Vandenberg restricts access to all three beaches on base property annually from March 1 through Sept. 30 during the Western Snowy Plover’s nesting season to protect its nests and young.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a docent is an educator, and the word comes from the Latin word, “docere,” meaning, “to teach.” These volunteer docents will do just that – educate beach goers about plover nesting areas and beach rules that change the plover’s nesting season, according to the base biological scientist.
“The beach docents will be trained volunteers who maintain a level of expertise about the species and its habitat,” said Samantha Kaisersatt, Vandenberg biological scientist. “Anybody, military or civilian, can volunteer to be a docent. They will be on the beach, offering information to visitors and letting them know what areas are restricted.”
Each year, Vandenberg restricts access to certain sections of each beach where this threatened species likes to nest.
“The Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover breeds on coastal beaches from southern Washington to southern Baja California, Mexico,” Kaisersatt said. “Preferred breeding habitats include sand spits, dune-backed beaches, unvegetated beach strands, open areas around estuaries, and beaches at river mouths.”
Vandenberg is allowed a specific number of violations, which includes entry into any posted closed area, before the beach is closed for the remainder of the season.
Last year, Surf Beach reached 50 violations, its maximum, by July 20. Wall beach was also on the brink of closing with nine out of the 10 allowed violations.
Kaisersatt believes the beach violations can be reduced with these docents patrolling the beaches, increasing awareness about beach rules during the nesting season.
“The volunteer docents will help protect the snowy plovers and increase public awareness,” Kaisersatt said. “Docents play an important role in the survival and recovery of this species while helping to maintain recreational access.”
Anyone wishing to become a Western Snowy Plover docent can call Samantha Kaisersatt at 805-605-0392.