By connecting people with their landscape, we are also connecting with each other. Across the region, we find common ground with private landowners and land management agencies. Our science supports sustainable land management decisions and techniques that make a tangible difference. With these combined strategies, we are successfully addressing climate change, challenging habitat fragmentation and destruction of the borderlands connecting people to place across political borders.
Joining forces with the common goal of conservation, our work accomplishes a less visible goal: to bring people together, to share ideas, exchange thoughts and put hands to work, shoulder-to-shoulder in a fun way, breaking the barriers of language, politics and misperceptions. In the process, we are connecting people with each other for better land stewardship. Through educational talks, outreach, field trips and workshops, we reach and engage thousands of new people each year in southeast Arizona and northern Sonora, from universities to landowners to agency personnel.
Without a doubt, the involvement and active participation of local communities is invaluable to achieving our mission. Sky Island Alliance staff continually promote appreciation of the great diversity of plants and animals in the Sky Islands, and share enthusiasm for conservation in the region. We employ ingenuity and creative collaboration to overcome the challenging circumstances in the conservation of trans-boundary ecosystems.
The best advocates and spokespeople for regional conservation are the people who live, work and call the region home. They know the importance of resource management and protection, influence local communities, governments and groups, and become the models for implementation of successful strategies. By finding common ground with our partners, we assure the continuity of projects and buy-in from landowners. For this reason SIA strongly considers landowners’ interests and needs in order to secure the long-term success of our strategies and projects. The success of our partners is our success too.
In Mexico, we have made significant progress in conservation thanks to collaboration with a number of private landowners, schools, universities and conservation groups. Since 2007, we have signed many conservation agreements to work collaboratively on conservation, restoration and research in private lands, and federally-managed wildlife refuges and reserves. For instance, in one year, more than 100 students and staff of the Instituto Tecnologico Superior de Cananea participated in restoration projects in Sierra La Esmeralda, Sierra Azul, Sierra Mariquita, the Santa Cruz River and San Pedro River in Sonora, and Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona. They also host and organize educational events and presentations that promote caring for the environment at the local level, sharing results from scientific expeditions, and engaging residents in ongoing projects and field trips.
Sky Island Alliance lends its success to nearly 400 volunteers, from diverse backgrounds, who contribute their time and skill each year in the field or the office. The majority of volunteer opportunities we provide do not require extensive training or commitment, and volunteers can join us for half a day or a weekend, planting trees, building rock water catchments, meeting new people and learning as they go. For scientific research, however, we offer training and guidance to ensure the best data collection practices and experience for our citizen science volunteers. Volunteers who take part in citizen science make a larger commitment to acquiring the research skills needed and to contributing time on a regular basis. They benefit from knowing that they have made new discoveries and expanded scientific knowledge and conservation in a place they love and enjoy. In addition to becoming experts in a new skill, they become more knowledgeable and concerned about conservation in their own communities and understand more intimately how our actions affect the landscape. They join a community of individuals who feel similarly. Upcoming citizen science training opportunities are posted on our event calendar.
Wildlife Tracking Workshops
We host Wildlife Tracking Workshops twice a year in spectacular settings throughout the Sky Islands. This 40-hour training (usually over the course of a four or five-day overnight trip) provides hands-on field instruction and theory in a variety of skills and techniques needed for our wildlife monitoring. Our Wildlife Tracking Workshop is required training to volunteer in our wildlife monitoring program, but we offer this opportunity to anyone who is interested. Participants learn:
- The natural history and conservation efforts of regional animal species.
- Wildlife track morphology, structure and terminology.
- Use of global positioning systems (GPS).
- Photo documentation.
- Wildlife camera monitoring techniques.
- Track plaster casting and tracing.
- Animal gaits and movement.
- Safety and data collection protocols.
- Experience with wildlife track and sign identification in the field.
After completing the workshop, participants have the skills to identify wildlife tracks and to document what they discover. We show volunteers how to put these skills to use for both immediate and long-term conservation action. We spend the majority of the training outdoors and accommodations range from tent camping to bunkhouse sleeping. All course materials are included. We invite every participant to adopt a survey route as part of a small team that conducts a tracking survey once every six weeks (nine surveys per year), as part of our wildlife monitoring effort. Most survey routes are located in the U.S. To accommodate volunteers’ busy lives, teams can schedule their survey day within a two-week window.
Check our calendar of events for upcoming workshop dates.