Out West student blog

Acclimating to the Santa Lucia Preserve

Max, Jeremy, and intern mentor, Christy Wyckoff, bird banding. (photo credit, Christy Wyckoff).

By Maxwell Klotz '20

Hometown: Stanford, California
Conservation Ecology Field Assistant, Santa Lucia Conservancy

Why did you want to do this internship?

I was drawn to work at the Santa Lucia Conservancy for a number of reasons, mainly the prospect of doing conservation work in the field. I thought the opportunity to work on my passion while being out in nature was extremely enticing. In addition, I knew how beautiful the Carmel/Big Sur area is and I was excited to spend a summer in the region.

How does your role support the host organization's mission?

The Santa Lucia Conservancy is committed to supporting native species and promoting biodiversity on the Santa Lucia Preserve. As a Conservation Ecology Field Assistant, I help with all the long-term conservation projects at the Conservancy. On a day-to-day basis, I assist with removing invasive plant species, managing the cattle herd on the preserve, and monitoring animal habitats through observation and data analysis. All of these projects contribute to conservation on the Preserve.

How would you describe one of the projects you will be working on this summer?

My main project this summer will be comparing historic photos of the Santa Lucia Preserve to the present day. The Santa Lucia Conservancy has a number of historic photos from the 20th and early 21st centuries that show the land before the Preserve was established and in its early stages. I have sorted through the pictures to find a number of them that contain distinctive landmarks. Working with my supervisor, I've identified where the photos were taken. Over the next few weeks, I will travel around the Preserve finding these photo sites and capturing what they look like today.

How does this project relate to your studies and/or career goals?

I am interested in studying environmental history and how wild areas change over time. I am also interested in the stories and art that nature inspires. I look forward to seeing what environmental changes this photography project reveals, but also to discovering what story can be told through the comparison of the past and present. As I move forward in my academic and professional life, I hope to work more with stories related to the environment.

Has anything surprised you about the work, the organization, or the environment?

I have been surprised with some of the innovative conservation tactics that the Santa Lucia Conservancy uses. For example, the Conservancy employs a number of strategies to promote the health and biodiversity of grassland ecosystems. Grasslands support much of the biodiversity in California and respond positively to disturbances. Before European colonization, these disturbances primarily included controlled burning and grazing animals. To replicate this effect, the Conservancy uses a herd of cattle to graze and trample grass lands, improving the ecosystem’s health.

Max Klotz, Greer, and Christy Wyckoff, conducting a pond survey (photo credit: Jeremy Alsaker)


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