Kevin Garcia Lopez

Kevin Garcia Lopez

Saturday, 15 June 2019 06:57

El Amenazado Chorlo Nevado

Chorlo nevado (Charadrius nivosus) or western snowy plover in English is a small shorebird that is distributed in the Western coast of North America. Unfortunately, the snowy plovers have been on the threatened list since 1993 due to poor reproductive success that is caused by a great number of disturbances. Threats include high human activity (potentially have caused an increase in predators) in breeding sites and alterations in these sites due to effects of the invasive European beachgrass (A. arenaria) introduced to stabilize sand dunes. Snowy plovers nest from March through September (during the highly visited Spring and Summer seasons). To protect the nesting plovers and their nests and potentially improve breeding success, Point Reyes National Seashore closes beaches that are known as suitable breeding habitats and where nests are observed. In spite of all the efforts to protect the nesting plovers, significant amount of nest failures have been recorded; mostly because of predation by common ravens.

On Monday June 10, 2019, I had the opportunity to perform a snowy plover nest survey with wildlife biologist Matt Lau (who ironically happens to be a Humboldt State graduate!). We walked about 2.5 miles along the beach (from Abbotts Lagoon to North Beach) and we surveyed the coast (using a line transect sampling design) where we carefully looked for snowy plovers and nests. The weather at this location, especially early in the morning tends to be cool, windy and foggy. However, the weather had different plans and we were exposed to humid and sunny conditions throughout the entire survey; coupled with the tough to walk-on sand. We did not find a nest or plovers during the first 40 to 50 minutes of the survey. It was hot, my backpack felt heavier with each step and my feet seemed to sink deeper and deeper into the sand. This reminded me of my only experience as a field biologist during my class study for my wildlife techniques class. In which I walked in muddy, steep and extremely vegetated areas in the Arcata Community Forest as I looked for sites to place artificial nests. This is what field research is all about, but instead of complaining about the conditions the entire experience is worth the sweat, sand-filled shoes, muddy pants—it’s all worth it because the data that is collected can potentially help threatened animals such as the snowy plover.

Image 1: Taking notes on the preferred snowy plover nesting sites; wider beaches.

Shortly after the initial 50 minutes, Matt spotted a pair of plovers that I completely missed with my poor binocular surveying technique. When I said that snowy plovers were small, I meant it (they also blend in well). After pointing out the location of the pair, Matt carefully scanned the area to look for a potential nest, but we could not find one. He also pointed out that the female looked larger, likely because it was close to laying an egg. We continued surveying the beach and we were fortunate to see a few more individuals and we even spotted two tiny plover chicks towards the end (major highlight).

I should note that it’s necessary to share with you that we found a failed nest site that had been observed to have two eggs. We ran across multiple common raven (we observed a significant amount of ravens during the entire survey) tracks in the area and eventually we also found the cracked shells of the snowy plover eggs. The sight of the failed nest took the air out of the moment. It was extremely sad because we had knowledge that more failed nests have occurred this year than failed nest observed last year (and it’s only June). I have seen lots of injured and dead wild animals due to my volunteering experience at the California Wildlife Experience (it’s always sad even though I am accustomed), but seeing the remains of the predated nest provided me with the reality of being a wildlife biologist.

Image 2: Snowy plover depredated egg shells.

It is more obvious to me now why wildlife biology is a difficult career. Dealing with the climate is a challenge. Dealing with the hours of collecting and analyzing data is a challenge. Identifying the best methods to perform your research is a challenge. Developing a hypothesis is difficult. Writing reports based on your findings is a challenge. Observing the remains of the predated eggs of a threatened species was a life changing experience. This blog was titled: something I learned—not only did I learn how a survey for snowy plovers is conducted, I learned a lot about the species and I also learned that I want to continue pursuing a career in this field. It’s worth it.

I must thank my supervisor, Ranger Arreglo for making this experience possible. I would also like to thank wildlife biologist Matt Lau for sharing his infinite knowledge and for  allowing me to get my feet wet (sandy!) in field research—he is a professional. Last but not least, I would like to thank my wildlife techniques professor Dan Barton for everything I learned in his class (and for his inspiring words on field biology during the 311class trip) and thank you to my inspiring ornithology professor Mark Colwell whose passion for snowy plovers (and all birds) is unmatched.


Wednesday, 05 June 2019 06:11

Mi Proyecto

I am an Interpretation and Outreach Assistant at Point Reyes National Seashore. It is important to include the Interpretive Mission Statement at Point Reyes National Park:

“To educate and inspire people to appreciate the importance of our natural and cultural history, to foster responsible land stewardship and conservation practices in our daily lives to protect the natural balance for the future”.

One of my tasks through this internship is to assist visitors at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. This role requires knowledge of the area and the resources available throughout the park. At the front desk of the visitor center, I am responsible for pointing out trails, the best places to observe wildlife, monitor weather conditions and provide safety measures. In addition, I provide information about the natural and cultural history of the park. I am responsible for providing the best information by assessing the specific needs of each visitor and their party. This position is amazing because it always encourages me to learn everyday since it is my goal to provide the best guidance and education as possible; to ensure that the visitors have a wonderful, an educational and safe experience during their stay. My confidence as an interpreter has grown and grows each day. I gain so much joy after every interaction with each visitor because I am in a position that allows me to connect people to the natural environment.

This internship will also provide me with the opportunity to work alongside field biologist. This upcoming year, I will complete my degree at Humboldt State University where I will be earning a Bachelor's degree in Wildlife Biology and Conservation (applied vertebrate ecology). My overall goal is to become a field biologist and conduct studies with the purpose of conservation of wildlife and their habitat. Point Reyes has a variety of field biologist who will allow me to shadow and oversee their projects with snowy plovers, spotted owls, marine mammals and fish. My project for this portion of the internship is to gain experience by observing their field methods for data collection, understanding their hypothesis and predictions, understanding how they assess their data and the implication of their results. I recently took a wildlife techniques course that focuses on field research. Now, I will have the opportunity to fully understand the knowledge I gained from the course, especially since it is applied directly to animals that are either endangered or threatened. Another project I am responsible for is to build meaningful business relationships with the biologists in order to gain opportunities to work under their guidance on projects in the future.

My number one project, however, falls under the outreach and interpretation categories of the internship. I plan to organize and conduct the activities during Latino Conservation Week here at the park in July. As you may know by now, my goal is to connect people (who do not typically have much access to our public lands) to our natural resources. I want to inspire people who share my background to take full advantage of these wonderful natural resources. I want to inspire them to pursue careers in biological sciences and simply allow them to realize that these resources are available to them as well. I personally did not visit a National Park until I was about 19 and my first visit had a life changing impact in my life. My connection and interest in naturals sciences emerged from animal documentaries and similar shows in television, but thanks to my visit to Yosemite National Park, I felt even more inspired to work hard to pursue a career in this field. Now I have the beautiful opportunity to make this connection possible for other people. My goal is to work with organizations that will allow me to bring Latinos to the park (especially those that have not had the opportunity to visit a National Park). I am currently planning the activities that will take place, but I can confirm that I will be leading hikes where I will provide information about the local wildlife, vegetation, the ecosystem and the ecology. I will likely conduct these hikes in both Spanish and English to cultivate a welcoming relationship among nature and the visitors. Along with the my scientific approach, I also intend on sharing a brief cultural history of Point Reyes due to the crucial nature of understanding and gaining the knowledge of the events that have shaped our history. The activities I will be responsible for conducting will be very inclusive to everyone, and my goal is to build a sense of belonging and togetherness among each other and our land. I am extremely fortunate that I have the opportunity to inspire people and I will do my very best to offer a great experience to everyone.

Muchas gracias colegas. 

Wednesday, 05 June 2019 04:33

Point Reyes National Seashore - MY Worksite

My worksite may have the word "seashore" in its title, however Point Reyes National Seashore encompasses so much more: a wide variety of ecosystems molded by ongoing abiotic factors, such as the weather and geology.

Regardless, it’s appropriate to begin by talking about the seashore. The seashore itself is made up multiple beaches with amazing rock formations, sandstone peaks and intertidal zones. The water is far from warm and it follows the trend in which the Pacific Ocean’s water decreases in temperature as latitude increases. As an interpreter, I should note that Point Reyes represents the foggiest place in the continental United States and is also the second most windiest place—so feel free to leave the swimsuits at home and layer up if you decide to visit (it can be warm, but the it cools down dramatically). The seashore is home to a diverse collection of wildlife. I wish I could list all of them along with their genus and species (for my taxonomy enthusiasts), but these are a few that I have observed so far in the beach: snowy plovers, brown pelicans, cormorants, sea lions, and the one of the most famous and highly requested animals, the elephant seals.

As you move inland (West to East), you can find grasslands, estuaries, sand dunes (not as monumental as those we encountered in Mojave), forests, wetlands. In its entirety, Point Reyes is dream come true for the botanist, the geologist, the zoologist (mammalogist, herpetologist and ornithologist); it’s a paradise for every member of your party. I have been at the park (“seashore”) for a week a now and I have hiked at least one mile each day at different settings—it’s a natural sensory-overload. I have heard about million notes sung by the passerines. I have observed countless of flowers, shrubs (I can lead you to poison oak city with towering buildings of hemlock), and conifers. I have been fortunate to see hawks with rabbits in their talons, I had brief encounter with a long-tailed weasel and this place has as many deers and fawns as Los Angeles has pigeons. Everything is a highlight in this place and when visitors ask for wildlife I always recommend them to explore the Tule elk reserve (a subspecies of the elk that occurs in Humboldt county).

Point Reyes is a whole lot of everything. If you plan on visiting make sure you stay for a few days to explore and experience all the ecosystems and its organisms this place has to offer. When you visit, I highly recommend you to make a quick stop at the Bear Valley Visitor Center since it has an amazing display of all the ecosystems of the area and the staff will certainly provide you with the best available information.

Point Reyes is a mosaic of nature.

Hasta la próxima colegas.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019 14:28

Kevin Garcia Lopez

I was raised in Los Angeles California, but I currently live in Arcata, a small city located in the northern coast of California. I am a junior at Humboldt State University working on a Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife Biology and Applied Vertebrate Ecology. It has always been my goal to work with animals since I was young; mainly inspired by countless visits to zoos and through the art of animal documentaries. My passion for the environment and its organisms grew exponentially during the last ten years; thanks to exposure to National Parks and a volunteer opportunity at a wildlife center where I gained experience rehabilitating wildlife. My career goal is to become a field biologist, where I hope to work with endangered species, engage in wildlife management, and find ways to mitigate the effects of urbanization. Another career goal is to introduce science to people of different backgrounds to inspire them to pursue a career in the field or simply to spark an interest that will connect them to our natural treasures—I’m thankful this internship will allow me to engage in activities to make this connection possible.