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Public Service Research Program

Photo: Eli Strauss up in the trees

Endangered Species in Your Own Backyard?

Davis High Graduate Eli Strauss wants to help you find them

On beaches from Mexico to Columbia, Olive Ridleys appear in the thousands between July and January to lay their eggs. Eli Strauss learned about this small species of sea turtle on a visit to Nicaragua. Back home, Eli tried to think about what he could do in Davis to help species like the Olive Ridley. Then he realized that there are endangered species he can raise awareness for in his own community. While a student at Davis High, he decided to make a poster (PDF, 792 KB) to help the Yolo County community identify endangered plants. “One thing I learned from creating this poster is that there are a huge number of highly endangered plants, even in places you wouldn’t expect, and that these plants don’t receive near enough attention to protect them,” said Strauss.

Eli observed one of the most endangered conifers in the nation, the Florida Torreya (Torreya taxifolia) while doing field research with his dad, Professor Mark Schwartz of UC Davis. These dwindling evergreens grow wild along Florida’s Apalachicola River. Only one seed-producing tree could be found recently among a wild population of saplings. Private gardens and nurseries are now producing seeds and specimens to sell to collectors in order to protect it from extinction.

Photo: Thumbnail image of rare plants poster

Rare Plants in Your Backyard Poster by Eli Strauss (PDF, 792 KB )

Eli advises anyone who finds an endangered species growing on their land, or in their yard, to take care around it, and possibly to report it to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. But more important he says, "is to appreciate its rarity and beauty and make an effort to protect it and other species through good environmental practices and respect for the natural world."

Several UC Davis sources were consulted by Eli while creating his poster including experts at the Arboretum, UC Davis Herbarium and Joyce Gutstein, of the John Muir Institute of the Environment, who agreed to help distribute it. "We encourage the community to take advantage of UC Davis resources as they pursue their goals in environmental education."

It is possible that Eli will someday have a career conserving endangered species, but for now he is majoring in Environmental Sciences at UC Berkeley, and is just beginning to consider his options. "I love to hike and be outside, to enjoy nature and the wonderful things to be found growing and living on this planet. I find that you can learn a lot about yourself and the world around you when you experience life without all of the luxuries of modern technology."