Embracing the great outdoors

From recording sightings of rare organisms to contributing to grassroots conservation efforts as a Certified California Naturalist, Diego Tamayo said he has made nature his lifetime passion.

The Diamond Bar High School senior’s interest in nature originated from his early childhood experiences of living in Monterey, California. He said his time there acted as the main motivation behind his devotion to understanding complex environmental issues and how they can be solved and managed within society.

“Living in Monterey, California for two years exposed my youthful senses to the wonders of a world filled with wooded pine forests, darting deer, colorful tide pools, breaching whales and majestic condors,” Tamayo said via email.

The senior took the California Naturalist Certification course in Riverside during the summer of 2018. The system was in collaboration with the Riverside Corona Resource Conservation District and lessons included geology, air-water quality, wildlife, urbanization and interpretive teaching.

“While participating in these lessons, the students learned hands-on about flora and fauna identification, field journaling, among other excellent naturalist skills,” Tamayo said.

Among the many fields to explore, his primary academic interest lies with ecology, the study of interactions between living organisms and their natural environment.

“Although individual plant and animal species have captured my interest over time (especially those majestic Orcas), discovering and learning about plant communities and the associated wildlife has repeatedly been my calling,” Tamayo said. “Other passionate interests of mine, such as community science and civic engagement, have stemmed from this sincere fascination of the living, breathing world.”

After completing the California Naturalist program and receiving the certification, Tamayo’s efforts have been directed toward grassroots conservation with the Diamond Bar-Pomona Valley Sierra Club Task Force. He believes that advocating for protection and responsible management of local native habitats within the city is vital for supporting the community’s desires to preserve and nurture open, wild spaces in Diamond Bar.

“As I began to witness the effects of human-caused threats towards wild coastal sage scrub and coast live oak woodlands in Diamond Bar, I became driven to critically assess why they are in the current state of risk and how we as a society could support these precious plant communities,” Tamayo said. “I realized that I needed to improve my community science skills, understanding of the local ecology, among other knowledge that I had yet to develop.”

In addition to this civic engagement, Tamayo participates in community science efforts by photographing plants and animals, which are uploaded to his iNaturalist page @diego4nature. After over five years on iNaturalist, he has contributed over 5,600 sightings of organisms constituting over 880 species. Contributing sightings of organisms to the database greatly supports scientists, researchers, policy-makers and those who rely on the knowledge of local biodiversity to understand, study and manage the natural resources found within nature. 

Tamayo has committed to Pitzer College for its core values surrounding environmental sustainability and social responsibility, hoping to contribute to the movements of environmental justice and fighting climate change.

“Although nature is prevalent in my professional outlook, I will also enjoy the wonders of nature through lighthearted, engaging hobbies for life,” Tamayo said. “Watching for blooming flowers, chirping birds, scaling high mountains and wide beaches, kayaking down estuaries, photographing majestic trees, among other activities are hobbies which will remain a part of me as I enter the new stage of college life and beyond.”