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Connecting the Public to Our Wild Places

By Ida Kaller-Vincent, Ocean Connectors Eco Tour Coordinator

Wildlife on Our Doorstep 

The sun dances on the ocean surface, and with each paddle stroke a trail of water droplets sparkles in the morning sun. Baby bat rays swim beneath our kayaks, brant geese chatter in the distance, and the shrill whistle of an osprey travels through the breeze. It is hard to believe I am smack in the middle of our nation’s eighth largest city. I can’t help but marvel at the immense wildlife right here on our doorstep. I have worked all over the world; setting up marine protected areas in Madagascar, protecting sea turtle eggs from poachers in Costa Rica, surveying coral reefs in the Maldives, and researching the impact of introduced fish in the rivers of Papua New Guinea. Each location has been characterized by remote, hard to access areas, tucked away in far-flung corners of the world. Yet here I am gliding through the restored wetlands of San Diego’s South Bay and experiencing the same sense of connection with nature. It feels like I am a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Photo Credit: Richard Smith

From Childhood Passion to Career

Growing up in Sweden, I spent my summers swimming in the Baltic Sea, catching crabs and tiny fish, and being mesmerized by the multitude of jellyfish. It sparked my passion for the aquatic realm, and this together with my mom’s passion for travel instilled me with a sense of curiosity and wonderment for this planet. I learned that being different; experiencing different cultures, languages, beliefs, is not something to fear, but something to treasure and learn from. So it is no surprise that when I started my career as a young Marine Biologist I wanted to work with diverse communities, share my passion for the natural world and foster a shared sense of responsibility for our environment. 

Prior to the global pandemic that has turned our world upside down, I led citizen science wildlife conservation projects around the world. Observing the citizen scientists on my expeditions, seeing their faces light up and listening to their stories of wanting to do more when they return home made me realize that fostering environmental stewardship needs to be prioritized in all aspects of life, not just for those fortunate enough to afford a trip around the world to volunteer their time. So when I learned about the work that Ocean Connectors does here in San Diego and in Mexico, I was excited to say the least! Being introduced to nature as a child is what led me to a career in science and conservation, so Ocean Connectors’ work with youth in underserved communities really hit home for me.

Wildlife and Wetland Discovery 

In my role as Eco Tour Coordinator, not only am I lucky enough to conduct work that directly supports youth education, but I also get the joy of sharing my passion with the public and watching people discover the vast array of wildlife in our own backyard. I recently had a guest on a Wildlife Kayaking Eco Tour tell me “I have lived here my whole life and I had no idea this was right here; it makes me want to advocate for more wetland restoration in our bay”. I live for these moments, the spark of connection, the sense of being a part of our ecosystem. I am so grateful to be part of the Ocean Connectors team, and to apply my passion for our wild places on a local stage!

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