Stacey Vigallon: Snowy Plover Hero
Every winter 200-350 Snowy Plovers spend the season in Los Angeles County, but since 1949 not a single nest has been reported in the area. Stacey Vigallon hopes to change that.
"I'm lucky to have my dream job," Stacey Vigallon said. "My official title is Director of Interpretation for Los Angeles Audubon. It's the best job ever."
Vigallon's job covers everything from coordinating shorebird surveys to managing school outreach programs. "We pick themes like Snowy Plovers and Least Terns. Snowy Plovers in particular are so emblematic of a Los Angeles County Beach," Vigallon explained. Just as Snowy Plovers are small, secretive and camouflaged, "there's so much hidden beauty in Los Angeles."
Plover Knowledge is Power
The biggest challenge to shorebird conservation in LA County is lack of awareness Vigallon said. "People don't have a lot of animosity towards the plover, but they have a very clear idea about what their beaches should look like. The mindset in LA is that the beach is where you go to play, and most beach visitors have never heard of the Snowy Plover."
Broadening the definition of beach recreation to include wildlife-viewing is one of her biggest goals. "In the off season you can view amazing wildlife."
In her education programs Vigallon brings this message to LA County kids. "Students go on field trips to visit plovers, they visit the Least Tern colony, and help with field work and habitat restoration." High school students who have been in the program for years help lead the elementary school students and some of the students who are now in college return to monitor birds in the summer. "Since 2007 we've had 200 people come through the monitoring program," she said. "Partnerships with Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society, Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society and our collaborations with wildlife and beach management agencies have been essential to plover conservation in LA County."
A Vision for Snowy Plovers
When asked what her ultimate goal is Vigallon doesn't hesitate, "to get Snowy Plovers nesting in Los Angeles County again. I think it's within the realm of possibility with more conservation efforts, more awareness. If we can get them to stay later and later into the breeding season then maybe they won't leave at all."