Virtual Amigos - Naturalist Nights Now on You Tube
By Amber Davis

When the stay-at-home order was first issued in late March of this year, we suspended all in-person activities including our weekly FLOW Program Citizen Science activities and all scheduled field trips. However, what many of us hoped would be a matter of weeks of staying home evolved into a prolonged stay-at-home order with no clear end in sight. With no FLOW or Naturalist activities happening any time soon, we knew we needed to act quickly to keep the Amigos together. We needed our community.

After several virtual meetings and countless emails and text messages, the Virtual Naturalist Night was established. Every Thursday night for the last three and a half months, the Amigos have come together via Zoom to listen to guest speakers from around Orange County – and even across the globe. Our very own marine scientist, Joana Tavares, gave three presentations, first sharing with us her research into how iron emissions from vessels affect phytoplankton growth at sea followed by a timely presentation on intersectional environmentalism and how equality, diversity, and inclusion are all key factors to a healthy community as well as a well-rounded and effective organization. While those two were not recorded, her eye-opening presentation on Phytoplankton and Climate Change was.

We also recorded presentations from professors like Claudia Czimczik of UCI, whose current project is to use invasive grasses to study the changes in air pollution during the stay-at-home order, and Martín Hoecker-Martinez, who is looking into how water flows in the outer Bolsa Bay of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. We also heard from organization leaders like Kurt Leiber, founder and president of Ocean Defenders Alliance, and Melanie Schlotterbeck, consultant for Friends of the Harbors and Parks and member of the Brea Planning Committee, as they shared about their organizations and how they have helped restore, mitigate, and protect the natural spaces in Southern California and beyond. One of the most popular webinars was Diane Alps from the Cabrillo Aquarium who gave a lively talk about the many whales that frequent the Southern California coast.

Over the past several months, the Amigos have gathered together – each of us in our respective homes – to join in our continued learning, in expanding our knowledge of science and of the pressing issues of our lifetimes, and in gathering as a community once more. The response to the Virtual Naturalist Nights has been bracing and encouraging. Seeing the dedication of our members and volunteers has been a light during this difficult season, one that I will cherish for years to come.

While Naturalist Night’s began as a way to keep our volunteers connected and informed, the Amigos are inviting the entire membership to join monthly webinars in October. Please be sure to check this website for announcements, and open your Current Tide/News for Amigos Members e-newsletter emails for details. And check out recordings of past webinars on the Naturalist Night Playlist section of the Amigos’s de Bolsa Chica’s You Tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC85pluHukJ2zsBqrgwW43EA