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    September Hero of the Month- Friends of Ormond Beach | Cynthia Hartley Ventura Audubon President

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    September marks the end of the snowy plover and CA least tern breeding season; therefore, it is the perfect month to celebrate and recognize one individual, Cynthia Hartley, who has made it her life’s work to tend to a small but environmentally significant part of the world–Ormond Beach.
    For nearly three decades, Hartley has fiercely advocated for the endangered birds of Ormond Beach. As the President of the Ventura Audubon Society (VAS), Hartley collaborates with US Fish and Wildlife (USFW), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) as well as with faculty and students at CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI).
    With her MS degree in Geographic Information Science (essentially, computer-based mapping) from the University of Maryland, and a microbiology degree from UCSB, Hartley first began counting snowy plovers in the mid 1990s and started compiling nesting data in 2003 when nest monitoring on snowy plovers and least terns first began. Around that time, the CDFW and the USFW started requiring permits for that kind of work, and with the help of her mentor, she was granted her permits in 2008.
    Much of Hartley’s work is funded by the Endangered Species Act section 6 grant, from USFWS that is administered by CDFW. As such, she works very closely with the biologists in charge of species recovery at those agencies. The section 6 grant money also funds her collaboration project with CSU Channel Island’s Environmental Science and Resource Management Department. This project involves the micro-mapping of individual nests to study nest site selection in snowy plovers. In essence, she is helping to create 3D models of nests that have sub-centimeter resolution. Since 2017, Hartley has also lectured at CSUCI and taught both introductory and intermediate Graphic Information Science courses. She also works with CSUCI seniors working on capstone projects, such as those initiated by the VAS.
    Also, under CDFW and USFWS oversight, she is looking at the impacts of drone fly-overs on nesting plovers and terns. So far, she has documented over 50 hours of nesting bird behavior during drone flyover. Despite what many might expect, a nesting snowy plover can see a tiny drone 1000 feet away. This data should inform future resource management practices in nesting habitat.
    Hartley also oversees the Audubon’s volunteer naturalist program, which is 100% grant funded. She is constantly working on additional grants for next year, and she reports that grant-writing is a never ending process. In particular she wants to increase the hours of nest monitors on the ground, and expand the volunteer program so that her volunteer coordinator is closer to a year round time position with more hours.
    Hartley recognizes that prior to her involvement, the Sierra Club was quite active in protecting and advocating for plovers and terns and not acknowledging the Sierra Club for their work would be a disservice to the members of that organization.
    You can read learn more about Cynthia Hartely and the Ventura Audubon Society by clicking on this link:
    Tom Spence of Newstalk 1590am radio devotes a weekly segment (Thursday morning at 8:40 am) to environmentalism in Ventura County. Port Hueneme councilman Steven Gama joins him weekly to discuss people that are making a difference locally at the beach.
    You can hear Spence’s July 30 interview with Steven Gama, Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn, and Friends of Ormond Beach here:
    Submitted by Tom Dunn, Hueneme Voice

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