Winter 2021


Coast Prickly Pear (Opuntia littoralis), the primary plant species in our newest land restoration project. Photo credit: Christine Beck

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Happy New Year! I hope you are enjoying this beautiful San Diego winter as much as I am. With the weather being so mild, this is the perfect time of year to join EDI on some of the myriad outdoor programs we offer for both adults and families, all described below. There is something for everyone, I think!

I am also so pleased to share with you some of the ways EDI is growing and expanding our reach in both environmental education, and biodiversity conservation. Read on to learn about our new large-scale, multi-year habitat restoration project in Lakeside (and how you can help!), as well as new education and outreach programs. New this year is also a Scholarship opportunity for students from San Diego County pursuing a career in natural resources- please help us share this opportunity widely to ensure as many students as possible have the opportunity to benefit.

Finally, I am delighted to introduce our newest staff member, Administrative Assistant Ashley Mota, who has already proven herself indispensable!

Thank you as always for being part of the EDI community, and I hope to meet you out on the trails one day soon.

Sarah Maisonneuve,
Executive Director


Online Native Plant Sale
By Christine Beck

Following the success of EDI's native plant sale in October, several members of our community asked that we hold a winter plant sale as well. So for the first time, EDI is offering an online-only native plant sale through Sunday, January 23rd! When you place your order, you can choose between two pick-up days/times: Friday, February 18th from 4-6 pm, or Saturday, February 19th from 8-11 am. Orders must be picked up either day at Crestridge Ecological Reserve. Click here to start shopping! The link is also available on our website under the “Latest News” tab and on our Facebook page. Support EDI and native pollinators by buying native species like wild rose, a bumblebee favorite!


EDI Early Explorers making nests. Photo credit: Vicky Bonnett

EDI Early Explorers
By Vicky Bonnett

EDI Field Instructor Seekey Cacciatore will be leading these family friendly hikes at Crestridge Ecological Reserve on Friday mornings. Parents of children 0-4yo can join in for a short hike, a story and a fun craft activity to take home. Each session will highlight a new topic such as Sense of Sight, Texture, Seasons, etc. Craft activities will connect the concepts in a fun and exciting way that will help your child grow their love of nature! Tell your friends, gather a group, and join in on the fun!

Fee is $5 per child. Register on our events page!


December members-only bird walk participants looking at a burrowing owl on Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve. Photo credit: Christine Beck

Upcoming Members-Only Hikes!
By Christine Beck

We observed 28 bird species on our December members-only grassland bird walk at Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve. A few species we saw are winter visitors to the property including ferruginous hawk and mountain bluebird, but the majority of the species are resident including the burrowing owl, which was the star attraction! Monthly members-only hikes are already scheduled on a variety of conserved lands on the following days in 2022: February 12th, March 19th, April 23rd, May 21st, and June 18th. All members are notified in advance of these hikes via email. Reply to the email to reserve your spot- we hope you will join us out on the trail!


Breakfast with the Birds

By Vicky Bonnett

We will continue our Breakfast with the Birds series in 2022. Join us at various locations throughout Southeast San Diego for a morning of birdwatching and camaraderie as we seek out the many bird species that make San Diego their home year-round, as well as those that visit throughout the year. These bird hikes will be led by an experienced EDI staff member. We hope you can join us in crossing bird-sightings off our list! Stay tuned for dates coming up in Spring. You can visit our Events page to find out more information. The best way to stay in the loop is to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @EDIExplorers.


Storybook hike at Crestridge Ecological Reserve. Photo credit: Vicky Bonnett

Storybook Hikes

By Vicky Bonnett

Be sure to stay tuned on our Facebook page for new storybook hikes at Crestridge Ecological Reserve. Our ever popular stories got a little facelift over the holidays with new sign posts. New stories will be announced every other month, so please stop by for a visit and take a stroll through the beautiful oak grove. If you would like to sponsor a story, you can donate $75 to have your family's name included on the hike. Email us at to inquire! We are always looking for volunteers who can help us translate our stories to other languages in order to reach a wider audience. If you would like to help, please contact us!


A volunteer installing Xerces pollinator kit plants at Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve. Photo credit: Ann Wellhouse

Pollinator Conservation Work Continues
By Christine Beck

The Xerces Society donated over 250 native plants in 2” pots to EDI for the benefit of southern California pollinator species. The “pollinator kits” included narrowleaf and woolly pod milkweed, California buckwheat, black sage, deer weed, and others. Volunteers planted the kits at Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, Lakeside Downs, and Cajon Park Elementary in the school’s native plant garden.


Environmental Education Program
By Vicky Bonnett

In 2021, we were able to bring 524 students to conserved lands at Crestridge Ecological Reserve and San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge where they participated in various hands-on activities, such as Habitat Jenga, Water Sampling, and Birdwatching. Students also planted 384 native plants and grasses in the habitat. Students who participate in our programs come from various ethnicities and backgrounds, and we are always happy to help our English language learners feel included in our activities. EDI staff members and school staff are able to translate the information for students, allowing them to join in on the fun, and EDI staff always learn something new during these interactions. A chance to explore nature is a special opportunity for many of our students, and one they may not have otherwise. It is always wonderful to see the looks on their faces when they identify a bird, or the moment a concept such as the “food web” clicks during a game of Habitat Jenga. We pride ourselves on providing fun and engaging opportunities for the most underserved communities in San Diego’s east county, and with your help, we can continue to reach more students each year. You can support our work by becoming a member with a one-time or monthly contribution!


EDI Volunteer Jeff Saar and the new shade house after installation of hardware cloth. Photo credit: Christine Beck

Milkweed Farm Update!
By Christine Beck

Construction of a shade house at the South County Native Milkweed Farm has been underway since November, thanks to EDI volunteer, Jeff Saar. Jeff’s innovative idea of using a carport car cover as the bones of the shade house helped keep the project on budget! Jeff, with the help of Christine Beck, EDI Conservation Director, Lorenzo Higley, and Mary Duffy, also EDI volunteers, enclosed the carport cover with hardware cloth. Jeff built a door for the shade house and soon will install the irrigation system. Many thanks to Jeff and the Malk Foundation, which provided the grant funding for this project. We are seeking up to six (preferably foldable) 5-6 foot plastic tables for the shade house, so if you have any spares and wish to donate them to EDI, we would be most grateful! When completed, the shade house will be used for propagating Farm-grown narrowleaf milkweed seeds into 1-gallon container plants, which we will sell at our fall native plant sale and/or use in future restoration projects.


The El Monte Preserve in Lakeside. Photo credit: Christine Beck

EDI Awarded Grant Funds for Habitat Restoration in Lakeside
By Christine Beck

In November, EDI was awarded a grant by the Wildlife Conservation Board to restore 15 acres of nonnative grassland to coastal sage scrub/cactus scrub habitat at the El Monte Preserve in Lakeside. EDI will partner with the Endangered Habitats Conservancy, owner and manager of the El Monte Preserve, and Recon, a local biological consulting firm, to create habitat for the coastal cactus wren, a California Species of Special Concern, and the federal threatened coastal California gnatcatcher. The project will begin in January 2022 and will be completed by April 2024. We will be seeking volunteers to help plant cactus and other native plants at the site, beginning in March 2022. Check our Facebook page and/or the Events page on our website in February for more details, and to sign-up to volunteer!


EDI Scholarship Program!
By Ashley Mota

Your donations have supported our educational programs, restoration projects, and now, for the first time ever, two $1,000 scholarships! EDI is excited to support two students pursuing a career in natural resources for the 2022/2023 school year. In order to be eligible for the EDI Scholarship Program, the following criteria must be met:

  • Resident of San Diego County;
  • Enrolled, or planning to enroll, in a community college, four-year university degree program, or graduate degree program in natural resources (ie: wildlife biology, botany, ecology, conservation biology, environmental education, etc.) during the 2022/2023 academic year; and
  • Minimum 2.5 GPA at the educational institution most recently attended.

We have extended the application deadline to January 31, 2022! Please visit the Scholarship page on our website to learn more and apply.


Please join us in welcoming our newest staff member: Administrative Assistant, Ashley Mota!

Ashley is a born-and-raised San Diego native. She joins our team with a background in Horticulture and Business, receiving 3 Associates Degrees and 4 certificates from Cuyamaca College. Her passion for the outdoors roots back to childhood, as she was often found in the garden with her mom. She comes equipped with years of experience with plant nurseries, floral design, and volunteer work for multiple organizations around San Diego. She is thrilled to be a part of the EDI family, and contribute her love of organization, commitment to the environment, and excitement for nature to our community!

Welcome to the team, Ashley!