Meet Restoration Horticulturist Eden Santiago
Eden Santiago was hired through American Conservation Experience, thanks to the regional NPS office. She is completing native seed production field trials for national parks in the region.
Hello everyone! I am recent graduate from the University of South Florida with dual degrees in Environmental Science and Policy and Marine Biology. As a child, I moved around a lot but mostly grew up in central Florida. However, having lived in New Mexico when I was younger, I have always ached to move back out west. I am completely awed by the immensity of mountains, stars, and watercolor sunsets that immerse you with their beauty. In this, it was providential that I ended up in Patagonia. A small town full of love and spunk, nestled in a desert valley surrounded by majestic mountain ranges. Here I grew to find great friends from the local grocery store to the firehouse.
This is the view of Red Mountain from the house I stay at while in Patagonia. One can see the monsoon clouds in full bloom right before it begins to rain.
Searching for nursery positions out west, I found Borderlands Restoration through the American Conservation Experience (ACE). Borderlands restoration (BR), is a really cool restoration organization that coordinates restoration projects for the government organizations like National Park Service (NPS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Borderlands nursery, where I work, is a relatively small nursery that grows out native plants required for public land restoration projects. Everyday, BR grows in prestige as they are recognized for all the work that they do. From helping in native plant propagation, to restoring the wildlife corridor, and getting the community involved with youth programs and community collaborations, they do a great deal of good work. I am personally impressed by the amount of brain and body power every project is given. BR nursery for example, doesn’t simply grow plants, they grow different accessions of any given species derived from different elevations and areas to link genetics and establishment. They also track the success of various propagations methods, while making sure that seeds they collect have enough genetic diversity in order to have optimal success in the wild. I hope to continue learning about local ecology and the true meaning of restoration here, if not botany and genetics.
Specifically, in the nursery, I am helping to plant native plants out in the field adjacent to the BR nursery. The goal is to collect seed in future projects and send seed to projects rather costly large plants, making the system more efficient and sustainable. I also work on various planting projects throughout the nursery creating wind blocks, pollinator gardens, and more specifically hedros. I luckily also get to go out to the field to collect seed for Borderland’s seed bank, and work at the seed lab cleaning the collected seed and organizing data.
Patagonia is in part an amazing town because it is walkable and you can go anywhere on your feet. Everywhere you go people are friendly and kind. And there is an abundance of wildlife because it’s a part of the Madrean Archipelago. The Madrean Archipeago is an ecoregion in southeastern Arizona that is characterized by isolated forested mountain ranges surrounded by desert and grasslands. Essentially, it is an oasis of biodiversity as the high elevation mountains in the middle of the desert and act as a refuge. As a result, Patagonia is a hotspot for watching birds and nature’s symphony. All of this surprised me to say the least, but the biggest shock came from hearing about monsoon season. The first thing that popped into my head was news stations reporting massive floods in Bangladesh. Little did I know that that was basically what will happen here too! Okay, so we don’t have to wade through waist high water in order to get to the store, but we do get monsoon storms and rains. As the heat from the sun builds up the pressure in the atmosphere throughout the morning, storm clouds form, giving way to mesmerizing thunder and lightning storms. Then the heavens open and the rains fall. We get a decent 4 inches of rain at the height of monsoon season, filling up the underground creeks and rivers, allowing them to run above ground once more.
Growing up, I have always been attracted to the environment and amazed by the miracle of life; how plants can grow from essentially nothing, as well as their resilience to bounce back from anthropogenic activity. When I was little, I was asked to write a letter to the president about something I felt strongly about. I asked the current president to please stop cutting down trees because it wasn’t good for the environment. Years later, I am blessed to be working at a nursery that grows plants for restoration projects that restore landscapes that have been degraded by human activity. I feel like I am making a difference and am so lucky to be working for such an amazing organization.
P.S. I did get a response back from the George W. Bush administration. They said thank you for my concern and input. Good thing I didn’t hold my breath for action.