by Bryony Angell
What better way to herald the start of Seattle Audubon's blog than to feature one of its very own staff; someone who represents both the dedication to excellence of the organization, and the future of its membership?
David Garcia, 25, is Seattle Audubon's Nature Shop manager, a millennial, and an advocate for diversity in the environmental movement. Originally from California, David came to Seattle after graduating from Fordham University in New York, where he studied environmental policy. We sat down with him on a recent afternoon to talk about his passion for conservation and his enthusiasm for reaching new audiences for nature through both the shop and his volunteer work with Latino Outdoors.
How did you become interested in birds and nature?
David Garcia: For me personally, my formative times in nature were with my family. I grew up in a San Diego suburb that was an old ranch town. I spent a lot of time on old horse trails right around where I lived. And every time my family went on vacation, we’d stop at state or national parks as part of our trip. My dad told me a story about a one time visit to Yosemite he took with his own dad, and how as an adult he wanted to take his own kids to the same parks.
Later, when I went to school in New York, I felt trapped, the kids that grew up there didn’t have access to horse trails and the beach like I did as a kid. That lack of access was what inspired me to pursue environmental education.
I also did a year abroad to Costa Rica while in college, and my love for nature was taken to the next level. When I came back to finish school in New York, I was determined to be in nature everyday.
What brought you to Seattle, and to Seattle Audubon?
DG: I chose Seattle after college because it seemed to have a lot of opportunities to get into environmental work. I initially came here in 2013 with my girlfriend to serve a year in the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, working at El Centro de la Raza, and once that service year ended, I found an Americorps position at Seattle Audubon with the education programs.
I was the education programs coordinator for FUN, Bird Watch (now YoungBirders), and I also worked as a camp counselor at Nature Camp over the summer. I applied for the Member Services Associate job, and got it. And a few months ago, I was promoted to Nature Shop Manager.
What do you like most about your job? What is your vision for the shop?
DG: I always dreamed of owning a small shop as a kid! It’s exciting to have such a variety of new stuff coming in, from books to toys to serious stuff like optics. I love to see people come in and to help them find what they need. I really like to help them with the best optic set-up for them. I’m training the volunteers to get more comfortable selling optics--what kinds of questions to ask customers, what our selection is. My goal is to have the volunteers be as comfortable selling optics as anything else in the shop.
I also want to start a regular series of optics workshops in the shop, maybe combine it with a field trip for people to get to have a feel for what they like and what the shop carries.
Anything in particular that people should look for during the holidays?
DG: Puzzles! Is it too nerdy to promote puzzles?! We have a ton of Charlie Harper puzzles, and coloring puzzles--you put it together in full color then flip it over and color the same image however you want.
We have a new product coming in from a company called Jabebo. They make these upcycled earrings from recycled cereal boxes. The earrings we chose are a selection of PNW birds and are unusual in that you have the male in one ear and the female in the other.
And my favorite product--socks! We’re going to have a good selection of socks, including a pair with bird watchers on them.
We understand you are involved with another outdoor organization in your free time? Tell us more about that.
DG: I started a little more than a year ago with the organization Latino Outdoors. I sought them out after I attended a panel event at Town Hall on diversity in the environmental community. I noticed most people there, from other environmental groups, aside from the folks on the panel, it was a room full of white folks.
I know there are other people of color interested in the outdoors. Where could I find them? I wanted other people I could talk to who experience the same thing. I ended up Googling “latinos outdoors” and “people of color in the environment” and found Latino Outdoors. When I met with the local director, he said that this is how most people find them, this same online search and terms, and that their motive is the same as mine--to find other professionals like themselves.
What is your role with Latino Outdoors?
DG: In Seattle, the team is currently three people, myself, Michelle Piñon, who works at Washington Trails Association, and Joe Camacho, who is a graduate student at the University of WA. We’re all volunteers.
We do three things: First, tell our stories. You look at big outdoor magazines and it’s not people of color, We exist too, and we’re out there. We are not traditionally represented in that narrative. Now, there are more and more groups out there, like Outdoor Afro.
Second, we are building a professional network, introducing people together of the same age and cultural background, who share this interest in the outdoors.
Third, we are working in the community, getting kids and families interested and aware of nature. We show them there are green spaces within their reach, near to them.
To be able to provide this to other families is really special to me. We are showing them they can do it on their own, with us being their first touch. I’m really passionate about conservation, and the more people I can get to appreciate nature, the more people will care. If people don’t know it’s there, they won’t protect it.
I am an ambassador for promoting our free field trips and building partnerships with other organizations. My role is online and in person, getting the word out, emailing, tabling at community events, helping organize field trips and gather resources like free equipment loans, publishing photos afterwards.
I also participate in the field trips. In fact the very first local Latino Outdoors event was with Seattle Audubon! I brought binoculars for all the participants. We have been really successful when we partner with other organizations for both attendance and outcome for both us and the other organization. We’ve partnered with REI for a day of climbing, and with King County for a noxious weed tour. We get that other organization’s name in front of our audience, and we get their expertise.
One more question! What is your favorite bird?
DG: I have two favorite birds: the Green Heron and the Brown Creeper. I like them both because they are sneaky and stealthy!
Come visit David at the Nature Shop during its extended holiday hours! The Nature Shop will be open every day starting in December and through Christmas, and David will be on site Tuesdays through Saturdays. Stop by and say hello!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Bryony Angell is a member of Seattle Audubon's board of directors and a long-time citizen science volunteer.