Diversity in the Environmental Movement

“Pueden contestar en Español” a burst of hands go up as suddenly, students who were too shy to participate, began to raise their hands in excitement. I felt so proud to see so many children proud and enthusiastic about speaking Spanish. At the end of our program Lily and I handed out pamphlets about the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in both Spanish and English. So many of the students asked for the pamphlet in Spanish that we actually ran out!

Learning how to do the Furs and Skulls lesson...after we had already taught it six times!

Learning how to do the Furs and Skulls lesson…after we had already taught it six times!

Going to these classes and teaching in both languages really warmed my heart. Growing up, I had a hard time in school because I didn’t speak English very well. I felt a lot of pressure to assimilate, and began to be a little ashamed of my culture and heritage. It’s been a long process to shake that feeling and be proud of myself and all the hard work my parents went through to be where I am now. Therefore, I was so relieved and thankful that the teachers at Harvey Scott work with such diverse students and encourage understanding about different cultures.

I’ve also had the great fortune to meet members of EPOC (Environmental Professionals of Color.) It is important, across different movements, for people of color (POC) to have a space to meet and talk. When I was in Los Angeles, I was involved in a group called LAFemmesofColor that shared similar sentiments about needing a space that was just for them. It is such an amazing experience  to be able to meet other people who share your same interests, understand some of your struggles, and have a similar cultural background, to work on problems in our communities.

I’m immensely grateful to be a part of these conversations. Meeting everyone has inspired me to continue thinking about how race and culture intersect with, and affect our relationships in the environmental movement.

Las Aves de Cali- Colombia (The birds of Cali- Colombia)

(La traducción al Español está por debajo de la sección en Inglés)

Living in Cali- Colombia is an opportunity that I am happy to have experienced in my life. As someone born and raised in Los Angeles Cali-fornia, the city life is something that I am very familiar with, but unlike Los Angeles, in the city of Cali you wake up to the sound of wild parrots flying overhead each morning! When I recently arrived I was puzzled to hear an unfamiliar call each night, I thought to myself that it was strange that a bird would be calling/singing at night. To my surprise, I was told it was not a bird- it was a non-native gecko (Lepididactylus lugubris)! Since then, I try to catch a glimpse of the little geckos, but they are very shy and my excitement for them is not appreciated.


The first bird that I identified from outside my host families living room window was the very noisy great kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus). The great kiskadee is a large flycatcher, a very beautiful and common bird here in Cali. Just like the varied thrushes’ songs bring my nostalgia for my time in Cordova- Alaska, I know the sound of the great kiskadee will be the bird that reminds me of my time here in the city of Cali. Aside from the great kisadee, there are numerous other species that I have never seen in my life that I frequently observe in the city, as I walk to work at the Calidris Associations office. The ruddy ground dove (Columbina talpacoti) is a small New World tropical dove that fascinates me every time I see it. Not only because it reminds me of the doves of my city, but due to its size! These little doves, just like the least sandpipers I saw in Cordova, trigger an amusement due to their size, measuring about 17 cm (~6.7 in) in length! Other common birds that I see in the city are blue-gray tanagers (Thraupis episcopus), saffron finchs (Sicalis flaveola), vermilion flycatchers (Pyrocephalus rubinus), and smooth-billed anis (Crotophaga ani)


It’s a whole new ball game when you step out of the city. I had the opportunity to do so this weekend and wow, I am speechless! The amount of diversity and beauty exceeds that of my childhood dreams. My dreams that were derived from books and documentaries based in Colombia- South America were now my reality. Accompanying me was Jeisson who works as a biological field technician with Calidris and is an amazing birder, and Jo Se a biologist and friend of Jeisson’s. Throughout our 7 hour birding adventure Jeisson made sure to document all of our bird encounters. We came to a total of 62 species, of which 61 of these species were new to me (lifers). I share with you a few photographs that I took of my lifers:

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Thank you for reading and stay tuned to hear about my adventure with Calidris during their first every Rail Rally in Colombia!

Rally flyer



Poder vivir en la ciudad de Cali – Colombia es una experiencia que me hace feliz. Como alguien nacida y criada en Los Angeles California, la vida de la ciudad es algo con que estoy muy familiarizada pero, a diferencia de Los Angeles, ¡en la ciudad de Cali me despierto con el grito de los loros silvestres volando sobre la casa cada mañana! Cuando recién llegué me quedé perpleja al escuchar una llamada extraña cada noche, me dije a mí misma ¿que será ese extraño pájaro que canta cada noche? Pero para mi sorpresa, me dijeron que no era un pájaro, ¡era una lagartija (Lepididactylus lugubris) que no son nativas a Colombia! Desde entonces, intento mirar a las pequeñas lagartijas, pero son muy tímidas y mi emoción no es apreciada por ellas.


La primer ave que identifique desde la ventana de la primera familia que me adoptó durante mi pasantía (Fernando y Diana) fue el muy ruidoso Pitangus sulphuratus. Pitangus sulphuratus es un gran atrapamoscas, muy hermoso y un ave común aquí en Cali. Al igual que la canción de Ixoreus naevius que me trae nostalgia de mi tiempo en Cordova, Alaska, sé que el llamado de Pitangus sulphuratus será el ave que me recordará de mi aventura aquí en Cali. Aparte de Pitangus sulphuratus, hay muchas otras especies que nunca he visto en mi vida que se observan con frecuencia en la ciudad y durante el camino a la oficina de la Asociación Calidris. Columbina talpacoti, es una pequeña paloma/tortolita del nuevo mundo tropical que me fascina cada vez que la veo. No sólo porque me recuerda a las palomas/tortolitas de mi ciudad, sino también por su tamaño. Estas pequeñas palomas/tortolitas al igual que Calidris minutilla que vi en Cordova, desencadenan una admiración debido a su tamaño de 17 cm (6.7 pulgadas) de longitud. Otras aves comunes que he visto en la ciudad son Thraupis episcopus, Sicalis flaveola, Pyrocephalus rubinus y Crotophaga ani.


Es completamente diferente al salir de la ciudad. Tuve la oportunidad de vivirlo este fin de semana, y ¡guau, no tengo palabras para explicarlo! La cantidad de diversidad y belleza supera a la de mis sueños de infancia. Mis sueños que derivan de los libros y documentales basados en Colombia – Sur de América son ahora mi realidad. Durante este viaje de aventura para observar aves me acompañó Jeisson, quien trabaja como biólogo con Calidris y es un increíble pajarero, también fue Jo Sé un biólogo que es amigo de Jeisson. Durante nuestra aventura de siete horas, Jeisson registró todas las aves que observamos. Llegando a un total de 62 especies, de las cuales ¡61 eran nuevas para mí (lifer)! Comparto con ustedes algunas fotografías que he tomado de mis “lifers”:


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¡Muchas gracias por leer y continúen atentos para aprender sobre mi aventura con Calidris durante el primer Rally de Rálidos en Colombia!
Rally flyer


Alamosa’s First Shorebird Festival

Mianna Maestas-

I am proud to say that September 13, 2014 marks the first ever shorebird festival in Alamosa Colorado. All of the hard work that Deisy and I performed on top of all of our day to day tasks has finally paid off. It was great to see all the families out having a great time and participating in all of the events. It was such a treat to see all the smiling faces as the kids were able to participate in STEM programs such as solar car races, estimation games, and making bird feeders and paper owls. I think it helped a lot with the fact that they could win all kinds of cool prizes. We were able to give them all tattoos, stickers, bubbles, duck lip whistles, bird whistles, butterfly seed growers, and so much more!

I first want to say thank you to all the volunteers, participants, donors, and all that believed in us.  I also want to thank my bosses, Jill and Sue, for giving us the opportunity to get out there and do it no matter what the outcome may be, and I also want to thank all those that came to see what was going on, and I have so many ideas for next year. It would have not been possible without all the support.

We raised a total of 2,800 dollars! The entire festival paid for itself! Prizes included! Our families took home prices such as wolf creek ski resort passes, 3 month passes to Hooper pool, individual passes to Hooper pool, Gift certificates to Kristi Mountain sports and El Vallecito, and visa gift cards starting at 50 dollars. All and all the event was amazing and I am excited to see what it can become I am proud to say, WE DID IT!! We created our first festival! It took a lot of hard work but that hard work was worth every second just to see families coming together to enjoy time learning and competing.

Going South for the Winter

My time in Newport has come to an end, but thanks to Environment for the Americas my adventure in Oregon is still on the horizon. I was invited to work under the auspices of Klamath Bird Observatory to band birds during the Fall migration. Within the world of ornithology, KBBO is a powerhouse of scientific data purposed for the conservation of migratory bird species. Research coming out of the center contributes to understanding the habitat needs of wildlife, resulting in the publication of bird databases, the development of policy suggestions for documents like the upcoming State of the Birds report, the founding of citizen science projects, and the creation of education programs. Knowing their dedication to a higher caliber of science, I’m incredibly happy to be involved with KBBO projects on migratory birds. The Shorebird surveys of the EFTA Internship was a great segue into learning about the biology of birds through field research with KBBO. It is humbling to know that both EFTA and KBBO have confidence in my birding experience and skills to take on the task of catching and banding birds. Packing my bags in Newport was done with much anticipation for what lied ahead.

Bolting from the coast to the land they call “Southern Oregon” was a trip, to say the least; as soon as I passed the Cascades it was hard to believe that I was still in the same state, let alone the same continent. Within thirty minutes the landscape changed drastically. In place of lush temperate rain forests, violently windblown headlands, and the lingering scent of wet mud were conifers sparsely clinging to towering cliff sides, scrub and bush sucking the land dry, and the haze of dust getting flung up by pick-up trucks zipping down highway 97. Coming from D.C., where the humidity stubbornly reminds nature’s conquerors of the swamplands it once derived from, my body craves moisture. In Newport, as wet as it is, I already felt the strain of a dryer climate on my skin, leading me to immediately invest in a bottle of heavy duty moisturizer. Now that I’m in Klamath I realize that I am a wimp–the additional three bottles of Cocoa Butter in my shopping cart last week confirms that I am indeed in a new, much dryer, place and there’s a lot of new things yet to learn and discover about Oregon.

We didn’t spare any time. En route to Klamath Falls my friend and I stopped by Bend, Oregon to hike in Smith Rock State Park. It seemed too easy to not take advantage of. The route between Newport and Klamath practically invited us to take the mountainous detour; we would only be 45 minutes away. The park was epic, with lots of scenic views and trails for all sorts of recreational activities. In one path alone we crossed paths with birders, rock climbers, mountaineers, tourists, photographers, and adrenaline junkies hurling themselves off of the cliff side with a harnessed pulley system. The last of these outdoorist groups kindly dared us to take a leap. Cautiously scanning the drop from Smith Rock to the hiking trails [what seemed like] thousands of feet below, I decided against the impulsive temptation: I had places to go and birds to band.

The destination was a U.S. Fish & Wildlife cabin tucked away in mountainous forest alongside a big lake. I imagine a real estate agent would describe the place as “rustic.” It’s made of all wood, with cute little windows, picnic tables outside in the yard, and a back porch. Inside there is aged furniture to lounge on and an abundance of birding books, everywhere! It’s practically a birder’s dream here. There’s all sorts of cool birds that I’ve never seen before that hang out right outside our windows and all of the resources you can imagine available to you to identify them. On the drive in I already saw six species that were new to me. Little did I know what the next week would bring…

To be continued. Maybe there will be some bird pictures, maybe some videos…I hope the anticipation doesn’t kill you. Tune in soon.

Bird on!

From Alaska to Cali, Colombia-Following The Birds (Desde Alaska a Cali, Colombia-Siguiendo Las Aves)

(Traducción al español esta abajo de la sección en ingles)

Wow! I have been given the honor to work with the CALIDRIS Association from mid September to early November! Calidris is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Cali, Colombia. Originally formed by biology students fresh out of college along with the guidance of their former ecology professor, Dr. Luis Germán Naranjo. The organization was inspired to expand their knowledge on shorebirds who annually migrated to Bahía de Buenaventura, Colombia. After four years, Calidris soon realized the need to expand their efforts in order to have a greater impact on the conservation of Colombia’s avifauna.

Since 1993, the Calidris Association was iniciated and continues to contribute immensely to the expansion of knowledge on Colombia’s bird diversity. They have succeeded thanks to their continual effort in the expansion of research, identification and conservation of critical habitat, and promoting stewardship through amazing environmental education programs throughout Colombia!

 Inspired? I know I am!

Currently I am in my hometown of Lennox, California. Where I am preparing for my big trip to Colombia. I have never traveled to South America, so these past few weeks have been a bit overwhelming with emotions and unexpected surprises. For example, learning that I needed to get vaccines to travel… Wow, that’s scary and pricey! Thankfully my parents are very supportive of my career goals and were willing make the sacrifice to help me. I don’t know where I would be if it were not for my parent’s support! Hopefully I can soon be able to pay them back since my father turned 65 this year and no longer has the energy he once had in the past.

2014-09-05 23.11.51-2

I have also been busy reviewing literature and learning the birds of Colombia. I just received my bird guide on the birds of Colombia in the mail a few days ago, and WOW the biodiversity is incredible! I am excited to have the opportunity to expand my knowledge of migratory passerines along with shorebirds! I feel beyond blessed for this opportunity, and I am extremely grateful for the Calidris Association for allowing me to be part of their amazing organization. I also thank Environment for the Americas for organizing yet another amazing opportunity that allows me to continue learning, and growing as a biologist.

Stay tuned for more updates from my new adventure as I follow the birds from Alaska to Colombia! I will be posting weekly bilingual blogs throughout my internship with the Calidris Association!

You can also learn more about the Calidris Association from their amazing web page: http://calidris.org.co/


¡GUAU! ¡Me han dado el honor de trabajar con la Asociación CALIDRIS durante los mediados de Septiembre a los primeros de Noviembre! Calidris es una Organización No Gubernamental (ONG) con sede en Cali, Colombia. Originalmente formado por estudiantes de biología recién graduados bajo la dirección de su ex profesor de ecológica Dr. Luis Germán Naranjo. La organización fue inspirada a conocer mas sobre la aves playeras que llegaban a la Bahía de Buenaventura durante su migración anual. Después de cuatro años, Calidris rápidamente se dio cuenta que avía una necesidad de ampliar sus esfuerzos para tener un gran impacto sobre la conservación de avifauna en Colombia.

Desde 1993, la Asociación Calidris fue iniciada y continua a contribuir inmensamente a la expansión de conocimiento y conservación sobre la diversidad de aves en Colombia. Logrado gracias a sus esfuerzos dirigidos a la continuación de investigaciones, identificación y conservación de hábitat critico, y la promoción de corresponsabilidad con las asombrosas programas ambientales educativos a lo largo de Colombia.

¿Inspirado/a? ¡Sé que soy!

Actualmente estoy en mi ciudad natal de Lennox, California. Donde estoy preparándome para mi gran viaje a Colombia. Como es mi primera ves viajando a Suramérica, las semanas pasadas han sido un poco abrumador con los costos y sorpresas inesperadas. Por ejemplo, aprendiendo sobre la necesidad de vacunas para viajar…. ¡GUAU, eso es asustadizo y costoso! Mis padres son agradecidamente muy de apoyo de mis metas de la carrera y estaban dispuestos hacer el sacrificio para ayudarme. No sé donde estaría si no tuviera el apoyo de mis padres. Ojala muy pronto podré pagarles por todo lo que me han ayudad por que mi papá a los 65 años ya no tiene la energía que a un tenia antes.

2014-09-05 23.11.51-2

También estado ocupada revisando literatura y aprendiéndome las aves de Colombia. Hace pocos días recibí mi guía de aves de Colombia en el coreo, y ¡GUAU la biodiversidad es increíble! Estoy muy emocionada de felicidad de poder tener la oportunidad de ampliar mi conocimiento de los paseriformes migratorias en conjunto con las aves playeras. Me siento mas de bendecida por esta oportunidad, y estoy muy agradecida por ser parte de una organización tan increíble como la Asociación Calidris. También le doy muchísimas gracias a Environment for the Americas por otra oportunidad asombrosa donde puedo continuar mi aprendiendo, y creciendo como bióloga.

¡Alertos para más actualizaciones de mi nueva aventura siguiendo las aves desde Alaska a Colombia! Durante mi pasantía voy a escribir cada semana un nuevo blog sobre mi experiencia con la Asociación Calidris en español y ingles.

Para mas información sobre la Asociación Calidris vista su maravillosa pagina: http://calidris.org.co/