Winter + Spring 2023
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Happy Spring! This is, without doubt, my favorite time of year in San Diego. It is such a joy to see all the native flowers in bloom, and their respective pollinators – including the monarch butterflies at our native milkweed farm- bouncing around the plethora of blossoms.
This marks my 3-year anniversary at EDI, so I find myself reflecting on where we are as an organization and how best to lead us into the next stage of our evolution. I believe the quality and strength of any organization is determined by the people who comprise it. It is for this reason alone that EDI has come so very far in the past few years. I just could not be prouder of our incredible team, and all we have accomplished together.
Under the leadership of our education director, Simon Breen, EDI offered hands-on environmental education programming to more than 2,000 children from Title 1 schools in east county, during the 2022-2023 school year. Simon is now building on this foundational EDI programming to meaningfully connect and engage entire communities with nature. Already this year, he has led hundreds of community members on whale watching expeditions, indoor rock-climbing adventures, sea kayaking, and day hikes. It is so gratifying to hear the now common refrain, “I never knew this place existed, and now I can’t wait to come back on my own.” Connecting people with nature through recreation is a wonderful way to engage our next generation of conservation stewards, which is exactly our goal!
Under the leadership of our conservation director, Ida Kaller-Vincent, EDI is restoring 15-acres of native coastal sage scrub habitat in east county to support the declining cactus wren population, as well as dozens of other native plant and animal species. The reward of watching this site transform from a field of invasive weeds that contained virtually no insects, mammals, or lizards, to one teeming with wildlife and abloom in native flowers is just incredible, and the reason we all come to work every day. One of the most exciting aspects of this project is the community involvement. It is thanks to volunteers that we were able to plant nearly 3,000 native plants at El Monte this year. This project is truly a labor of love, and I invite you to join Ida on her next volunteer planting event.
EDI is growing into our mission, “to inspire stewardship of San Diego’s native biodiversity through environmental education and conservation,” and this is just the beginning. Spring has sprung at EDI, and we plan to continue expanding our programming, and our impact in the months and years to come. Thank you for continuing to join us, and support us in this important work.
Environmental Education Program
Winter started off in full force for our environmental education program, led by our wonderful Education Director, Simon Breen!
In the last few months, we’ve brought 1,148 students from 11 schools on 24 field trips to east county preserves alone! The field trips to these preserves challenge students to become scientists for the day, giving them the chance to learn about native wildlife, conduct groundwater and runoff experiments, hike and explore oak woodland and coastal sage scrub habitats, plant native plants to promote habitat restoration, and more.
Since the beginning of 2023, we also brought 665 students from 11 schools on 16 field trips to the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The school year is not over quite yet, and we look forward to finishing out our last few field trips with as much excitement and passion as the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year!
We’ve also begun implementing a series of Family Day events! These events are free recreational activities offered to east county families and communities. Since March, we’ve embarked on many fun adventures, including indoor rock climbing, kayaking, whale watching, and hiking at various must-see places in San Diego, like Torrey Pines State Park and Cabrillo National Monument! We can’t wait for more excitement, and are honored to be able to provide experiences like these as part of our Education through Recreation program. This program is funded by the Outdoor Equity Grants Program, created through AB 209 and administered by California State Parks, Office of Grants and Local Services.
EDI Scholarship Recipients
For the second year in a row, we are thrilled to continue EDI’s scholarship program and award two deserving students with $1,000 scholarships for the 2023-2024 school year! Meet this year’s recipients, Valencia and Emily. These like-minded students share similar goals: saving our planet and its inhabitants. We are honored to help fuel their pursuits of such important and impactful careers. To learn more about EDI’s scholarship recipients, click here.
With tremendous passion for San Diego’s wild spaces, EDI staff and our amazing #VolunteerHeroes have kept our habitat restoration projects in constant motion through winter and spring. Since December, we have held over 25 volunteer events, with more than 137 volunteers and over 500 volunteer hours - all led by our incredible Conservation Director, Ida Kaller-Vincent!
A major development that occurred only a week ago at our El Monte restoration site in Lakeside was finding a new inhabitant - a Blainville’s Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma blainvillii), currently listed as a California Species of Special Concern. As you can imagine, this is amazing news and a reminder that, when passionate staff and volunteer heroes come together to make things happen, it surely pays off!
To balance out all the hard work put into these restoration projects, Ida led 4 nature hikes and an oak identification workshop this season within the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. These events give our community the opportunity to explore San Diego's flora and fauna, and use the app iNaturalist to identify and record these sightings. Thankfully with all this rain, the flowers have been showing off!
Welcome, Lyla Schoenig!
We are thrilled to welcome Lyla Schoenig as our Conservation Technician, a new role here at EDI. She is a phenomenal botanist who graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor’s in Plant Science from the University of California Santa Cruz. Her passion for the natural world and plants specifically is contagious. Since starting with us a couple months ago, she’s jumped right in to our conservation and outreach projects. We are so happy to have her on the team!