Back Again

Hi again! It’s been a while since my last post - longer than I expected. It turns out that moving to the other side of the planet and starting a new job is a bigger process than I was anticipating. This post won’t be focused on a specific conservation topic like most of my previous posts. Instead, I’ll cover what I’ve been up to for the last 6 months or so. Then I’ll go through my new plan for the Wild Focus Project.

NZ robins may not be as famous as the kiwi, but they’re no less adorable.

In December, I graduated from the University of Otago with my Master’s in Science Communication, with honors. I packed up my life, except for what I’d need for a last trip around New Zealand. On that trip, I hiked the Routeburn, where I met a DOC ranger who singlehandedly started the invasive mammal control program along the Routeburn Track. I made it farther up the West Matukituki Valley than I’ve ever been. I saw all kinds of birds like tui and fantails and kea and keruru, which after three years seemed almost commonplace, but in hindsight I realize just how fortunate I was.

Lake McKerrow at the highest of the Routeburn Track.

Then I left New Zealand, and returned to the US.

After a brief visit to my home in Maryland in January, I moved my entire life to California. I knew no one there except the people who had interviewed me for the job. I didn’t have an apartment - just an AirBnB. That first week was mostly occupied by things like looking at apartments and buying a car, but I also made a point of trying to get out and explore some of the local nature areas (particularly marine areas, after being inspired by Kyle McBurnie’s wildlife experiences in Californian waters).

Point Lobos State Park is named for the howling “sea wolves” (sea lions) that visit periodically.

Harbor seals enjoy patchy sunlight at Point Lobos.

I visited Point Lobos State Park, where harbor seals come ashore to enjoy the sun and peregrine falcons watch from on high. I saw dozens of grey whales on their annual migration from Alaska to Baja California. I watched sea otters float on their backs and bash open shells with their favorite rocks. Later, I made my way to Point Reyes National Seashore to see elephant seals - hundreds of them splayed across the beach, jiggling magnificently as they hauled themselves across the sand.

One aspect of the move that I didn’t anticipate was that the ordinary day-to-day wildlife would be different too (which seems a bit silly in hindsight). Now instead of waking up to the whoosh of keruru wings, I instead hear sparrows and jays. I see little brown lizards sunbathing along the sidewalks as I walk to work. I once caught a glimpse of glowing eyes at night - my immediate reaction was “It’s a brushtail possum, get it!” but it turned out to simply be an overweight raccoon.

California’s trees are rivaled by no others.

As ordinary as those animals may seem at first glance, I try to make time to pause and appreciate them. They may not be as rare or unique as New Zealand’s native wildlife, but they are part of the local ecosystems and they do matter. Now I think the next step is trying to make a bit more time to appreciate them further, and resume posting here on the Wild Focus Project. (Oh, by the way - I finally published that research about increasing engagement with conservation through photography! Hit me up if you want the full text).

Going forward, I’ll do my best to put up a new post at least once a month. I’ve got a couple of guest articles lined up, and a whole list of ideas for future posts. I’m looking forward to getting back into this, and I appreciate your patience over the long hiatus!