different beak adaptations.
While I hope to continue improving my skills as a conservationist going forward, working with the Audubon Society has taught me something I couldn’t learn in a classroom: what I truly desire to do with my work isn’t abstract, and won’t keep me cooped up in labs so I can publish papers. I will do work, actively and positively impacting the environment, and helping spread my enthusiasm for the natural world to others.
*photo credit: San Diego Audubon Society website