SAN LUIS OBISPO — Beaver Believers easily find each other in a national network of land managers, academic researchers, and community volunteers who value the role of beavers in our river ecosystems.
SLO Beaver Brigade is the catalyst that initiated a public discussion in San Luis Obispo County on the merits of beaver-made hydrologic conservation. The group formed in 2020 with a philosophy of collaboration, reverence for nature and biodiversity, and community service with a mission to raise awareness around beavers in SLO county and to educate communities on the benefits beavers provide — fire-resistance, drought-resistance, flood-resistance, and maintenance of riparian habitat for a host of other plant, animal, insect, and aquatic species.
Emily Fairfax, Ph.D., connected with SLO Beaver Brigade in May 2020, when she contacted founder Audrey Taub, and arranged a visit to our local beaver habitat. As an Assistant Professor at California State University Channel Islands, much of Dr. Fairfax’s previous beaver research in this area depended upon satellite imagery.
In Atascadero, she found well-developed beaver sites for ‘on-the-ground’ research and a willing team to monitor the area regularly. In return, she offered to support the Beaver Brigade’s educational efforts by leading beaver walks-talks along the Salinas River that Taub organized for the public.
For the past six months, locals have been delighted by the opportunity to hear positive news about this mistakenly maligned water engineering species from a well-known and respected scientist in the field of beaver research. Meanwhile, San Luis Obispo non-profit Biodiversity First! developed a university-funded grant opportunity for Dr. Fairfax and her students to study beaver complexes in the Upper Salinas River through 2021.
The 2020 Biodiversity First! Research Grant: “Beavers, Climate Change, and Ecosystem Resilience” will result in the first peer-reviewed study of beaver habitat in San Luis Obispo County and will be shared online and at academic conferences in 2021 and beyond.
The Brigade has inspired two new regional activist citizen groups that adopted the same moniker, Santa Barbara Beaver Brigade and Ojai Beaver Brigade. SLO Brigade members Kate Montgomery and Fred Frank organized major clean-ups of abandoned homeless camps along the Salinas River with volunteers who removed tons of litter from the riverbank.
The Beaver Brigade is always working on other creative public education projects and spreading beaver awareness on social media. Taub and Cal Poly senior Cooper Lienhart continue to volunteer with fieldwork for Dr. Fairfax and are available to give talks about beavers to local schools, in person or via Zoom.
Biodiversity First! is a sponsor for the Beaver Brigade’s educational activities. Ecologistics is SLO Beaver Brigade’s fiscal sponsor. Donations can be made at www.slobeaverbrigade.com. For more information, email Audrey Taub at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit online www.emilyfairfaxscience.com, and @slobeaverbrigade on Instagram.