Experience Ambientalia celebrates World Wetlands Day

Earlier this month Lee Vining students participating in the Experience Ambientalia program celebrated World Wetlands Day. In partnership with the Mono Lake Committee, local high school teachers, and our colleagues at Laguna Mar Chiquita in northern Argentina, these students took a tour of the Mono Basin extension of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the wetland habitat along the shores of Mono Lake.

Students braved the cold conditions to learn how water from the Mono Basin since 1941 is diverted and sent more than 350 miles south to Los Angeles and how the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power must manage the water to balance competing needs instead of exclusively serving one. This tour paid special attention to how the presence of fish below the dams in the Mono Basin in the 1980s aided in saving and restoring Mono Lake and its tributary streams. The day concluded at the shore of Mono Lake, where the group discussed the natural history of wetlands in the Mono Basin and how diversions have impacted the prevalence of this habitat today.

For World Wetlands Day, Experience Ambientalia students from Lee Vining High School learned about wetland habitats at Mono Lake, like here at Old Marina. Photo courtesy of Sarah Taylor.

Experience Ambientalia is a community group that seeks to better connect youth to their home ecosystems and cultivate a sense of environmental stewardship. The Mono Lake chapter of Experience Ambientalia parallels a much larger program and contingent of students in Argentina, where Experiencia Ambientalia was founded in 2021 to engage youth in conserving Laguna Mar Chiquita. Mono Lake is a sister lake with Laguna Mar Chiquita within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network because of their combined role in providing critical habitat for Wilson’s Phalaropes.

Students on both sides of the hemisphere are now doing concurrent environmental stewardship and educational activities at their lakes during the next few months. To celebrate World Wetlands Day, students in Argentina hosted nature walks and an information stand at Ansenuza National Park. While our students bundled up and traversed snow-covered boardwalks, our Argentinian counterparts toughed out a 108-degree Fahrenheit summer heat wave during their outing!

These local students braved the cold while their counterparts at Laguna Mar Chiquita in Argentina braved a very hot World Wetlands Day! Photo courtesy of Sarah Taylor.

Our goal is that students from each location will travel across the hemisphere to visit each sister lake this coming summer. In June, students from Argentina will travel to Mono Lake to spend a week with our local students at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center and participate in the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. And in July, the Lee Vining students will travel to Laguna Mar Chiquita to connect with the roots of the program.

Top photo courtesy of Sarah Taylor.