Meet Jacqueline “Jackie” Redinger—our official Ranch Naturalist at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, where she conducts a variety of nature education tours.

After graduating with a degree in marine biology from UC Santa Cruz, Jackie worked as a guest experience representative at the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium. She later served as a scientific aid for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, but missed working with the public—a longing that was fulfilled when she joined Santa Margarita Ranch to lead our nature and wildlife tours.

In honor of Earth Day, we caught up with Jackie to learn more about her role, and why she believes that nature education is vital to our future:

Can you describe your role as Ranch Naturalist?

My role as the Santa Margarita Ranch Naturalist is to bring the community out into the natural ecosystems that we foster here on the ranch. My goal is to give guests a fun and informative experience and assist them in connecting with the natural environment. In addition to our ongoing Nature, Eagle, Foraging and Photography tours, we will be providing science-focused summer programs to local children ages 9-12 with the hopes to teach them about California ecosystems and the importance of conservation.

What do you think is special about the environment of Santa Margarita Ranch? 

The Santa Margarita Ranch has 11 different plant communities, and we protect oak ecosystems all the way to the coastal chapparal. We have ancient, fossilized oyster beds and amalgamations of five different soil types which provide habitats for a diverse range of animals and plants. With development happening all over California, this ranch is a protected area that allows for the native ecosystems to thrive and live without the threat of habitat loss.

The environment of Santa Margarita Ranch is also so special due to the amazing history of the land and the peoples who have lived here. For thousands of years, indigenous Californians stewarded and thrived off this land. A lot has changed since European settlers arrived and now, with climate change, we have a lot to learn from Native American lifestyles and practices about how we can take care of native ecosystems and, as a result, take care of ourselves.

How do you see education fitting into the larger context of sustainability—why is it important to share what we do with the public? 

It is so important for the communities of today, especially younger generations, to redevelop a connection to the land. We protect the things we know. If we can expose the public to what it is we’re trying to protect and why we need to, then we can inspire people to make the changes to ensure that future generations can lead healthy and happy lives here on planet earth.

One of my favorite quotes is by David Orr: “When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” We need nature to survive. And nature needs us.

santa margarita ranch: an appellation you need to know