The Channel Islands that rise from the ocean just off the coast of Santa Barbara are an irreplaceable node of biodiversity. They are home to populations of rare and endangered plants that do not exist anywhere else on Earth, except at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden. There, a new scholarship aims to protect these island ecosystems and honor Kendra Chan, one of 34 people who died in September 2019 Design boat fire.
A unique partnership between the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Ecological Society of America, the two-year scholarship provides research experience and leadership training to aspiring biologists as well as a potential long-term position with Fish & Wildlife.
In the days following Chan’s death, a group of federal agency executives in Ventura decided to create the scholarship in his honor – “something that could help adopt the characteristics they saw in Kendra and providing an opportunity for someone to embrace that, âsaid Chris Diel, an assistant field supervisor who has worked with Chan.
âShe was just smart, thoughtful and calculated, passionate and curious,â Diel said. “She has done such a good job of bringing people together to achieve this conservation goal.”
The 26-year-old wildlife biologist was a board member and researcher for Fish & Wildlife in Ventura. Her mother, Vicki Moore, and her father, Raymond “Scott” Chan, raised Kendra as an outdoor child. From family hikes in California national parks to Girl Scouts to Kendra getting her scuba diving license at the age of 12, her parents have cultivated a lifestyle immersed in nature. Kendra and Scott would venture to the Channel Islands several times a year to dive and explore the teeming kelp forests. They were together on the Design, where Scott Chan also lost his life.
âMy favorite thing to do the same as the tides is to watch a rock or kelp wedge and watch all the little creatures come to life – and you notice the little details – and that’s what really gets me going. Chan said in a Ventura FWS 2018 Facebook Video. This appreciation for nature’s microcosms is echoed in the fellowship’s current focus on seeds, which often require microscopes for proper viewing.
The Santa Barbara Botanical Garden is the home of the project, which aims to conserve the seeds of rare plants endemic to the Channel Islands in the seed bank of the nonprofit organization’s Pritzlaff Conservation Center. Daniel Cisneros, a senior executive at UCSB and first recipient of the Kendra Chan Conservation Fellowship, spends his days testing how seed viability changes over time and developing a virtual interactive map for the public to explore. plants native to the Channel Islands.
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âWe take plants out of their natural habitat and store them elsewhere. Said Heather Schneider, rare plant biologist at the Botanical Garden. “The seed bank is an insurance policy against extinction.” The ultimate goal is to generate a genetic backup of these rare native plants so that one day declining or lost populations can be restored.
The story map also serves as a tribute to Chan’s dedication to connecting people with the environment around them. Vicki and Scott, both educators, passed on their passion for teaching to Kendra. After earning her bachelor’s degree from UC Davis, Kendra became an educator at the Marine Science Institute in the San Francisco Bay Area and often volunteered in community science projects involving kelp forest monitoring or plastic pollution. .
The particular coupling of conservation science with community outreach is not only an effective way to bring the general public into the fold of conservationists, but is also an emblem of Kendra’s life.
âI’m just amazed at the contribution she has made in a relatively short time,â said Vicki Moore. “When you say inheritance, that’s it.”
Cisneros also expressed his deep gratitude for Chan’s work as a biologist and educator: âIt’s something I carry with myself outside of work. It’s something that I carry with me as a citizen of the world, really.
Conservation work intrinsically involves the preservation of legacies, whether they are ecosystems, knowledge or responsibilities. Today, Chan’s legacy is still linked to that of ecosystems and communities.
At the end of this Fish & Wildlife video, Chan shares a message that remains a clear call for ordinary citizens to realize their potential for environmental action – a message the fellowship hopes to embody.
âRight outside. To be involved. Work on citizen science projects. Volunteer somewhere, âChan said. “You don’t have to be a paper biologist to really be a scientist in real life.”
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