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Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles

I did a write-up on the history and current conservation efforts of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle over on Defenders of Wildlife’s website. The Kemp’s ridley is one of the world’s most endangered turtles and is an example of the importance of intergovernmental cooperation on protecting habitat. Without the cooperation of the US and Mexican governments, the turtle may have never had the cross-border range to survive since it was first listed as endangered in the 1970s.

A female Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nesting on Padre Island. (Credit: NPS)

Fridays@Freer|Sackler

Running along the National Mall, I bumped into a performance by Coreyah, a Korean folk rock band.

“The six-member group uses Korean flutes, zithers, drums, and vocals, along with guitar and drums, to create a contemporary sound with influences from Korean classical music, Latin and African pop, Balkan gypsy songs, and American folk and rock.”

Hearing them in the distance I was hooked. If you’re interested in folk music definitely check them out.

Acadia National Park

The crescent moon during sunset. A Mark Rothko sky. Jordan Pond in the distance.

Great Falls

Albert and I made the trip out to Great Falls today. We ran the technical Billy Goat Trail and it was a necessary respite from the trials at work. The sunset alone was worth the hike up.

Once we got back to the ranger station we kept hearing animal calls that sounded like ambient blood curdling screaming, a normal night in Great Falls.

National Geographic Nights: America’s Last Wild Places

Danny Kinka, Wildlife Restoration Manager at the American Prairie Reserve, discussing his work with Montana ranchers.

National Geographic has a regular series of events that I would like to attend more of. The three storytellers tonight spoke on topics related to public lands and it was well worth attending.

Visit to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab

I wrote a short piece on Defenders of Wildlife’s Medium site detailing my visit to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory. It’s one of the many topics that I knew next to nothing about and I’m glad I was able to meet some experts in the field.

I have also been a long time fan of Atlas Obscura and I was happy to see that they’ve done a profile of the lab before.

 

An elephant’s face confiscated from wildlife traffickers.

Lab Director Ken Goddard with a bottle of confiscated Vietnamese snake wine.

Forensic scientist Johnnie French and venomous snakes seized from a Las Vegas teenager’s bedroom. The snakes have been frozen for storage and proper handling.

Hijab and MAGA

Returning home, I came across this contrast between a Muslim woman and a Trump supporter from North Carolina. Thanks to my friend, Lew Gordon, for pointing out the Carolina Hurricanes T-Shirt.

Mentors and The Trip Out West

It’s almost a cliché now to say that one or several people can change the trajectory of your entire life. I came back from my visit to Oregon earlier this month with a renewed sense of how important these people have been to me. Three years ago, a single scholarship application and acceptance through the Asian American Government Executives Network (AAGEN) enabled me to meet who I now consider to be one of my closest confidants and friends. A chance meeting before my scholarship reception at AAGEN’s annual conference blossomed into a relationship that has blunted the trauma of graduate school in New York and other experiences new and old. Teiko is an extraordinary woman. Born in a Japanese internment camp, she rose to become the first Asian American woman to and to serve as the Assistant Director of International Affairs in the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Hers is a story of a lifetime of resilience.

Having moved to a retirement community in Medford, Oregon from Alexandria, Virginia this past summer, Teiko and Don invited me to their new place to spend a week in the Rogue Valley region. It had been almost a year since I last saw Teiko in person at graduation. The trip was much too short given the amount of time we were apart but we still had time to add two more national parks to my list.

Traveling to the redwood forests of Redwood National Park in northern California, Don, Teiko, and me caught up on the local controversy involving the proposed construction of a pipeline meant to export oil and gas from Canada to an export terminal with ships bound for Asia. A former Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Don has been working diligently as a political operator to find out who and what needs to be done to stop this project. This is the type of retirement, one of continued civic activism that I aspire to. On our drive through the forest, it really takes you by surprise how immense these trees are.

Prior to coming to Oregon, Teiko was concerned that we may not be able to make it to Crater Lake National Park due to the snow and the breakdown off all three NPS snow trucks. Fortunately, we made it and I took a trip snowshoeing with one of the park rangers, Dave Grimes, on staff. I really appreciated Dave’s park interpretation where he emphasized how disruptive climate change has been to the park, including the rise of invasive species—including a beetle that is killing the whitebark pine—and the reduction in snowfall that will have an enormous impact on the local ecosystem. I was saddened to hear that even though a chemical remedy exists that deters the beetles from killing the trees, due to its expense its use has been restricted to about 50 trees that are close to scenic routes.

More to come…

 

I’m about 170 cm to give you some impression of how tall these trees are.

 

Crater Lake and Wizard Island.

Whitebark pines killed by the mountain pine beetle.

The Urban Wildlife Conservation Program

I wrote a piece over on Defenders of Wildlife’s Medium website commemorating the 116th anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Most people know about the National Park System, but there’s another system entirely that belongs to the American people. Those who know me can attest to how memorable I found working for the Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that manages the refuge system. Spending my summer of ’17 working in Hadley and living in Amherst, Massachusetts was the best summer of my life. I want to thank Chelsi Burns, Sharon Marino, Mike Horne, Christine Eustis, and countless others for making me consider a career in conservation a worthwhile pursuit.

Visiting the Greenway Renewal Project as part of the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in Elizabeth, NJ. From left to right: Jonathan Phillips, Alex Kasdin, me, Mike Horne, and Chelsi Burns.

Me and my mentor, Teiko Saito, at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

2018 in Review

Three continents, twelve countries, thirty-five cities. No, I am not a rock musician or a jet-setting diplomat. I am just an ordinary guy who decided that I wanted to live and work abroad, so I did just that. Part of the reason I started this blog was to give my friends and family a way to keep in touch with me thousands of miles away anywhere in the world.

For about a year, I lived in my adopted country of Singapore where I finished up a graduate program and interned at a tech company. I also began keeping a diary regularly, the contents of which I may post someday. 2018 was possibly the year with the largest upheavals in my life personally and professionally. I got out of a seven-year relationship, moved four times, turned 30, and transitioned from higher education into an environmental NGO. It was also a year of firsts: I spoke to an audience that included the former Prime Minister of Singapore, hiked the French Alps, got proselytized by a scooter rental salesman who invited me to dinner in Taiwan, met with Ralph Nader for three days, and ate poutine. In each of these situations I was taken out of the familiar and set myself up for randomness. When there was an opportunity to do something that was somewhat different, I did it. Tell the graduation committee that you are interested in telling stories? That morphs into a speech in front of your entire graduating class with the former Prime Minister laughing at your jokes. Take a bus from New York with a Frenchman from Brittany you met online to Rowe, Massachusetts to learn from Ralph Nader for three days? That morphs into visiting his chalet in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and hiking in the French Alps. Help a friend find a place to stay? He has a job opportunity open up for you in Geneva. The relationships I made during my travels make me consider living abroad to be one of the most important things I have done.

A question that comes up often is how was I able to afford this. A big part of my funding came from grants and frequent flier miles. Some of my friends have asked me how do you get started if you want to learn and travel abroad on the cheap. My advice if you want to do this is that there are so many opportunities out there for motivated people. Higher education in Asia and Europe is far more financially generous than the ones in the United States for ordinary students. Also, if you can learn to budget carefully, you will be surprised how far a stipend can take you.

 

Singapore’s nerd prom
A political prisoner, an activist, and an environmentalist walk into a bar…
With Dean Danny Quah after my speech
The end of a workshop with a great American, Ralph Nader
My grandma and aunt Chui
Hanging out before the hard work began at the UNLEASH Sustainable Development Goals Innovation Lab
The Myanmar doctor at the base of Mont Joly
KISS principle for parties