Gabriela González Olimón
Environmental Education and Investigation Coordinator, Sonoran Institute
Mexicali, Baja California
In the middle of the Baja Californian desert, the sun is hot, water is scarce, and vegetation is rare. The trails of the Colorado River remind of what once was a vegetated area fed by the river. Suddenly, a forest of cottonwood trees appears. These were replanted five years ago and refuse to give up to the harsh conditions of the desert. They stand strong, the same way Gaby Gonzalez does when she confidently talks to us about her work and passion as a conservationist.
Gaby is a biologist, currently working as Environmental Education and Investigation Coordinator at the Sonoran Institute in Baja California, Mexico. Before, she spent six years of her life volunteering at different conservation projects across the US. SITW first met her back in 2014, interning at Grand Canyon National Park. Gaby mainly works in the Laguna Grande conservation area, designing educational programs and overseeing the monitoring of projects.
One of Gaby’s most important goals is to introduce communities to the reserve and raise awareness for the restoration projects there. She explains that when people visit the reserve, they are often surprised by nature. Gaby claims that people don’t often listen to the sounds of nature and animals. She mentions that one of her most impressive experiences with guests has been “people crying when they listen to the sound of trees being moved by the wind.” She regrets that lots of locals don’t even know that a century ago, the Baja California desert used to look like Laguna Grande currently does.
Gaby and the Sonoran Institute employees represent a new generation of environmentalists whose work goes beyond the environment. They also work in outreach by developing a relationship which empowers communities to take on and sustain the conservation projects in the future.
Gaby shares the Sonoran Institute’s dream of bringing people closer to nature so they can develop a relationship with it. She even looks at herself as two different people: “office Gaby” is sometimes moody, confined in the city of Mexicali, and “forest Gaby” is always happy with internal peace and closeness to nature.
By Juan Pablo Liendo Molina