By: Ana Lucía Flores García, SFC Participant
Sonoran Field Course (SFC), you were the best moment of my summer 2022, you exceeded my expectations and knocked down that barrier that had stopped me for so long. I can't believe everything I've learned, everything I've experienced in such a short time, and all the love I've received from the entire team in just nine days, the best nine days spent without a doubt. I would love to have a time machine and relive every moment, from the morning talks, the afternoons at work and the nights full of laughter and memories.
I would really love for everyone who has this opportunity to enjoy it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am sure you will not want it to end once you see and meet the great team that makes all this possible. I tell you myself, I was always afraid to try new things, to leave home and see the other side of the coin, the real world I would say.
It all started in the City of Hermosillo, Sonora. Like everyone, I arrived with a lot of nerves and with normal expectations so to speak, because I really didn't know what to expect. I never thought I would get so attached and I never thought I would learn so much in such a short time. I think that the first day was something curious. We began by introducing ourselves, talking about Sonoran ethnic groups and meeting last year's graduates, who made us feel even more confident about the incredible decision we had made.
On the second day, the Sonoran Field Course began with a climb to Johnson Hill and a talk with Sergio and Luis from Caminantes del Desierto which is a group that promotes the care and restoration of the desert. Next we visited Palo Alto School to learn more about the native plant nursery project that past Sonoran Field Course interns created. It really caught my attention with the plant propagation and aquaponic workshops they teach to the little ones. Thanks to Director Limón and Leonela, a SFC alumna, for the work that you’re doing at Palo Alto to share these important lessons with children.
Next, we talked a bit about green infrastructure, which I sincerely see as the salvation of many countries, since they are ideas that benefit an entire community and region. Thanks to Rogelio Cota, Director at Cota Estévez Arquitectura, for sharing your experience of green infrastructure. After leaving Hermosillo, we arrived at El Aribabi Conservation Ranch in La Casona, where German and Marcia welcomed us with arms wide open and a feast of food for all.
The third day, facilitator and a great human being, Jorge, taught us principle number three of "leave no trace" which talks about being aware of our waste and knowing how to dispose of it properly. I really will not forget that talk, nor the great meaning it can have. Shortly after, German told us a little about what his family has done at El Aribabi Conservation Ranch, which is basically keeping the bioregion in its natural state while continuing to function as a cattle ranch. That same day we met the incomparable Dr. Joaquín Murrieta of Watershed Management Group, who with his fascinating talks and activities, made me fall in love with the subject of rainwater harvesting. He captured my interest within the first five minutes, and I must admit that not only I, but all of us, were a hundred percent attentive to his explanations. As the day ended, I already felt more connected with everyone.
We left in the morning for Cuenca los Ojos (CLO), the place that I definitely fell in love with because of the food delicacies that they gave us every day and the great human beings there. Valer Clark, the founder and José Manuel Pérez, Conservation Director of CLO , are without a doubt a great inspiration to me and everyone. I have no words to convey the great restoration wonders she has achieved on the ranch over time. CLO guided us in building nine erosion control structures and educated us about grassland management. We also learned about native plant propagation and seed balls from Francesca Claverie and Perin McNelis of Borderlands Restoration Network's Native Plant Program. I will never forget this place and I will never forget the people who make it up.
I also appreciate the two great Sonoran Field Course facilitators Jorge and Anays. I know that Jorge will always be the right person to talk about everything, because he knows how to listen and chat with you like a great friend. Then there is Anays with her great intelligence and dedication. I am sure that any barrier that comes my way she will be the one to ask for real advice. Then there is Juliet who is the coordinator of the program, I can only say that wow you know how to handle everything wonderfully, how brave you are and what a great charisma you have. You always made me feel at home every time we talked. I thank them and all my colleagues immensely. I take the best of you, you are phenomenal. I hope the road brings us together again and to live more experiences like these. I admire every talk I have with each one, they are my example to follow. I love them. I LOVE IT HERE. 😊
To read the Spanish version, please click here.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
My family including three humans, two dogs, and one cat recently moved from one side of Patagonia to the other. Our new location is closer to Sonoita Creek, and there is more moisture in the surrounding environment. Even before monsoon season hit, I noticed we had some unique amphibious wildlife to admire. Residing on our porch was a canyon tree frog, Hyla arenicolor. Try as I might to relocate this little cutie to a safer location it always seemed to reappear the next day quietly letting me know it had every intention of enjoying the screened-in porch as I did. Tree frogs have the surprising ability to change colors to camouflage themselves. Until I discovered this trickery was expected, this little friend had me fooled into thinking there was more than one frog claiming our porch as its habitat.
Canyon tree frog.
Enjoying this little frog who decided to share her space with us felt special. Little did I know, more of her relatives would soon show themselves. The red-spotted toad, Bufo punctatus, arrived with the first couple of monsoon storms. Slightly larger than the tree frog, they dotted our driveway and hopped about the yard with their red spots making them particularly easy to identify. These charismatic and abundant toads can amazingly tolerate a 40% loss in body water and still be active during dry months, although they do hibernate underground during winter. We adapted further to accommodate this second amphibian, and the dogs who had been banished from the porch were no longer allowed off-leash in the driveway where the red toads seem happiest in the evenings.
The dogs would face one more challenge, one that could make them deathly ill, the Sonoran Desert toad, Bufo alvarius. The Sonoran Desert toad possesses skin toxins that are strong enough to kill a dog and have been known to cause sickness and hallucinogenic qualities in humans. Two of these toxic beauties live in the dog run and have a nice little burrow allowing for some pretty cool videos. Lucky for us, one of our dogs seems to instinctively know to avoid them, leaving only one dog to keep close on nighttime potty breaks. Frequently they are easy to spot, immediately outside our backdoor, eating bugs attracted by the inside lights.
Many amphibian species live a life of duality. Part of the year, they hibernate underground, part of the year they are active and above ground. I find myself living a duality around them myself. Part of the year, I do not see them, and part of the year, I do. I choose to accommodate their duality and mix up my schedule to avoid any harm coming to them. These fantastic creatures with apparent superpowers can bring wonder into our lives if we take the time to learn about them and make space for their busy times.
Borderlands Restoration Network strives to restore local watersheds, including protecting and creating habitats for frogs and toads. Amphibians face many challenges as their bodies require abundant moisture to function correctly and are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Some ways you can help our local amphibians include planting native plants and avoiding the use of pesticides that turn the bugs that frogs and toads eat into toxic food. Also, if possible, avoid driving or cycling in the summer evenings, especially during or immediately after the monsoon rain. If you have to get out there and enjoy the rain, slow down and take a walk, you might meet some toadally new friends along the way.
Important note: To reach a larger audience, I have used the well-known term hibernation to describe the rest period some amphibians enter during the year's cooler months. The proper term for amphibians and other cold-blooded animals is brumation, which is different from some mammals' hibernation process.
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