Six Months as a Youth Conservation Corps Crew Leader

by Lyndsey Slavik

Having recently graduated college, moved to Santa Fe, and with a deep passion for birds, I saw the application for being a part of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) for the Randall Davey Audubon Center when browsing their website. Over the past four months, it has been the most enriching experience to be a part of YCC working on projects at the Randall Davey Audubon Center (RDAC), the Santa Fe Botanical Garden (SFBG), and the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve (LCWP). Our crew consisted of Brandon Stewart, Melanie Solis, Amanda Rudolph, Joaquin Gomez, and Shoki Bundy.

At the RDAC, our work mainly consisted of erosion mitigation on their trail network. We utilized Native American methodologies, such as Zuni Bowls, to hold water within areas of high erosion. We also constructed Media Lunas, or half-moons, which assist in reducing the velocity of water as it moves down the slopes of the trail. Collecting the rocks for these structures was a lot of work, but we had a lot of fun assembling them since fitting the rocks together seemed like a puzzle.

At the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve (LCWP), we focused on the removal of invasive plant species during summer months and habitat restoration in the fall by spreading the seeds of native plants in areas of heavy plant removal. It was beautiful to see how the ecology of the LCWP transitioned over the months, including watching the sunflowers sprout up and bloom from early July to late August.

Not only did we conduct ecological fieldwork, but we also engaged in professional development events and activities that deepened our understanding of the natural world and allowed us to engage with the community. As a cultural learning component, we were hosted on tours of the O’Keeffe Museum, SITE Santa Fe, the New Mexico Natural History Museum, and the Museum of International Folk Art. Additionally, we took time to practice mindfulness in nature by going on guided nature walks together, journaling, and participated in community science through identification and documentation of native plants through apps like iNaturalist.

And now, as the summer has transitioned to autumn, our amazing crew members returned to college, and my work transitioned to coordination with the Northern New Mexico Master Naturalist Program. This program is hosted though the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Audubon New Mexico, Santa Fe County Open Space, Parks, and Trails Program, and the YCC. Each week focuses on a different ecological topic to give participants a deeper understanding of the ecology of New Mexico, with an emphasis on environmental stewardship and creating a community of trained volunteers.

Overall, I could not think of a more rewarding role than working as a Youth Conservation Corps Crew leader over the course of the last months. Working with everyone at the Randall Davey Audubon Center, Santa Fe Botanical Garden, and Santa Fe County has been incredibly enriching, and I express my gratitude to all these organizations for making my time with YCC an experience I could build upon past skills with and grow new ones for the future. And lastly, but most importantly, we thank the crew for their hard work, and making work fun. These connections to people and the outdoors make this work worthwhile.


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