“I wanted to thank you and the LEF again for making it possible for me to travel to Mexico a few weeks ago to do scientific research with Ecology Project International. None of this would have been possible for me without the LEF’s generosity. So, thank you again.”
— Jill McNabnay, Lakeshore Teacher
Reflections of a First-Time International Traveler
Over the past few weeks, as I’ve thought back on my experience with EPI, the one word I keep coming back to is: story. The scenery was amazing. The wildlife was majestic. The research was inspiring. But more than anything, I was struck by the small snippets of different people’s stories we experienced in our limited time with them. And although I only know small pieces of each person’s story that we met, I continue to be inspired by the little bit of themselves that they shared with us. Thinking back on our time in Magdalena Bay, I’m reminded that everyone has a story, and everyone’s story is worth sharing.
Don Jose’s Story:
We met Don Jose on our first full day in Magdalena Bay. He came to the campsite to show us how to measure and collect data on the Green Sea Turtles we would hopefully be encountering the next day. Using the research tools and speaking only Spanish, he gracefully showed us how to take each measurement on turtles that we had made in the sand. The next day, Don Jose went out two hours before us in the early morning to put down the net and wait for the turtles. This is something he often does, as now the lone volunteer turtle research in Baja California. Don Jose is a fisherman by trade, who years ago, used to capture turtles. He now exerts so much time, effort, and energy into saving a species that is on the brink of extinction because of his renewed passion for Magdalena Bay and the turtles.
Uber was our head chef for the week. The food that he cooked was amazing, and the love that he showed for his work was truly inspiring. Once one of the top turtle chefs in the world, Uber found a way to turn his passion for cooking into helping with conservation efforts, rather than destroying the wildlife of his native land. Uber and his crew were helpful, hardworking, and full of joy. They may not have been rich in money, but they were rich in spirit. And the depth of relationships they had with each other and with us (in just our short time there) was truly inspirational.
The Stories of Local Researchers:
One of the things that I enjoyed most about this experience was that each day we partnered with a different local researcher and joined them in their work. The researcher who took us to observe and photo-tag Grey Whales told us the story of his work and his passion. He strongly desired to go out and see and photograph the whales more, but was limited by funding. He did the best he could with what he had, but deeply desired to be able to do more. The researcher who took us snorkeling with Whale Sharks was in the water so much that she knew them by name. She told us more of their story than her own, which exemplified her deep commitment to her research and to protecting the sharks.
Story of the Wildlife:
Even the wildlife had a story to tell. The whales were beginning their migration north, after having spent three months in the waters of Magdalena Bay. The mothers now had babies to travel with them back to where they spend the majority of their lives. The turtles were preparing to go back to the beach they were born on, in order to lay their eggs. Some of them would soon be traveling thousands of miles to get back to where they originated. The sharks’ story is a bit of a mystery, but scientists are sure they have one (like we all do) and are desperately trying to learn what it is before it’s too late.
The Story of Us:
There were ten teachers from across the United States and Canada and four EPI educators on this trip. Each of us came from different places in life, with different goals, and with a different story. But we were united for a week by the common story that we lived out together. And that is a story that I will continue to tell for years to come.