After waking up to thankfully hear the fires have not reached San Diego (and not needing to flee in the night) my second host in San Diego (and past NRMTS scholar) Haroun dropped me off at Gunpowder Point where I met with both the Living Coast Discovery Centre and US Fish and Wildlife Service. I got there good and early and awaited the shuttle bus to the centre. Due to the sensitive saltmarsh habitats, people are not allowed to drive onto the reserve itself, and instead a shuttle takes you from the car park to the centre. After being greeted by Elizabeth from the LCDC I am introduced to Chantel from USFWS.
Chantel and I discuss their new mission to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment. By engaging young people in hands-on service to the land as well as helping to facilitate school groups to visiting the Living Coast Discovery Centre. They have been working with partner NGO groups to engage work school kids and to reach a more diverse audience. Another big push within the USFWS is to create more urban refuges as they have the unique proximal natural resources to help children experience nature as the supporting fabric of their everyday lives.
The Chulla Vista department was a recipient of one of the grants to help support the growth of this urban scheme, Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. This approach is similar to the Wildlife In The City program that Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has, aimed at helping people to experience Wildlife on Their Doorstep (http://www.wildlifeinthecity.org/).
After a great discussion and my first stamp in my ‘blue goose passport’ (only 564 more to go!) I meet back up with Elizabeth to talk about the LCDC part of the school education programs. The really cool thing about this place is that the aquarium is home to mostly native species, giving people a chance to see the wildlife that is around them in the water. There is also a big emphasis on the impacts we have on the water system with lots of information on the watershed. The centre has 30000 schoolchildren come through a year from all different grades of school, with tailored programs to fit their level and curriculum. Thank you so much to both Elizabeth, Chantel and the rest of the people I met at both places!