Biocitizen LA Welcomes Our Place Teacher Sara McGillewie: “Los Angeles is my home.”

Welcome Sara!
Sara comes to Biocitizen through our dear friends Drs. Ricardo Rozzi & Francisca Massardo, Directors of the Omora Foundation & Omora Ethnobotanical Park, the active research center for the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB). Sara recently attended Ricardo’s class Tracing Darwin’s Path, while completing her PhD field work on Isla Navarino, a pristine island in Austral Chile, just north of Cape Horn. Directors Jesse Carmichael and Vicente Aguirre worked with and walked with Sara while working with the Omora team. It was instantly clear that Sara would be a great addition to our teaching staff in Los Angeles.
We welcome her to our Biocitizen LA community!
Sara’s Personal Statement:
Los Angeles is my home.
I’m a child again in these hills. Sunlight peaks through my sweat-soaked hair, like kisses tempting me towards the promise of a longer embrace. With each step, my body has taken me closer to the mountaintop. I stand upon the soil and share the cloud-filtered glow of California sun. From up here, I am the mountain. From here, I could witness all history unfold.
Skeleton oaks stand shyly amid black char. A mosaic of bark remains, with arms reaching up as to embrace their own renewal. The fires have taken the shrubs, but in their place have left soils rich in minerals. Grasses have already begun to explore these seemingly infinite resources; a dusting of green unveils in the valley beneath me. Clusters of flowers spread tendrils with vigor.
Succession; the process by which a biological community evolves over time. Through succession, the choreography of life unfolds. We all have our place in this world’s history.
In childhood, my attraction to ecology struck me in strong but subtle ways. City-born naturalists get their first tastes of the outdoors through patches. They come as an admiration for gently swaying trees, for lines of ants on a sidewalk, for the sweet smell of dust and dirt after a fresh rain.
Sometimes, you take a small bite without realized how famished you are. Then before you know it, you have signed up for a PhD to study Ecology. You have been backpacking for three weeks, and are truly thankful for the way you smell or the roughness of your skin. You are a Wilderness First Responder, and your job is introducing people to this world. You’re amazed by this blessed life, where your laughter meets the stars each night and your mind is filled with more questions than answers. Your body hosts 10 microorganisms for each 1 human cell, and they are a part of you. You breathe, and share air with the bugs and the trees, and they are a part of you. You are infinite. You never stop wanting to learn, you never stop wanting to grow.
Pursuit of ecology has led me through an amazing growth, many different global biomes, and many study taxa. I’ve studied bats, rodents, large carnivores, birds, soils, mosses, trees, insects, and microbes. I’ve traveled to places my childhood self would have never imagined; the Southern Sub-Antarctic islands in Chile, the deep Amazon in Ecuador, the heat of the Sonoran desert. I have spoken in conferences across the United States, lived out of a backpack, and hiked more miles than days I have been alive. I have profound gratitude for these experiences, and know that some of the greatest adventures in this life are still ahead of me.
Just like plants in succession, our lives are born from the interactions we share with others. A smile, a laugh, an inspired thought, and a sacred feeling. Humankind is intimately tied to the land and sea in a way we are still remembering. We are profoundly responsible for the biotic and urban environments around us; and for all the fellow beings we co-inhabit these spaces with. We are all students, just as we are all teachers.
I am thrilled to work in the community that fostered the beginnings of my love for the environment. Through Biocitizen, I hope to inspire students to have more hands-on experience in science, and new understandings of their place in the biosphere. When we work together, we create projects which exist on the interface of conservation ecology and self-preservation. We are stronger. We hold policy relevance and the ability to give back to our communities.
We stand atop a mountain, looking down on the history we are living. What will we write together?
Source: Biocitizen, Inc. – Los Angeles, CA
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