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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - San Diego, California

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San Diego, California
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Registered: October 2020
City/Town/Province: San Diego
Posts: 1
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Kylee's Canyon Cleanup: A Project Designed to Improve the Health of San Diego Canyons

I have had the good luck to grow up in an area of San Diego called Tierrasanta, an "island in the hills" surrounded entirely by beautiful canyons. It is a chaparral biome, of which there are only five in the world, so the region is filled with a tremendous diversity of habitats and species. Some of the animals found in the Tierrasanta canyons include coyotes, mountain lions, racoons, deer, snakes, lizards, and hundreds of bird species. I embarked on a project to help restore and protect our canyons because the region is important to me, to the health and survival of animal and plant species, and to the wellbeing of everyone in the community.

Over the years, mankind has planted nonnative vegetation in the canyons, and some of the plants have competed with native species. Nonnative palm trees, for instance, due to their long roots and need for lots of water have reduced the hydration of the canyons. Drier soil has meant drier plants, and thus, the risk for fires has increased. Also, palm fronds, once they catch fire, waft through the air, helping to spread fire quickly and far.
Due to decreased water supply, many native plants have been unable to thrive. Local wildlife relies on the native plants for survival. Therefore, my plan was to embark on a project to remove nonnative vegetation and to plant native species in the canyons. I teamed up with the environmental organization, Friends of Tierrasanta Canyons, to perform this work.

My job, in addition to performing vegetation removals and re-plantings, was to encourage students at my high school, Serra High, and community members to participate in the project. Tasks like removing boulders from soil so as to create a holes for tree seedlings and carrying loads of soggy, heavy palm fronds were easy compared to gathering community members and students, at least in the early stages of my project. I must admit, in the early days of the project, I was frustrated by my inability to rally participants.

Despite my feelings of discouragement, I continued with my efforts to attract participants to the canyon project. I called it Kylee's Canyon Cleanup. I made a website, designed and hung posters, made t-shirts, wrote newspaper articles about the project, and arranged for my school to offer social service hours to high school student participants. After a few months, I had gathered a loyal team of people interested in learning about and improving the canyons. I found that if I could convince people to come out just once to work in the canyons, they were apt to come out again and again on subsequent weekends. Participants found the canyon cleanup endeavor fun and rewarding.

It was a great feeling to see a whole patch of nonnative black mustard plants disappear and be replaced by native live oak seedlings. We replaced nonnative star thistles and French broom with native chaparral broom, deer grass, and San Diego sunflowers. The picture I included with this application shows my friends and me after we cleared a pipe by removing a whole bunch of invasive tamarisk (salt cedar). By clearing the pipe, we enabled water to flow through the pipe to nourish the canyons. (I'm the girl with the hand on her hip.)

My project lasted from February 9, 2019, until July 23, 2020. Together, students, community members, Friends of Tierrasanta Canyons members and myself, improved the health of the local canyons and learned a lot about our native plants. It is a great feeling to know that, for many years to come, animals in the canyons will have food and shelter available to them.
Date: October 23, 2020 Views: 123 File size: 21.2kb, 538.3kb : 792 x 594
Hours Volunteered: 232
Volunteers: 22
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 12 to 71
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 12
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 1,350
Native Trees Planted: 100
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