I thank you all for taking time to visit with me. I’m hoping to share with you my amazing journey through the beautiful and awe-inspiring landscapes of the Western United States. Each time I gaze through my viewfinder, I am touched on a deep and personal level by the world I see. I hope you get to experience those very same emotions as you follow along with me. I also hope you find some usefulness in the tips I share with you. They were hard learned, but quite handy as I trudged across the many streams and sand dunes. I also want to introduce you to a few absolutely incredible people who are working hard right here in San Diego County to preserve this remarkable ecosystem. Lastly, as an avid runner, I’d like to share a few of the quirky, but awesome scenes I happen to come across on my early morning runs. I’m truly excited to begin this journey with you, and I’m hoping you begin to view the environment around you with the same loving eyes that I do. MOST IMPORTANTLY, I’d love to hear and see YOUR journeys – so please share!


The SDHC Team - Jim Rocks, Habitat Manager

August 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Jim, where are you from originally?

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and then spent many years in southern Illinois, including my time in graduate school.

What initially drew you to become involved in the preservation effort?

I was already involved in many projects involving land preservation, but this was my first opportunity to actively manage habitat preserves and be involved in the day-to-day decisions.

When did you join the SDHC team and why did you decide to become a part of this organization?

I joined the organization in 2008 because I knew this was a perfect opportunity to get involved with a growing organization that was going to do great things for land conservation in California.

What is your favorite preserve and why?

Each Preserve has it’s own unique attributes, but I would pick Bridges-Santa Fe Creek for it’s diversity of habitats and sensitive species.

Why is it important to focus efforts on San Diego County specifically?

It’s important to focus on San Diego because it is a ‘biodiversity hotspot’, which means that San Diego County supports an incredible array of plants and animals, but many of those species are declining due to development and other disturbance to native habitats.

What has been the reaction of the children at the local elementary schools you've visited?

We’ve had an amazing reaction from the kids who are truly fascinated with the beauty and diversity of San Diego County many of whom didn’t realize how it positively affects all of us.  They really enjoy seeing the butterfly collection and different tools and gadgets we use as biologists.

If you could share a message with all of San Diego, what would you share?

I would say that while we all appreciate San Diego for it’s beautiful weather and scenery, it has taken (and will continue to take) the interest and effort of all of us to help preserve large areas of open space not just for plants and wildlife, but for our well being too.  Get involved; any level of effort can help from picking up trash, to pulling weeds, to joining SDHC!

The SDHC Team - Sarah Krejca, Assistant Program Coordinator

August 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Where are you from originally?

Chicago, IL

What initially drew you to become involved in the preservation effort?

Growing up I always liked being outdoors and had a love and respect for animals. Although I lived in Chicago, I was lucky enough to live in a home surrounded by oak trees and have parents that took me on hikes during the summers. Once in college, my passion for exploring and conserving our natural resources was only strengthened. The summer after my 2nd year of university, I studied abroad in Kenya where I focused on wildlife management. That experience was life changing and I knew then that my work would ultimately focus on conserving our natural resources in one way or another.

When did you join the SDHC team and why did you decide to become a part of this organization?

I began volunteering in June 2012 and began working part-time in November 2012 and full-time in October 2013. I wanted to find a more rewarding way to leverage my backgrounds in biology and environmental law and my passion for the outdoors with an organization doing work I support. I was looking for a way to get involved specifically with an organization working on land conservation. I happened upon SDHC’s website, saw they were looking for volunteers, and now here I am more than 2 years later. I love the variety of work I get to do and feel lucky that I get to explore places that very few people do. Plus, I work with some very knowledgeable people who are just as passionate about conservation as I am.

 What is your favorite preserve and why?

Bridges & Santa Fe Creek Preserve. All of SDHC’s preserves have something special about them but to me, this preserve really stands out. It is one of the few places that I have visited in southern California that has water (Escondido Creek) running through all year long. Plus, the site is peaceful, rich with a variety of rare and sensitive species, and is a great place for honing my birding skills.

Why is it important to focus efforts on San Diego County specifically?

San Diego County is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world with nearly 300 rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species, more than ANY comparable land area in the continental U.S.! Yet, it is also subject to ever-increasing development which threatens the longevity and health of the area. Over 94% of native grasslands, 70% of coastal sage scrub habitat, and 97% of vernal pools have been destroyed in San Diego County. We need these native habitats not only for the beauty they provide but also for the value they provide to our ecosystem in ways such as reducing air pollution, aiding in flood and erosion control, improving water quality, and supporting animals that provide natural insect and rodent control.

Additionally, San Diego County has a strong coalition of people and organizations working together towards conserving biodiversity on a regional level and ensuring that there is a coordinated effort to create an interconnected preserve system which is vital to maintaining successful wildlife populations. I believe the success of these efforts will serve as an example to other regions throughout California and the rest of the country.    

What has been the reaction of the children at the local elementary schools you've visited?

I’ve just started joining Jim on the school visits and I have been so motivated by the reactions we’ve received. Overall the kids have been really inquisitive and excited to hear our story. Let’s not forget about the adults! We’ve been so welcomed by the teachers. It’s just a lot of fun and very rewarding to share our love of nature and spread our message of conservation.

If you could share a message with all of San Diego, what would you share?

San Diego County is a beautifully unique part of the world with the ocean, desert, and mountains all within a short drive. It takes all of us working together and respecting the environment to preserve these wonderful resources. Also, studies have shown that people are increasingly disconnected from nature which is resulting in increased rates of obesity, attention disorders, and depression. So let’s get outdoors and encourage our children to do the same!


The SDHC Team - Don Scoles, Executive Director

August 25, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

As we near the September 6th show date, I wanted to make a concerted effort to introduce the San Diego Habitat Conservancy team. Today, I’ll start off by introducing the team’s Executive Director, Don Scoles. He is an incredibly passionate man who has chosen to focus his efforts on our local community for the last several years. As he will share below, we live in one of the world’s premier ecological hot spots, and, though he is too modest to admit it, Don has played an integral part in SDHC’s overall success.

Where are you from originally?

Manhattan Beach, California. I came to San Diego to attend San Diego State University and have been here ever since.

What initially drew you to become involved in the preservation effort?

It probably started with my parents’ influence. Camping trips, traveling, and adventures in the outdoors were regular family recreation. Dad was the floura and fauna enthusiast and mom was a good “armchair” historian and archaeologist. It was through them that I learned to really enjoy natural and cultural resources and learned that these open spaces and resources are important and worth conserving. My parents were both teachers who met teaching at an outdoor camp. I have a few of their old outdoor teaching manuals from the 1950s and early 1960s. Now that SDHC is developing our own educational program, I have read many of the old books to see how to introduce and foster interest in the outdoors and natural sciences. The books are entertaining because of the dated language and photos used in the books, but many of the conservation values and education methods presented are relevant and valid today and we will be using them in our program.

When did you join the SDHC team and why did you decide to become a part of this organization?

 I took over as SDHC’s second Executive Director in September 2009. My career prior to joining was as a planner and compliance monitor, so I was familiar with regulatory requirements for mitigation lands and their ultimate preservation. I knew there were long-term managers for the preserved lands, but I did not know the details of how legal protections were applied to the preserved land or the day-to-day operations of management of the land. When I was offered the job, I was excited by the challenge of learning these new details and leading an organization as it grows. I also liked the idea of working for a non-profit, which I had not done before.

What is your favorite preserve and why?

I am going to answer like a proud parent with a lot of children and say, “I love them all equally, but for different reasons.” At Woods Valley Ranch, I am enamored by the tremendous oak groves and rock outcrops, at Lonestar and Vallecitos Ridge I love the vistas, and I like Carlsbad Raceway for its history and for the pleasant surprises we find there as the habitat recovers. I like Emerald Point for its ease of access and being able to show the public how hard and soft engineered solutions can work together in successful habitat restoration in an urban area.  I like Bridges for its sheer size, the perennial stream that flows through it, and the abundance and uniqueness of the species that are there. I am looking forward to Seacliff, a new preserve we will start managing this fall, because it will be our first coastal preserve. I could go on and on…

Why is it important to focus efforts on San Diego County specifically?

When I am asked to speak on behalf of SDHC, I am fond of saying, “If you like conservation, you don’t have to go somewhere exotic to do it, you can practice real conservation right here in San Diego and literally in your backyard.” The San Diego Region is one of the world’s few biodiversity hotspots - areas with a high number of plant and animal species with the habitats experiencing a high degree of threat or loss. San Diego as a county has more plants and animal species than 49 states in our nation. Because San Diego County is a great place to live, development of the region has resulted in the pressures and loss of the habitat that supports the wide number of species. So, unfortunately, San Diego County also has the dubious distinction of having the most endangered species of any county in the entire nation.

 If you could share a message with all of San Diego, what would you share?

Enjoy what’s around you. It’s truly unique, and it does not occur anywhere else in the world. Pull that non-native plant, replace it with a native plant, and enjoy the increased wildlife it attracts. 

Fun Run Friday !

August 22, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

"When you run in places you visit, you encounter things you'd never see otherwise."
                                         --TOM BROKAW


Fall In The Gutter

August 19, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I was walking through the park one autumn day when something happened to catch my attention.  When I glanced down to see what it was, I witnessed an amazing array of texture and color semi-submerged in a puddle of cold rainwater. I was immediately intrigued to see this medley of leaves, and I couldn’t help but look around to see where these beautiful leaves had come from. It’s funny how such can inspire you to more deeply take notice of the world around you. All of a sudden, the yellows and oranges of the surrounding foliage began to jump into my awareness, and the initially imperceptible purples began to call out for my attention. It was such a raw and unexpected experience that my mind began recalling memories from my childhood when I would dig my hands into wet leaves and squeeze them tightly so that they would ooze through my fingertips. I instantly recalled how those very leaves felt and how the cold, wet soil would stick to my hands. It’s amazing how a single captured moment has the power to evoke such visceral emotion.


August 18, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Fun Run Friday !

August 15, 2014  •  Leave a Comment



I run because long after my footprints fade away, maybe I will have inspired a few to reject the easy path,hit the trails, put one foot in front of the other, and come to the same conclusion I did: I run because it always takes me where I want to go.

- Dean Karnazes

Here Comes The Sun

August 13, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


"Sunrise in the White Mountains"

Into the White Mountains

August 12, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Joshua Tree

August 11, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

One of my favorite places to photograph is Joshua Tree National Park. On this day in particular, the clouds came rolling in and brought with them a visually stunning array of weather. But, each time I travel to Joshua Tree NP, I encounter a new and unique aspect that I somehow hadn’t noticed before. It’s that elusive magic that continues to draw me back over and over again. Sometimes, it’s gusts of strong wind that make the vegetation appear as though they are leaning over in sequence or it’s the moon hanging so low that I thought I could touch it, if I only climbed on that boulder up ahead. Sometimes it is the sunlight shining so intensely and at such an angle that the resulting strong shadows create a surreal and otherworldly aura. 

Fun Run Friday !

August 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

  "Running is not about how far you go, but how far you've come"  

  - Bart Yasso  

The Milky Way Over The Trona Pinnacles

August 07, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

“all hopes there, so close to each other, are pulled into the void every night; when a band of pale twinkles milking the way
across the divine breadth of sky where every heart belongs. From the poem "The Universe In Blossom” - Munia Khan


August 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Desert Dunes

August 04, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I have been drawn to the desert ever since my first visit to the dunes in July of 2011. It is such a foreign environment to anything I knew while growing up in Germany, which probably explains my intense fascination. I’ve been back several times, and though no one in their right mind ever goes there in July, it is actually the best opportunity to capture the dunes in their most pristine and untouched state. Because of the intense heat (often times reaching in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit), you don’t see the remaining traces of foot or ATV traffic. I arrived that day in the late afternoon, which was perfect to set up a sunset shoot. I stayed overnight and observed a spectacular night sky. The best times for shooting are certainly sunset and sunrise, but I really liked the contrast in this particular shot, which I captured before packing up midmorning. The white sand contrasting with the dark blue sky, its a place of great contrast.


“On the Edge where Earth meets Sky”

July 30, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Earth met sky that day as we climbed in elevation to gain a better view of the valley below.  With steady, labored steps, we made it to the hills edge. The gusts of wind were so strong, but the air cold and fresh. I was bundled in several layers of warm clothing and strapped with many lbs of gear, so I had to take several moments to catch my breath. The wind continued to blow intensely as my face grew flush from the chill. As I regained my center and began to set up the photograph, the valley began to disappear beneath the clouds. I was completely taken by this moment as the earth and sky formed a dramatic symphony of clouds, mountains, hills, shadows, and bushes. I felt immersed within it, as though they were all wrapping around me, preparing to whisk me away. As the wind whipped about on this hill's edge, I felt the moment to be wild and strong.