By Lorayne Meltzer, Director of the Kino Bay Center and Environmental Studies Faculty
Earlier this month, we went on 2-day field trip up the Infiernillo Canal in Comcaac territory as part of a multi-faceted effort to support the Comcaac in defending the biocultural diversity of their territory. On this particular outing, we were surveying birds and mapping estuaries for use in protection of critical habitat and international conservation designation and planning. We were a group of six people—a PC senior project student (Alex George) two Mexican KBC Center Waterbird Monitoring staff (Jaime and Paulina), one Comcaac leader (Elida), myself and the Center’s boatman (Cosme—who just won a national conservation award for his work with sea turtles). This group of motivated and deeply knowledgeable people spoke three native languages (English, Spanish and Comcaac) and conversations and fieldwork included all three languages and multiple perspectives on place. Jaime and Paulina are highly trained bird monitors, Alex is leading the GIS mapping effort (thanks to his excellent E.S. training at PC), Cosme (local Mexican fisherman employed by the Center) knows how to navigate the nautical challenges of the Canal, Elida is from a family with deep ecological knowledge and is training to do waterbird monitoring with the Center and I am working with our partners to reauthorize the area as an internationally protected wetland. Doing collaborative and multicultural work like this is based on a long history of authentic relationship building and program development addressing the intersecting goals and perspectives of the groups involved. And did I mention that the work never would have been as good without the brand new and amazing spotting scopes provided by our illustrious PC alumnus David Meeks? Thank you for supporting this work!
As Director of the Kino Bay Center, Lorayne Meltzer is active in collaborative conservation efforts in the Gulf of California. Lorayne coordinates the Center’s research, education and community outreach programs toward the realization of the mission and vision of Prescott College and the Kino Bay Center. Through her Marine Conservation classes, students learn firsthand about complex issues confronting marine and coastal environments. It is one thing to read in a book that 85% of everything caught on a shrimp trawler is discarded dead as by-catch back into the sea. It is quite a different learning experience to be sorting through the by-catch on the deck of a trawler, working along fishermen whose livelihoods depend on destructive fisheries practices. Upper division students have the opportunity to learn about conservation issues and solutions, while simultaneously contributing to the conservation projects conducted through the Center’s programs.