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Friday, January 24, 2014

Staff Interview: Scot Pipkin

Scot and his newborn daughter, Calliandra
Scot Pipkin is the first full-time Public Access Coordinator for Tejon Ranch Conservancy. An avid naturalist, Scot is dedicated to discovering and sharing all of the wonder that Tejon Ranch has to offer. Here, we ask him the tough questions. Let's see if he can take the heat. . .

Where are you from? What’s your background?
I was born and raised in San Diego, Ca. Most folks think that means I’m a surfer, but I’m not. I actually spent most of my outdoors time in the hills of “East County” as they call it. I developed an affinity for chaparral and granite pretty early on.
When I turned 18, I moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. There, I studied geography and got to spend a great deal of time exploring the California backcountry for school and pleasure. After graduating, I worked as an environmental educator in the Santa Cruz Mountains, spent a few years in Tucson obtaining a degree in landscape architecture, and bounced around a bunch of different places in between. It’s nice to be back in California.

As such a passionate naturalist, why did you decide to pursue a degree in Landscape Architecture, and how does that background affect your perspective on the ecology and land management of the Ranch?
I got interested in landscape architecture while I was teaching residential environmental education in the redwoods. After spending a week with us in the forest, our students would get on a bus and head back to wherever in the county they were from. There was something unsettling about the notion that these children were, for the most part, returning to very urban settings in the Bay Area. I felt bad that after a week in the woods, they were returning to concrete and lawns. It made me want to do something about urban green space. Landscape architecture seemed like a good way to approach that problem.
Once I got into school, I started taking classes like landscape ecology, wildlife linkage design, and secured an internship with the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. All of these things swung me back to large-scale land planning and resource management. I think Tejon Ranch provides an incredible opportunity to explore my varied interests in landscape architecture. 

Is there anything in particular on Tejon Ranch you have not yet seen?
I really want to see a ringtail (Bassariscus astutus).

Please describe one amazing nature moment you had in 2013.
Besides witnessing the birth of my daughter in November, I would say a good one occurred in the spring. Conejo Valley Audubon was visiting us for Mother’s Day and we had a pretty slow morning. We drove up on the alluvial terrace east of Big Sycamore Canyon and got into the blue oaks. Once we got under a little canopy, we started to notice hermit warblers (Dendroica occidentalis) all around us. I haven’t yet experienced one of the fabled Tejon spring migration days, but this felt like it in miniature. It’s pretty amazing to think about these birds that have travelled from hundreds (thousands?) of miles away and are all passing through at that one exact moment.

We at the Conservancy are pretty big audiophiles. Can you list 5 of your favorite albums?
A toughie indeed. Here goes:
Bill Withers- Live at Carnegie Hall
John Hartford- Aereo-Plain
Coleman Hawkins and Red Allen- Volume 2: High Standards

Harry Nilsson- The Point!
Bunny Wailer- Blackheart Man

We like to talk about how Tejon Ranch is at the confluence of 4 of Ca’s major ecoregions (southwestern Ca, SJV, Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert). Do you have a favorite one?
I don’t know if I can identify a particular ecoregion per se, but I do have an affinity for the 3,000-4,500ft elevation band across Tejon. I love that you can see oak woodland, pinyon juniper, Joshua trees, and chaparral all in that band. 

Besides Tejon Ranch, can you list 5 California locations you love?
Pigeon Point Lighthouse- Great tidepooling and a hot tub right on the water
Marble Canyon, Death Valley- Beautiful rock formations and petroglyphs
Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego- Ocean views, tidepooling, and a unique vegetation community
Solstice Canyon, Santa Monica Mountains- Purple sage (Salvia leucophylla)!
Highway 395 Between Bridgeport and Topaz, Ca- A great bike ride and a cool way to transition from Ca into Basin and Range country. 
This guy has too much free time