Experience Ambientalia: Connecting students at Mono Lake and Laguna Mar Chiquita

Thanks to a partnership between the Mono Lake Committee, our colleagues at Laguna Mar Chiquita in northern Argentina, and Lee Vining High School teachers, six Lee Vining High School students are participating in a new international environmental education and leadership program. Called Experience Ambientalia, the program seeks to better connect students to their home ecosystems and cultivate a sense of environmental stewardship.

The Mono Lake chapter of Experience Ambientalia parallels a much larger program and contingency of students in Argentina. Experiencia Ambientalia was founded in 2021 to engage youth in conserving Laguna Mar Chiquita. Mono Lake is a sister lake with Laguna Mar Chiquita in Argentina within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network because of their combined role in providing critical habitat for Wilson’s Phalaropes.

From virtual to canoe

We launched the program in September by connecting Lee Vining students with some of their 200 counterparts in Argentina in a virtual cultural exchange.

In late September, the Lee Vining Experience Ambientalia students took part in a canoe tour at Mono Lake. On the tour, we discussed Mono Lake’s political and natural history and the current issues impeding Mono Lake’s rise to the healthy level mandated by the California State Water Board in 1994. After the canoe tour, the students cleaned up trash at Navy Beach and South Tufa.

Lee Vining High School students picked up trash at South Tufa as part of their Experience Ambientalia outing, which also included a canoe tour. Photo by Ryan Garrett.

Students on both sides of the hemisphere are now doing concurrent environmental stewardship and educational activities at Laguna Mar Chiquita and Mono Lake throughout the fall; the program will go on hiatus for winter and resume activities in spring (Northern Hemisphere seasons). The hope is by June 2024, students from Argentina will travel to Mono Lake to spend a week with our local students at the Mono Lake Committee’s Outdoor Education Center and participate in the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. The Lee Vining chapter hopes to travel to Laguna Mar Chiquita in July to connect with the roots of the program.

Growing the flock

Mono Lake Committee staff were introduced to Experience Ambientalia last winter while celebrating the designation of Ansenuza National Park at Laguna Mar Chiquita in Argentina. This spring, Experience Ambientalia Executive Director Marina Castellino met with Mono Lake Committee staff and local Lee Vining teachers to establish an international “flock” to her program while visiting Mono Lake during the Bird Chautauqua and the Phalarope Festival.

The next event for the Experience Ambientalia students will be celebrating World Migratory Bird Day on October 15th with a bird outing and a service project assisting in the restoration of wetlands around Mono Lake.

Top photo courtesy of Sarah Taylor.