Jonathan Vargas’s mentor is Dr. Eduardo Palacios, a Research Biologist at the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada (CICESE) in La Paz, Baja California Sur. Eduardo received his PhD in 2001 from the University of California at Davis, where he studied the breeding ecology of Brown Pelicans in the Gulf of California. He has spent the last 25 years studying and protecting marine and coastal birds, collaborating with academic institutions and NGOs across the US and Mexico. Eduardo has also worked with the Manomet Center for Conservation Science as the Shorebird Recovery Project Coordinator for Northwest Mexico, writing the recovery plan for shorebirds in the region. He recently helped secure the legal protection of four shorebird species and is currently managing the Point Blue Conservation Science’s Migratory Shorebird Project in Mexico.
Before he became a Coastal Solutions Fellow, Jonathan worked under Dr. Palacios as his master’s student, as they share a common interest in addressing the negative impacts of humans on shorebirds. As a mentor, Eduardo advised and helped direct some of the project’s activities and helped to train volunteers in the project.
The project has faced several challenges, the largest of which were the all-encompassing pause created by the Coronavirus pandemic and the turnover of members of the municipal committee involved in approving the protection measures for the coast. Eduardo explained why the new committee members’ involvement in the protection measures might be hard-won: “Those decisions imply regulating activities in a recreational beach that is highly used by local people, so that is not very popular, you know? For a politician that’s a very big deal!”
However, despite the challenges, Eduardo spoke about the excellent progress that the project has already achieved and praised Jonathan’s dedication throughout its course. Since Jonathan began this project, the Snowy Plover population has increased dramatically. The community engagement component of the project has been critical, because securing the public’s support for the protection of the coastal habitats will accelerate the approval process of the protection mechanisms with the municipality.
Regarding the future of the Snowy Plover in Ensenada, Eduardo mentioned that their long-term success is on the shoulders of the local environmental organizations Terra Peninsular and Pro Esteros, but he is confident that the small shorebirds’ safety is in good hands. The eventual approval of the proposed coastal conservation policies will create the institutional framework for the continued protection of the Snowy Plover and other bird species that share this valuable region. Learn more about Eduardo’s research projects at his CICESE website.