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Monday, February 8, 2016

TEJON RANCH CONSERVANCY’S NEW SENIOR ECOLOGIST by Dr. C. Ellery Mayence (the Conservancy's new Senior Ecologist!!)

Here's a big hello to everyone out there!  I am super excited about this new opportunity and looking forward to telling you a bit about myself.  Originally, I hail from the northern Florida Gulf Coast (yes, I know, the other sunshine state that has much higher humidity) but have spent the majority of the past 20 years studying and working in other states, regions and countries.  Interestingly, and perhaps not by chance, California, is a place to which I keep returning over and over again.  I suppose there are many reasons really, but I attribute these returns largely to my deep fascination with the state’s physiography, climate, and ecology (I’m sure my fondness for a nice drop of local vino is a non-factor).  This, combined with a keen desire to play an integral role in the protection, sustainable management, rehabilitation, and restoration of our natural resources, has lead me to the Tejon Ranch Conservancy.  I look forward to getting down and dirty with the Ranch’s ecology and taking on the challenges that accompany the type of on-the-ground natural resource management and conservation science practiced here, all this while reveling in the unparalleled and amazing landscape of Tejon Ranch.
It’s nice to share a name with a lake in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, CA.

My professional background is natural resource ecology and management with a focus in restoration ecology.  My initial interests were in wet biomes, but I made the switch to Mediterranean and other dryland systems several years ago and have been hooked ever since.  One of the experiences that brought about this switch was a several month-long road trip to desert portions of California and southern Arizona in what was a booming wildflower season.  Stunning scenery!  Providing further encouragement for the switch was getting to know the nearby Carrizo Plain in each of the four seasons (and having many lunches sitting atop the San Andres fault).  To make the switch rightly inevitable was spending the better part of seven years in dry portions of Australia, with the last three dedicated to developing restoration techniques in coastal desert shrubland along the Indian Ocean.  I am amazed by what life a mere 4-6 inches of precipitation per annum can support, an attribute all the before-mentioned locales share.

Digging and sampling from a soil pit on the Carrizo Plain, CA.

Asked to describe one amazing nature moment I’ve experienced, I initially wanted to describe in great detail one of the many stunning Shark Bay, Western Australia sunrises and sunsets I’ve witnessed.  But since I know a lot of avid birders will read this blog post, I’d like to describe a moment during a stint of field work in saltmarsh habitat near where the Petaluma River enters San Pablo Bay.  I was positioned along a tidal creek at a point where it merged with an extensive mudflat.  The tide was ebbing and flock upon flock of shore and wading birds were rocketing toward the mudflat to forage.  What made the experience most memorable was that many of the birds were at eye level and not much more than a few arm lengths away, which allowed me to hear and in some cases feel their wingbeats.
Incoming wading birds looking for a place to forage, Sonoma County, CA.

Outside of the professional ranks you may find me eager to head off on a cross-country hike, a mountain bike trip, or any other outdoor activity and not just those that involve a ball or disc.  A dual-sport motorcycle tour along a meandering scenic California backroad would be fun, as would visiting a good farmer’s market or organic farm.  I enjoy growing food, like to do a bit of home brewing, and enjoy most water sports, especially free diving.
Rewards of a shore dive after a long work week, Western Australia.

As for Tejon Ranch and whether there is any one feature I am most excited about, I must say that I’m looking forward to developing an understanding of how the underlying geology and precipitation patterns collectively influence plant community composition and seasonal vegetation dynamics.  Oh yea, I’m also jazzed about seeing my first condor, at close range hopefully! 

Note from the rest of the Conservancy Staff:  Welcome Ellery!!  We are excited to have a new member of the team.