The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) recently featured our efforts to promote more pollinator habitat in Solana Beach as a case study for students in the Advanced Inquiry Program, or project Dragonfly, a unique Masters Degree program of Miami University, Ohio.
The Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) is a learning experience where students work directly with SDZWA scientists, experts and partners while completing online coursework through Miami University. The program is geared for adult learners who want to pursue a passion for conservation while maintaining full-time work.
In line with the AIP's focus on driving social and ecological change in local communities, course co-facilitators Mackenzie Borau, Ph.D. And Dorabel Esparza, M. A., invited The SeaWeeders to present an overview of our Mayors’ Monarch Project activities. Mackenzie is the Associate Director, Community Engagement Conservations Science & Wildlife Health with the SDZWA And Dora is a San Diego County resident, native plant and pollinator enthusiast, and graduate of the AIP program. Their students joined us on October 30 for an all-day, outdoor class on the patio at La Colonia Community Center.
The session started with a presentation by Don Rideout of the California Native Plant Society San Diego Chapter, about that organization's efforts to promote native plant gardening in the County of San Diego. It ended with a presentation and close-up examination of our surprisingly varied -- but struggling -- population of local, native bees by expert Dillon Travis.
Our Monarch Project overview began with a presentation by Heidi Dewar, a member of the Climate Action Commission of Solana Beach, about the City's climate goals and how promoting pollinator habitat in urban and suburban areas supports them. Cindi Clemons and Kathleen Drummond described each step of our Monarch Pledge campaign, starting in April with our native narrowleaf milkweed and seed giveaway and planting of our first pollinator garden at La Colonia Community Center. Additional gardens now have been installed on the Coastal Rail Trail and in the native section of the Fire Station, as well as at the Boys & Girls Club garden at La Colonia park.
Cindi guided a tour of the La Colonia Community Center garden, which includes bilingual educational signage and a beautiful Free Little Library box painted by City staff member Kayla Moshki, pictured here.
Lisa Montes of the La Colonia Foundation next discussed the importance of monarch butterflies in Mexican culture, where it is believed that monarch migrating back to the northeastern mountains represent souls rejoining their families for the annual Dia de los Muertos celebrations. Our pollinator promotions also included staffing a booth at the Solana Beach Dia de los Muertos festival on October 24.
City staff member Rimga Viskanta next took the 'stage' to talk about the importance of local citizen groups -- such as we SeaWeeders, the La Colonia Foundation, and the Climate Action Commission -- in 'making things happen' in government. "I hope after listening to these presentations you understand that these people basically handed us this project on a silver platter," she said. Rimga encouraged the students to understand the public policy processes and practices that might seem to impeded their goals, and seek partners to help overcome them.
It was a honor to meet the inspiring students of project Dragonfly and to share our story with one of the "ivies." Miami University, Ohio a state university in Oxford, Ohio was established in 1809. According to SDZWA, project Dragonfly reaches millions of people each year through graduate programs offered worldwide.