Field Notes: A Landscape-level View of the 2021 Field Season

2021 Field Crew Member Natalie Chapman and Restoration Manager Jackson Brooke pull weeds in an old oak grove off of Rancho San Carlos Road, known as the Enchanted Forest. Photo by Alix Soliman. 

November 16, 2021

By Natalie Chapman, 2021 Field Crew Member

My time at the Santa Lucia Conservancy allowed me to enjoy a unique balance. My Six months in the field was just long enough to witness patterns, establish routines, and develop an appreciation for Central California culture, but just short enough to give me a sense of novelty, adventure, and organic excitement. 

Intrigued by the juxtaposition of familiarity and newness, I loved seeing The Preserve as winter melded into spring and eased into summer. While I know these annual transitions all too well, the time frame sweetened and sharpened my experience as I experienced the differences between each season from the field.

To me, conservation not only protects ecosystems as standalone entities, but also fosters and observes the relationships that form as these systems interact. The ebb and flow between grasslands and redwood groves as succession and disruption manipulate the landscape; the ephemeral that seasonally support critical species; the green, humid, coastally-influenced hills rolling into miniature heat islands at the hilltops. 

It’s unique to witness these interactions, given the fact that we continue to fragment these landscapes in most of the world, and I am drawn to how the sharply contrasting ecosystems lean on one another for fundamental support. It poses the question: are the systems human communities so often choose to operate within mutually exclusive from natural systems? Most people are beginning to see that, in fact, they are not. We can learn to make our systems more fluid, elegant, and synchronized if we follow nature’s lead. The field season posed these questions in new ways and gave me a new perspective as I learned more about The Preserve model. 

I am thankful for the opportunity to manifest ecological restoration on landscapes unique to California. Serving on the field team challenged me in multiple ways, and I am excited to bring the growth I’ve experienced into my future in restoration. Ushering in landscape-level changes impassions and emboldens me to strive for holistic ecosystem restoration, and I am proud to bring the skills and mindset I built with the Santa Lucia Conservancy into my graduate education and future positions.

The Santa Lucia Conservancy is currently hiring for the 2022 Field Season. Check out the open positions here.