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Biologist Protects Endangered Species at Miramar Landfill

Piles of garbage and a constant hum of trucks fill the atmosphere at the city’s Miramar Landfill.

It’s the not the first place you would expect to find an endangered species. It may be even more surprising to learn about city efforts to protect these environmental treasures.

Biologist guards the ground

According to recent reports, seven federally protected species live in vernal pools across San Diego County, including the pools that pop up during the rainy season at the landfill. Vernal pools are a feeding ground for amphibians, invertebrates, reptiles, birds and mammals. Biologists say these pools are also crucial to supporting California’s rare plant species.

Burton Ewert, a biologist with the city’s Environmental Services Dept., is tasked with helping these pools thrive in a unique location at the landfill. He identifies the vernal pools where they develop and works with employees to avoid those areas.

“There are so few of these remaining, and it’s unheard of to have a resource like this located in and around our operations.” said Ewert. “I get to wear my big orange vest and make sure the bulldozers go around them.”

Efforts for sustainability

Walking through the landfill after a storm, Ewert points out the pools and names a few of the inhabitants, including the endangered San Diego fairy shrimp. These small creatures are described as crucial to the ecosystem, providing an important high-protein food source for birds and amphibians higher on the food chain. 

Vernal pools are only found in a few places around the world, specifically in Mediterranean climates and on flat surfaces. In Southern California, that’s prime real estate to build roads and homes but recent years have seen a surge of efforts to protect these sensitive areas.

“The amount of places throughout the world that they’re even found is so small,” said Ewert “This is an extremely important part of that whole cycle.”

Learn more about the city’s sustainability efforts by visiting www.sandiego.gov/sustainability.

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