“Right Back Where We Started From”

Since the start of this position in April, I have delved head first into the monarch world and have had the privilege of gaining different perspectives of what it means to be an environmental steward! I have been working with Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) on all fronts: science/research, habitat, and education.

NAMI Training 

Over a weekend in early May, I attended the North American Monarch Institute (NAMI) training in San Diego Safari Park and began my journey with the educational aspect of conservation. It was a remarkable seminar focused on community science encouraging all ages, however, the majority of participants were teachers (K-12). 

This event was truly a one of a kind experience where I got the chance to meet lovely educators from all over. The NAMI training far exceeded my expectations for my professional development but also in my personal life. Professionally, this seminar exposed me to great techniques to teach the importance of conservation to the public in a fun, yet informative way; and helped me solidify my knowledge of monarchs and their migration. Personally, the connections I made were quite impactful as it sparked a passion I hadn’t quite realized I had.

Here, I met these wonderful women who are rangers from Terra Peninsular from Baja California, MX. This was my first time speaking with international professionals from my career field, who also happen to share my culture, and so I was beyond ecstatic! We got to do a bit of a language exchange resulting in my awareness of the value of communicating science in both of my languages. As a woman of Mexican descent, it was inspiring to see our representation in this field and made me realize the importance of connecting back to my culture within my career. For so long, my culture and work were independent events since I had never gotten the opportunity to share my career interests with other Spanish speakers outside of my family. Now, I faced the challenge of incorporating conservation vocabulary into my native tongue, which before then, was unimaginable. So, networking at NAMI fueled a desire to lean into international partnerships to study our natural world as one community, especially for migratory species like the monarchs that don’t believe in borders or language barriers. 

Working on BLM

I have since had the chance to expand my expertise in the science and habitat fields through milkweed and general plant identification through completing monitoring protocols for the monarch butterfly, at the San Joaquin River Gorge, with some of my peers from MJV.  I briefly joined them here on a hunt for milkweed, which was more successful than imagined! We found a considerably sized population of Purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) just beginning to bloom. This native CA milkweed species is especially of interest since it has proved difficult to propagate in nurseries, so it was exciting to collaborate with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) scientists on this endeavor. 

EFTA Cohort Training

Finally, I gathered all these experiences to share with the rest of the on boarding 2023 EFTA intern cohort, where I got to put my teaching skills into practice. The last week of May we all gathered at the Audubon Center at Debs Park in Los Angeles. It was an incredible time getting to know all of my peers and an honor to work alongside our coordinator Carina Ruiz to help train these talented ladies! We enjoyed our time together discussing our careers and had a series of sentimental conversations about conservation within our cultures and their roles as stewards of the land. 

Outside of Debs, we continued our expedition of hunting for monarchs and milkweed in an urban area, applying the monitoring protocols to this type of setting, and exploring the Natural History Museum of LA (NHMLA). To my surprise, we found milkweed, an adult monarch and a chrysalis! At this point, I felt I had come full circle because growing up in Southern California, my family often frequented this area (Exposition Park) where I got to explore as a little scientist. However, I never imagined I’d return after so many years to the place where it all began; but now with my degree and as I kick-started my career!

A Bit of Leisure

I ended this saga by visiting the Safari Park with the tickets I received from the NAMI training where I got to have some leisurely time but most importantly, I got to share a part of my career with my family as I was able to guide them through the lens of a naturalist. The highlight of this trip was unexpectedly finding monarch caterpillars in their 4th and 5th instars ready to begin their transformation. Beforehand, I had never seen a monarch caterpillar in person and it was a treat to see so many! Seeing all these caterpillars was really the icing on the cake, as I finally saw the monarch in all its life stages, finally completing the circle. And much like the monarch, I was ready to take flight into my career. 

It’s been a good summer so far!

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