Jan Hintermeister is a prolific volunteer in many environmental causes and organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jan has been a long time field volunteer and served multiple terms as the Board Chair for the non-profit San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. He’s been a County Parks Commissioner, a member of the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority Citizen Advisory Committee, was instrumental in establishing a unique 40 acre open space preserve in what is now the shadow of Levi Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49’ers, and banded at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, and much more.
Jan also has many years of experience as a field trip leader and open space docent, too.
Jan shows us that you can maintain your day job and still drive substantial change through volunteering. We discuss this balance between Jan’s Silicon Valley engineering career and his volunteering – how he started and grew his engagement and impact in both direct environmental efforts, and through engaging in the political side. Jan offers a lot of very practical advice for engaging locally and making an impact.
Note: I acknowledge that the audio as rough in spots in this interview – sorry for that! I think I know the source of the problem (the conference software I used in this interview was not up to par with Skype and Google Hangouts).
2:30 – How Jan got interested in nature…a slow progression.
4:38 – “With a little bit of knowledge new windows open” – Jan’s ornithology class that opened the door to new understanding.
8:28 – The power of observation – Wild Turkey and Coyote encounters at his Great Blue Heron colony.
11:53 – The eye opening experiences that consistent wildlife monitoring through wildlife surveys provides – and COVID-19’s impact.
14:00 – Jan’s Great Blue Colony behavior over the years, including odd movements.
18:20 – How Jan maintained a demanding day job as a Silicon Valley engineer, yet still found energy to make significant volunteer contributions.
22:40 – The story of Ulistac Natural Area, and how Jan discovered the power of getting involved in local politics.
27:50 – The overlooked importance of local politics, and the surprising ease at which you can get engaged.
31:35 – How volunteering in one area leads to new opportunities
35:00 – Agricultural monocultures and the impact on environment and awareness taking away native prairies, as well as salt pond conversion of natural salt marshes.
37:15 – Jan’s summary of “A Day in the Life of a Board Member” at a environmental non-profit, as compared to a government agency, such as his time as a Parks Commissioner.
44:05 – Volunteering vs a paid career in environmental services.
47:05 – Jan’s recommended books, including a warning from 1995 about how human encroachment on wildlife and wild lands lead to new diseases.
People, Places, Organizations
Pipestone National Monument – the monument that was near Jan’s childhood home.
Lake Merritt – Oakland wildlife refuge, founded in 1869, making it the oldest wildlife refuge in the USA
San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory – non-profit conservation and educational organization
Joseph Grant County Park – 11,000 acre county park in the Diablo Range just east of San Jose, CA
Santa Clara County Parks – these parks rival the best state parks in many other states
Alviso Environmental Education Center (at the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge) – location of a previous large Great Blue Heron colony. Sorry – no link. The National Wildlife Refuges web pages are not functioning at the time of this writing.
Golden Gate Raptor Observatory
Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society
Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority – manages many open space preserves
Ulistac Natural Area – a jewel of conservation in Santa Clara, near Levi Stadium
Craig Breon – former Executive Director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society
Paul Barnett – organizer who helped save/create Ulistac, along with:
Chris and Jeanne Salander – organizers to save/create Ulistac in Santa Clara
The Sierra Club – 3.8 million member environmental organization
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST)
Books and Things
Note: links to books are affiliate links
Colonial Waterbird Monitoring – a survey effort from SFBBO to monitor waterbird colonies year-over-year
Cargill Salt Pond purchases – converting salt evaporation ponds back to native marshes
Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner – history of development of water resources of the west and the personal and environmental impact that resulted
The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett – how humans encroachment in the wild world leads to new disease transference. Amazingly relevant now, despite being written in 1995.
Birds and Animals Discussed
Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed
Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed
Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/
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