Week 1: Restore Habitat, Restore Birds -Asteraceae Talk

It’s the first day back at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, but this time I’m a Celebrate Shorebirds Intern. At this site, LA Audubon workers (Carlos Jauregui, Brian Young, and Bryan Payes) and I manage restoration sites plotted across the park. We usually have walkers of the park question what we are doing and some look like they want to ask but are afraid to. So I want to take the opportunity and let the public know.

It’s nearly Springtime and flowers are popping up like popcorn! You may see us weeding  a yellow flowering plant that may look pretty, but looks can be deceiving. The Garland/Chrysanthemum (Glebionis coronaria), is non-native and invasive! Picture below.


But wait! Don’t confuse it with our native California bush sunflower (Encilia californica). Both of the plants are in the Asteraceae family-the Sunflower family.  The flowers in this family are composed of ray florets and disk florets. The disk florets are small flowers that make up the center of the flower. Next time you look at an asteraceae plant (such as the sunflower) look closely at the middle, those are all tiny flowers! The ray florets are petal-like and surround the disk florets. Here is a picture of the California bush sunflower.


One of the main differences between the Chrysanthemum and the California bush sunflower is the color of the center. The Chrysanthemum has a yellow center while the California bush sunflower is brown. Also, the California bush sunflower has “rounded diamond shaped leaves” while the Chrysanthemum has “pinnately lobed leaves”. Give the previous pictures a second look!

Now, time for discussion questions

What is the point of removing invasive plants such as the Chrysanthemum? Do you think it may have an impact on the vegetation in which it is growing in? Why or why not? Email me your answers at emilycobar@gmail.com

Day 2: Practice Survey with former LA intern, Carlos Jauregui

I’d like to thank Carlos for guiding me through this practice survey. I applied the skills that were developed throughout the training: identifying by shape and size, bills, and behavior; using the field guide; counting the flocks, etc! Carlos confirmed about 90% of my bird identifications so we had a successful practice survey 🙂

While we were surveying, look what we found growing across the creek! Can you identify this plant through the picture?


If you said Chrysanthemum, give yourself a pat in the back- you are correct! We can identify it by its yellow center!

These were my highlights from week one and I’m excited to begin the shorebird survey protocols and to also use the outreach skills acquired from the training!

Driving up to Oregon

DSC02275As a city girl, driving through the northwestern parts of the U.S. was an eye opening experience. As we made our way up through California, the city-scape fell further back, giving way to large open spaces, farm land, and mountains. Having spent most of my time in southern California I forget just how different other states can be. Sometimes I think of California as the big picture “American culture” when in reality each region and state across the U.S. has its own unique landscapes, culture and customs.

Along the way I saw a lot of beautiful scenery. I would have to say, that seeing the sun rise as the moon set, was one of the most beautiful things I witnessed. If I only knew how to better articulate my feelings during that moment into something that would resonate with you like it resonated with me, but for now, just know that moment was great in itself. Five in the morning probably isn’t a good time to be thinking about philosophical things anyway, unless you’re Henry David Thoreau.

We didn’t stick around in one place for too long, but one big difference I found in Oregon was having full service gas instead of self-service gas. I never even knew that was an option, but my dad says it’s been years since he has seen that in Los Angeles. I’m surprised we didn’t get yelled at for trying to pump the gas ourselves! I’m not the only one making mistakes though. My partner Lily, who is from Chicago, is still getting used to being able to turn right on red. I’m sure we will become accustomed to the differences in no time.
While Lily and I are getting used to our new home, my dad is having a great time thinking back to the good old days. Oregon reminded my dad of the old Los Angeles, from the days when he first came to California. Old gas pumps, Safeways around every corner, and especially the old cars he saw off the side of the road. This rusty old clunker was similar (if not the same) to the car my dad drove when he was a little boy in Mexico. I don’t usually see my dad get excited about anything, but he started telling me so many stories of his younger days. I drove my dad to the airport on Saturday afternoon; he left Oregon reminiscing about old memories, as I drove back to Sherwood, where new memories will be made.


This is the end….

Wow! I can’t believe my time is up. These five months went by really fast!! I can honestly say I have learned a lot and gained a lot of experience that others can take years to gain. I am so thankful to everyone that made this internship possible, not only for myself but for all the other interns as well.

The training we had in San Diego was very informative and fun for all of us. We got to visit various locations that I can’t wait to go back myself and have more time to enjoy them. I have made several friends along the way that I know I’ll keep in contact with, and we help each other out in this new chapter in our lives.

This internship really let me see how it is to work with a non-profit and all the hard work that goes into it. Since I was placed in Los Angeles, and this was the first year EFTA had interns in the L.A area, we had to really get ourselves out there to make things happen. Having made connections with several elementary schools and other organizations will make it easier for future interns to get started.

I have gained skills in communications, research, and outreach that I know will help me stand out in the future.

I am so thankful to have worked along side Stacey Vigallon from L.A Audubon. She has been a mentor of mine since I graduated high school, and working with her during this internship helped me build a strong work relationship with her that I hope will result in future job opportunities.

I realized through this internship that research assignments were not for me but outreach and interpretive work was. I guess that’s what internships are for, to help you decided whether you want to work in that field or not.

As to what I am going to do now that this internship is over…
-Continue with school and get my B.S In Environmental Geography
-Continue working for CA State Parks and take the test to possibly obtain a Park Interpretive Specialist position here in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Northern California.
Oh, and start my own Vegan/Vegetarian E-cookbook!

This has been quiet the experience and I am truly grateful for everyone, including the readers for being part of all our journey!
Thank you!


Benthic Invertebrates

A lot of my time at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve has been spent in the plankton lab that is offered to school groups as part of their field trip. It is a really neat lab because it allows students to interact with microscopes, something that some students might not have a chance to do within their regular school year curriculum.

The key to a good lab is collecting a good sample from the slough. This usually requires a pair of rubber boots to get into the water and collect some big chunks of bryozoans, which are a plant-like colonial animals that the benthic invertebrates like to hang from.

Some of the most commons benthic invertebrates we see in the lab are Caprellids, also called skeleton shrimp. When most students first see them under the microscopes they are a little spooked because of their alien-like appearance. Most people think they look like mantises of some sort. Another critter we often see are sea spiders from the class Pycnogonida. Students usually ask if they’re actual spiders and they are not, they just look like land spiders. We also get brittle stars and small sea jellies.

The best part about the lab is seeing how excited the students are looking at their samples. Especially after they’ve had some initial trouble focusing the microscope but then eventually get it right and are able to see the critters clearly and sharply.

Helping in the labs was always a fun activity. And it was also a reminder about how we are surrounded by micro and macroscopic life, and that sometimes it’s important to appreciate it and observe it sometimes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s Been Over Five Years!

It has been a very exciting week regarding the Least Terns! We have spotted Least Tern chicks for the first time in over five years and we have set up a fence within the exclosure to keep the chicks from going out of the exclosure. That will protect them from getting stepped on or ran over by a vehicle because they can be difficult to spot, even at close range. There haven’t been many crows landing within the exclosure either. Sometimes they fly over but the terns are quick to get them out of there.

The chick fence we set up covered a good amount of the nesting terns, but because of a shortage of fence, some terns were left outside the fence. The western part of the fence was made with wooden stakes and a thick plastic that was about three feet tall. The eastern part of the fence was made with wooden stakes and a smaller plastic tied to them. It was a lot of work but we had a few people helping so it went by pretty fast. We will keep monitoring the site and keeping an eye on the fence and chicks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.