INTERPRETING NATURE: The Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program, an update

By Stacey Vigallon, Director of Environmental Education

Since 2008, the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program has served as a way to connect high school students from LA’s urban core with hands-on experience in urban nature and community leadership. Students who go through the Greenhouse Program participate in habitat restoration, mentor elementary school students, conduct original research, and lead adult volunteers in the community. Participating students have a wide range of interests and go on to attend schools like Brown University, Williams College, UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, Humboldt State University, and our local colleges and universities. Some find full-time work right after high school based on the skills they gained through the Greenhouse Program. Perhaps what’s most impressive is that our students not only go on to do great things, but they also come back – they return to serve as volunteers and interns with Los Angeles Audubon during their college years and even after college graduation. They help monitor plover and terns, lead field trips at Dockweiler Beach and Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, and mentor new Greenhouse Program students. The photos below highlight the work that’s being done this year in the program as well as what a few of our alumni have been up to since graduating from high school.

Brian owl

Alumni Brian Young has worked for Los Angeles Audubon since he graduated high school in 2011. He has assisted with habitat restoration events, teaching science illustration, leading field trips at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, and mentoring new students in the Greenhouse Program. He was selected to attend Yosemite National Park’s Wildlinks Bridge Program and has presented his work at the California Naturalist Conference and the California STEM Conference. He currently attends West LA College.

Emily Dockweiler

 Alumni Emily Cobar is a recent UC Santa Cruz graduate. During her time at UC Santa Cruz she won a much-coveted spot in the university’s Natural History Field Quarter program and led nature walks on campus. She has served as an intern at Debs Park Audubon Center. Emily was recently selected to participate in the highly competitive Environment for the Americas internship program, where she’ll be conducting shorebird and seabird research and doing community outreach with Los Angeles Audubon. She is currently assisting us with the Snowy Plover Field Trip Program.

Joyce LeastTern

Alumni Joyce Realegeno, a current UC Santa Cruz student, has worked at the Venice Least Tern colony since her freshman year in high school. She is a certified California Naturalist and has presented her work at both the Audubon Convention and the California STEM Conference.

Bryan Indigo

Alumni Bryan Payes has worked for Northeast Trees and currently works for Los Angeles Audubon while attending West LA College. He also presented his work at the California Naturalist Conference and California STEM Conference this past fall. In this photo, he teaches current Greenhouse Program students about dyeing with indigo, a plant-based dye.

TernColony RLs 5oct2014

Current Greenhouse Program Restoration Leaders assist with research and restoration tasks at the Venice Least Tern colony, fall 2014.

Diandra sounds level meter


Intern Diandra Dillon uses a sound level meter to study noise pollution at both Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and her high school. Now a senior in high school, she has been conducting this project since her 10th grade year.

Magaly walnuts 2015

Intern Magaly Lopez monitors her experiment in the greenhouse, a study of native California black walnut germination rate and survival.

Robert camera 2015

Intern Robert Morales installs an infrared wildlife camera at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. His project focuses on nocturnal mammals and light pollution.

Published Western Tanager Vol. 81 No. 4 March/April 2015