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May 28
1888 - Olympian Jim Thorpe, "America's greatest athlete," born in Indian Territory (probably near Prague, Okla.); later in life, appeared in many B-Westerns shot in Placerita Canyon [story]
Jim Thorpe


| Wednesday, Jan 26, 2022
The Tejon Ranch Conservancy is honoring one college intern's passion for wildlife conservation and highlighting her unique story.

From Tim Bulone, Tejon Ranch Conservancy 

The Tejon Ranch Conservancy is honoring one college intern’s passion for wildlife conservation and highlighting her unique story.

Magaly Jurado Avalos cannot quite pinpoint the moment she knew just how important nature and animals would become in her young life.

It might have been the glowing red rivulets of lava creeping down the slopes of Volcan de Colima, the Colima Volcano, or the crashing sound of water over the rocks of Rio de Suchitlán beneath its canopy of tall trees, or maybe it was a yard with feisty chickens and playful dogs in her small town of Suchitlán in the Mexican state of Colima.

The 21-year-old biology major at California State University, Bakersfield grew up dreaming of becoming a veterinarian. Growing up with dogs, cats, rabbits and chickens, “I wanted to work with animals every single day,” Jurado said. But a “series of incredible professors” made her see that caring for the greater ecosystems wildlife inhabit might be just as important as caring for individual animals. They influenced her such that once she has her bachelor’s degree in biology, Jurado plans to pursue a master’s degree in ecology and work in wildlife conservation.

Magy, as she is known by her friends and family, had been working in Dr. Lucas Hall’s kit fox lab, setting up and maintaining wildlife cameras to track the endangered species, when he let her know about a unique internship opportunity at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. The organization was looking for a wildlife technician intern with a working knowledge of wildlife cameras. Jurado saw this as an opportunity to gain valuable real-life field experience.

The internship is part of a years-long collaboration between CSUB and the Conservancy, funded through the University’s Foundation by Bakersfield philanthropist Gayle Batey. The Conservancy’s own conservation science manager, Mitchell Coleman, was once a CSUB intern from the same program.

“My job as a wildlife technician intern involves camera maintenance and data management,” Jurado said. “My tasks are split up into two categories, 90% data management and 10% field work to collect the data.” After viewing the captured footage, Jurado categorizes it based on the species, location and behaviors. But work in the field is more demanding.

“A typical field day for me starts very early and consists of me visiting the various camera sites to collect and replace the SD cards, and replace the batteries if necessary. I was not aware of the magnitude of Tejon Ranch and the ecological diversity that it holds. I initially believed that I was going to go monitor cameras in the fields and see cows occasionally, but I was pleasantly surprised,” Jurado said. “The trips that I have taken to give the cameras maintenance and gather the data have been phenomenal. One moment I’m in the mountains in bear territory and the next I am in the desert driving by wild pronghorn. My initial reaction when entering Tejon Ranch was ‘Wow, this place is beautiful!’ It wasn’t until we drove a few minutes into the ranch that I began to realize how breathtaking this place truly is. Every time that I visit, I find a new favorite spot. I would describe the Tejon Ranch as the hidden gem of the Central Valley. I do not think people realize what diverse and beautiful species are living in the mountains as they drive by on the I-5.”

Watching and categorizing the videos has its own rewards. Jurado finds wildlife behavior fascinating, watching the skillful way a bobcat hunts a squirrel or a feral pig acts as a sentry, first checking an area for danger, then signaling the rest of its sounder to come along.

But Jurado finds a deeper meaning to the work. “The effects of climate change have been evident on the ranch, especially recently with the droughts in California, so I often wonder how this affects these wild animals. I have seen various videos of emaciated animals from previous years, but not recently. So, I ask myself if they have adapted to the dryer environment, if their populations have decreased, or if they continue to struggle with the effects of the drought.

“I have spent a lot of time thinking about the ways that my work impacts the greater world and I feel a sense of purpose knowing that in one way or another I am contributing to the conservation of these ecological environments and their species. And they bring me nothing but joy. I have always loved nature; I am drawn to it. The older I get, the more aware I am of the changes occurring to the natural world, like climate change. To work with people who are protecting it, who have the same goals, who see the importance of the work. That means something.”

The fourth-year biology student said it was not until her family moved to the States that she realized the importance of her early experiences in Suchitlán. She described a rock near her childhood home that she could scamper to the top of from which the smoke of the volcano could be seen; her family’s outings to the nearby river where they would splash and play in the water; and her uncle’s ranch where, after a day of play with her cousins, they would ascend the hills to a spot where they could see the glowing red lava as night descended. These and many other experiences created a love of and wonder for nature that holds fast even now.

If people are the product of their environment, then Jurado’s passion for her work was fostered first by her parents, Jose and Ramona, and secondly by her older brother Alejandro, whom Jurado describes as her personal hero.

“My family and I moved to the United States when I was five years old and he was 10. Since then, he has had to take a leadership role that no 10-year-old should ever have to take. From translating legal documents to helping my parents navigate this unknown country, to paving the way for me to go to college, my brother has impacted my life and the lives of everyone around him. A great part of why I am where I am today is because I was fortunate enough to have him guide me and support me through every step of the way.”

Jurado’s educational career has been influenced by key instructors, but especially those at CSUB. “Dr. Rae McNeish and Dr. Lucas Hall have been two of the most impactful professors in my educational career. They are very kind and fun people to be around. Their interest in their work is radiating and contagious.”

McNeish recognizes the traits of a successful scientist in Jurado. “She is inherently curious about the natural world. She is inquisitive and easily engages others when she discusses her interests and experiences, and her excitement is always accompanied by a smile. I appreciate that Jurado strives forward to contribute to our understanding of the natural world while she navigates the opportunities and challenges before her.”

But conservation and school are not the only things in Jurado’s life. “When I am not working or studying, I am spending time with my family. I am a very family-oriented individual, so for the most part, my free time is spent with them. Whether it be playing volleyball in the backyard, going on hikes, having movie nights or playing Nintendo with them, my free time is spent with family.”

Jurado includes nature among the things she loves so much. “One of my favorite places to visit is the Kern River within Sequoia National Forest. The river is only a short drive away, which allows me to visit it frequently. Not only that, but it is secluded from the city, which makes for a relaxing environment that allows me to decompress and ground myself after a hard-working week. The sound of the flowing water crashing against the rocks brings me back to my hometown in Mexico, which makes me feel a little closer to home.”

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