Volunteer Creativity Raising Awareness

Aiden Chen

By Eileen McLaughlin

Aiden Chen, 15 year old student, artist and Loma Prieta Chapter volunteer, has a passion for birds and worries about their welfare as sea levels rise due to the progressive impacts of climate change. Aiden has found a fun way to expand his volunteer contributions and raise awareness around sea level rise impacts on birds and wildlife. He has been drawing and painting San Francisco Bay shoreline birds and wildlife in their natural, wild habitats and is writing fun facts or quiz questions to accompany his artwork. We’ll be sharing these, so keep an eye on our social media accounts, Chapter eNewsletter, and the Bay Alive Campaign and Loma Prieta Chapter websites to see Aiden’s work. Many thanks to Aiden for bringing his creativity to our conservation work and helping us raise awareness of the Bay Alive Campaign and highlighting our Loma Prieta Chapter 30x30 campaign to promote conservation of 30 percent of California's land and waters by 2030. 

Stay up to date on ways you can help prepare the Bay Area for sea level rise.

Aiden recently joined the 30x30 Task Force as its first volunteer.  He chose birds and wildlife from the list of endangered species that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) targeted as the species of focus within its Recovery Plan for the Tidal Marsh Ecosystems of Northern and Central California. While there are other habitats edging our Bay, recovery of these tidal marshes that were once the predominant feature of our Bay shoreline, is critically important. They not only serve as a foundational support for the biodiversity of the Bay ecosystem, they provide vital flood protection and other ecosystem services that our communities depend upon. As you know, human actions produced the loss of the vast majority of that acreage, creating species-survival critical points. 

Aiden Chen paintings

Because the species listed are endangered, seeing them in person is not likely an option as a visual resource for an artist. So the primary source must be from photos often taken by field scientists and only sometimes by photographers who spend a lot of time on marsh trails.

Note that this list includes both animals and plants. Although Aiden's artwork might represent species in and interacting with habitat or portraits of species sans habitat, the former best serves to help us understand the on-going work of the Bay Alive and 30x30 campaigns. 

Without plants, there is no marsh and no habitat for dependent animals. There are common plants like pickleweed, cordgrass, grindelia, dodder, alkali heath, tule grasses, cattails, and others, that are easily seen on marsh trails. Visiting those locations along the San Francisco Bay Trail might be helpful for a deeper understanding. 

If lucky by location and timing, the Ridgway's rail does give marsh visitors a nice surprise now and then. But, as a bird that lives and hides under the canopy of marshes, it usually doesn't stay still for a pose. 

Another species to look for is the western snowy plover, considered a threatened species by the USFWS. Its status results from its loss of coastal beach habitat (to people, dogs, non-native plants) and adaptation to using sparsely vegetated, former salt ponds and a few locations of natural salt pannes for nesting habitat. It is a very cute little bird that stays away from people (i.e. hard to see without binoculars and knowing where to look). But photos are more commonly available. 

We hope you keep an eye out for these upcoming posts. Visit Aiden's website to get a preview of Aiden's work.  Learn more about Loma Prieta Bay Alive Campaign projects and 30 x 30.