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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Palos Verdes, California, USA

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Palos Verdes, California, USA
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coopeeey



Registered: December 2019
City/Town/Province: Redondo Beach
Posts: 1
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The crunch of the dirt on the ground. The breeze softly blowing through the branches. The grandeur of the trees up above. This is a description of one of my first moments appreciating the beauty of nature. I was four when my parents first took me to the Sequoia National Forest, and I have fallen in love with the place ever since. Many experiences like these across my life have inspired me to protect the environment at all costs. Climate change has become one of the most complex, nuanced issues both in the political and environmental worlds to date, and without grassroots actions of like-minded, dedicated individuals like myself, there will be no future to look forwards to. For these reasons, at the beginning of my sophomore year, I decided to apply to my school's Sustainability Council and was accepted.
Despite my enthusiasm towards having a positive impact on the environment, I sensed something was wrong. Sure, I had helped organize a presentation on wildfires for our elementary school, a pet food drive for the victims, and delivered EarthGrams (our school fundraiser dedicated to giving out spicy, earth-related pickup lines in costume). Yet I realized that although the council was making waves in the school community, we needed to make an impact on our local community by volunteering. After contacting the local land conservancy, we organized a plot of land our council could adopt to restore. Immediately, the council sprang to action. Over the course of several days, we relentlessly weeded and cleared out our plot of land of invasive species, so we could plant deer weed and locoweed. I learned that these host plants provided habitat and food for he critically endangered Palos Verdes Blue Butterfly, with claims to be the rarest butterfly in the world. The butterfly is an endemic species to the Palos Verdes Peninsula where I go to school. It currently only has one existing population with less than 5 butterflies seen in the wild every year. I decided to take a stand and devote a part of my life to protecting the butterfly.
First, I contacted the land conservancy again to ask if there was any way I could assist win researching the development of the host plants or the butterfly. The conservancy connected me with Austin Parker, a biologist, whom with I started the first long term data set of the flowering intensities of the host plants of the PV Blue Butterfly in a phenology study. It is so important to know the flowering stages of the host plants to determine the overall health of the ecosystem and also the optimal time and place to release the butterfly back into the wild. We are still collecting data for the study, but I hope to write a brief conference paper on our findings in the future. Yet somehow, I felt like what I was doing was not enough; I did not want the butterfly to go extinct. As I was on my way between site to site, I tried to ask questions about Austin's career, and he mentioned his experiences in a four-person, low-budget nonprofit maintaining public lands. But then it hit me. If Austin can do it, why can't I? Thus Project Blue Butterfly was born.
Project Blue Butterfly is a nonprofit I founded in October with its main goal being to raise funds and awareness for the threatened El Segundo and Palos Verdes Blue Butterflies. I incorporated information from the land conservancy's databases and information from past reports and research papers onto a website where one can find out more about the plight of the butterfly and what one can do to help. I also, through a creative email campaign where I asked people to adopt their own butterflies, raised funds from friends and families in an effort to restore the butterflies to their former glory. Furthermore, through an email and announcement to my school, I informed over 500 people about the butterflies and ways they can help as well. Nevertheless, my desire to combat climate change as a whole is also infused within this Apprentice Ecologist Project.
I first divided up the nonprofit into three sections: community service, environmental education, and political action, all tailored towards providing youth with a platform to fight back against climate change. For the community service aspect, I devoted more of my time planting the host plants, but I also plan on starting beach cleanups on my local beaches and advertising land conservancy events helping the butterflies. For the environmental education aspect, I am currently planning on speaking at all of the local elementary schools and environmental organizations to get the next generation of youth involved and engaged in climate-related issues at a young age. However, in my opinion, the most rewarding experience I have made in my nonprofit has been going to city hall to advocate for local environmental solutions. At the Redondo Beach City Hall, I spoke out against the lack of a styrofoam ban, asked the city to commit to 100% renewable energies, and informed the mayor of gray water catchment systems to solve water conservation issues in times of drought. I was honored to be invited back to the podium to speak during their agenda on their vote for a styrofoam ban. I will always strive to bring my experiences and knowledge in environmental science and share them with the rest of the world.
So, what did I learn? Through the Apprentice Ecologist Project, I learned that I am capable of achieving tasks previously thought only to be done by adults. Starting a nonprofit, going to city hall, and reaching out to the conservancy were all very daunting things, but I achieved them only by taking risks and stepping outside of my comfort zone to make an impact outside of my school community and on the real world. Throughout this process, I have gained a greater appreciation to speak out for what I believe is right and also a deeper appreciation for giving back to my local ecosystems through community service. If there was any bit of advice I could give anyone interested in starting an Apprentice Ecologist Project or anything of their own, it would be: do it. You never know who you could meet along the way; maybe you could save someone's life or just save a cute little butterfly.
Date: December 31, 2019 Views: 28 File size: 18.5kb, 3403.6kb : 4032 x 3024
Hours Volunteered: 207
Volunteers: 23
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 15 to 18
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