The NRS’s sister reserve in Loreto, Mexico, is planning a field station to support students and researchers studying Loreto Bay and Baja California. To build momentum and advance the effort, nonprofit Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. held a planning meeting this fall that featured the NRS as an example to follow.
Dubbed the Centro de Estudios del Medio Ambient, or CEMA, the planned field station is intended to raise awareness and understanding of the lands and waters of the Baja California Peninsula. The center is intended to help inform decision-making with scientific information, improve local livelihoods with sustainable social and economic alternatives, and advance regional science education. The facilities, equipment, and logistical assistance of CEMA should encourage use of the area as a natural laboratory for students and scientists alike.
CEMA’s parent organization, Eco-Alianza de Loreto A.C., became a sister reserve of the NRS in 2019. The relationship facilitates cross-cultural learning, training, and university class exchanges between the University of California and Baja California Sur. Eco-Alianza now views the UC Natural Reserve System as a model to further local conservation and research.
The 39 attendees met at Eco-Alianza’s Loreto headquarters. Participants included Eco-Alianza staff and leadership, scientists, academics, members of government, and others from both Mexico and the United States.
On day one, participants discussed how people might use the field station. Speakers described current studies based at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) on topics from habitat conservation to social concerns, outlined how field work can be facilitated, and described collaborative models for research.
Field station design was the focus of day two. Ing. Hugo Quintero, CEO and Executive President of Eco-Alianza de Loreto, shared the organization’s mission and vision, as well as its objectives for the field station. Board member Linda Kinninger presented renderings and floor plans for the proposed station. The two-story, 9,221-square-foot building will offer meeting rooms, a conference center, and accommodations for visiting researchers and students. Labs and spaces for field equipment will be included. A rooftop garden will showcase native plants and support solar panels. Located next door to Eco-Alianza headquarters, the station will be a mere half a block from the Sea of Cortez.
Instructors and researchers then added their perspectives on how field stations have brought people closer to nature. For example, Professor Nicolas Pinter of UC Davis recalled how being able to stay at field stations have enabled students to experience their geology textbook lessons firsthand, while Professor Ojeda Ruiz de la Peña of UABCS described how field work and scientific collaboration enabled a local community to diversify its economy with a sustainable fishery.
Suzanne Olyarnik, director of the Bodega Marine Reserve, then described how the UC Natural Reserve System has integrated a wide variety of field stations into a network that provides a platform for research and teaching while providing science to solve real world problems. She called Loreto an ideal location for a field station for a multitude of reasons: proximity to diverse natural areas on land and in the water; easy access to Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto; relationships with the UABCS and other Mexican universities; the possibility of cross-cultural exchanges for researchers and students; the chance to showcase the value of the region’s natural treasures; and a large enough community to engage and supply visiting students, researchers, and classes.
In the afternoon, participants split into breakout sessions. Groups projected where CEMA’s marketing, funding, research projects, community outreach, university participation, and physical facilities would stand in a year.
On day three, participants got outside to tour the shoreline of nearby Isla Coronado. On the beach, representatives from the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas Mexico spoke about the natural wealth and challenges facing Loreto Bay Marine Park and the El Vizcaino Biosphere reserve. Attendees then enjoyed tours of areas near the beach, learned about native plants, and visited a nearby bat cave.
Eco-Alianza staff are now reviewing meeting comments and developing follow-up plans. The organization plans to hold a second field station summit in 2022.
Full meeting report, Eco-Alianza de Loreto A.C.