Environmental Education

EPI_ViajeJulio 006We create custom ecological field-based academic programs for high school and university school groups.  Based in La Paz, Baja California Sur, México, we have access to some of the most amazing ecological and cultural diversity in the Cape Region of the Baja California Peninsula.   However, coastal ecosystems are threatened by unregulated coastal development and activities as well as a lack of ecosystem management.

Our ecological programs focus on coastal ecology, habitats, ecological, socio-economical, and cultural importance, ecosystems threats from increasing coastal tourism development, and the ongoing conservation actions.

While this is an academic program, this is not intended to be an internship or replace core coursework for a specific study program.  Rather our programs offer students a chance to apply basic science principals in an international field-based expeditionary program.

Before each trip, we will send electronic materials to the school and ask that a teacher or mentor review and discuss the theme and activities with the students before arrival.  This engages students before they arrive and thus will be better prepared with basic background knowledge of the ecosystems, climate, and species.  We know from experience that students gain more from their experience if they are prepared with questions and baseline expectations.  DSC_0145 (2)

These programs can be customized to accommodate school group size, certain curriculum standards, and themes.   Programs are based on a minimum of five students and 1 chaperone and a minimum of two nights camping arriving and departing from La Paz.   However, the airport in San Jose del Cabo is larger and has more flights available and may be less expensive.  If the school chooses to fly into and out of San Jose del Cabo for cost reasons, there is a safe, reliable, and affordable shuttle from La Paz direct to the San Jose del Cabo airport.

The following program outline provides a glimpse into the options for environmental education here in the Cape Region of Baja California Sur, México.  

SUBJECT AREAS:

Anthropology – Ethnobiology – Conservation Biology – Ecotourism 

Regional Planning – Tourism Development

Latin American Studies – International Studies

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Mangrove Ecology:

Mangrove wetlands are important refuge for fauna including but not limited to birds, invertebrates, fish, and small mammals.  In La Paz as in many areas of the world, mangrove wetlands are threatened from draining for development, use for firewood, and water contamination.   Students will learn about mangroves, their importance both ecologically and commercially,  threats, and conservation actions.

In the field, students will kayak, snorkel, and conduct biodiversity surveys throughout the different stratum of the mangroves.  Students will also collect seeds (season permitting) and transplant into a living nursery, where they will measure and monitor growth.

Coastal Dune Ecology:

DSC_0472Coastal dunes are constantly moving and provide stabilization and a sand reservoir for beaches.  The types of minerals determine the dune type, which is very diverse in México and even in the Pacific Region of Baja California Sur.   In the field, students will hike and climb in the coastal dunes, conduct biodiversity surveys, and measure elevation to compare in different areas.  As a fun activity, students  can collect flowers and make a flower press and plant identification of the dunes and surrounding scrub desert.

Marine Turtle Ecology:

In the pacific Cape Region of the southern Baja California Peninsula, nesting olive ridley female marine turtles prefer dune-backed beaches.   Therefore, a strong correlation will be presented to the students of the importance of coastal dune preservation for promoting high density nesting of marine turtle breeding populations.  Students will be participating in ongoing research of nesting turtles and coastal dune research.

Turtle_LeavingBeachNightPatrol

At night, students will participate in nest monitoring by patrolling patrols for females, relocating of nests to protective corals, and conducting hatching releases.   Students will help record data under the supervision of biologists.   During the day, students will participate in various activities in the dunes and in the education center.

The facilities at the turtle camp are rustic but amiable.  There is a central educational room, non-air conditioned, a camping area, bonfire pit, male and female separate bathrooms, emergency showers, and shared full kitchen.  Water is limited and groundwater sourced, therefore showers are not allowed except on an emergency basis.  The camp is solely run on solar power, so electricity is also limited.  There is no internet or cell phone access, but the camp is equipped with emergency VFH radios.

Sustainable fisheries:

Sustainable fisheries is a significant current issue here in the Gulf of California and the ongoing conservation efforts are having a positive impact on commercial fisheries on a global scale.   A strong correlation will be presented to students regarding conservation of coastal dunes and wetlands for the sustainability of commercial fisheries.  Students will be participating in ongoing research on native shrimp farming and ecological aquaculture.  In the field, students will participate in biodiversity surveys via snorkeling at a ecological aquaculture research station.  This station focuses in developing sustainable methods to produce commercial fisheries using native shrimp and invertebrate species.

While at camp, students will experience life on a ranch set back behind the coastal dunes yet surrounded by coastal desert.   While there are very few if any turtles, the climate, winds, and coastal dunes are different and the water is accessible for swimming.   Students will camp in the coastal dunes and have access to the group palapa, bathrooms, and kitchen.  The ranch is also run on solar and limited water, therefore electricity is limited and no showers will be permitted for students unless on an emergency basis.  Students take hikes through the dunes, swim in the warm waters, and collect flowers to make a flower press.  There are hammocks to relax in and we will have a morning yoga session.

Ranchero Culture:2012-11-03 002 243

The ranching culture is fading fast in Baja California Sur as globalization takes hold on the area and the younger generation of ranchers are migrating into the city to find work.  The knowledge the ranchers hold about the flora, fauna, and culture could be lost forever without any preservation of their way of life.  Over 200 archaeological sites have been found on private ranch land in recent years as well as many endemic species.  The lost of the ecological cultural, and anthropological knowledge is threatened from vandalism, collection, and destruction without these ranchers as natural guardians.

In this program, students will work in teams to develop a rancher cooperative to help promote rancher products and thus preserve their way of life for future generations.  Students will participate in hikes to archaeological sites and observe indigenous pictographs still unregistered and closed to the public.

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For more information or to register for a student expedition, please email us at:

Stephanie@ProFaunaBaja.org  – or –  ProFaunaBaja@gmail.com

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