About

Renee Owens runs this site. The hats I wear include conservation biologist, environmental consultant, ethologist, college instructor, activist, and amateur photographer.

I’ve felt a connection to all things wild my whole life. My mother and I rescued wayward wild animals as far back as I can remember, hooray for intrepid parents who didn’t shy away from dirt, snakes, or pet rats! Getting children out in nature is one of the most important – and fun – things parents can do for their kids.

After finishing grad school in SoCal over 2 decades ago, I spent several years in South America, eventually landing back in California where I now head an environmental consulting business, Sage Wildlife Biology.

I’ve had the pleasure to teach courses in biology, zoology, botany and environmental science, I heartily believe the path to protecting our Earth’s natural treasures includes excellent environmental education from ages 1 and up.  I was privileged to be an instructor in the rainforest and Galapagos Islands for Boston University’s Tropical Ecology Program. (If you ever get a chance to head for the Galapagos, run don’t walk, it is a paradise on earth.)

Recently we established a new non-profit, the Wild Zone Conservation League. Our website will be ready soon, links to follow.

Counting pups at the elephant seal rookery

For more on the TV specials highlighting our aquatic reptile research, check out these links:

The Crocodiles of the Orinoco

Land of the Anaconda

If you want to read about big snakes and such, read on, or check out the “Anaconda” tag above.

 

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Life in the Tropics

My fist glimpse of the tropics was in Panama, and it was love at first sight.  My passion spurred my decision to move to a remote region of Venezuela, where I learned how to study one of the largest snake species in the world, the green anaconda. I also helped with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Orinoco crocodile reintroduction program, rehabilitated and reintroduced giant otters, shared my living space with capybaras, bats, cane toads, and entertained more than a few film crews.

 

Endagered Orinoco crocodiles

 

 

 

 

 

Critters, Capybaras, and Conservation

Orphaned capybara named ‘Hairball’

 When I first took an interest in the study of the green anaconda in Venezuela, we had been told by the experts that the snakes would be impossible to find and harder to study, due to their secretive nature and aquatic lifestyle. Hundreds of wild anacondas caught and released later, we proved the experts wrong, and we learned vital information about how the preservation of this species boosts the local economy and translates into broader conservation of the local habitat: seasonally flooded wetlands that support incredible biodiversity including over 450 species of resident birds. While living there I also studied giant otters and several different bird species. Suffice to say it is a biologist’s paradise.

Discovery Channel

Filmaker Frenzy

Our research in Venezuela has been featured in National Geographic magazine, on National Geographic TV, Discovery, Dateline NBC, BBC, and the Animal Planet. (And, much as I hesitate to admit it, Ripley’s Believe It or Not). One of my anaconda photos was published in TIME’s 100 Greatest Images of the 20th Century. A hearty thank you to National Geographic for hiring Richard and Carol Foster, a dying breed of highly committed – and compassionate – wildlife film-makers.

 

Research

Over the years my work with Sage Wildlife has involved ecological and behavioral study of various aquatic and terrestrial vertebrates. The list includes bonobos and bobolinks, caiman and Commerson’s dolphins, California gnatcatchers and Harbor seals. That seal pup entering the water that is the header on my website page is a young Harbor seal born in La Jolla, California.

Endangered giant otter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We feel our research is valuable as it always incorporates applied conservation. However,  study alone isn’t enough, no matter how good a biologist or widely published you are, regardless if you have tenure and sit on oodles of professional Boards, work for the government, or for the world’s largest environmental corporation.  As professionals we set out to explore the natural world because we find it fascinating and, practically speaking, to pay the bills.  But if we truly love it, then we should embrace our responsibility as informed professionals to fight to save the many imperiled species and habitats that are disappearing before our eyes.

 

Federally threatened California gnatcatcher

The ecosystems of the planet, terrestrial and aquatic alike, support and sustain our lives and quality of life, in every sense imaginable. Clean air, clean water, healthy and abundant food grown sustainably, natural resources for our daily lives, healthy communities, our spiritual inspiration, all rely intimately on our natural world and its health. To embrace this basic truth is a big step towards preservation of the whole.

 

Responses

  1. Hi Renee,
    Very interested in your perspectives. Found you on Loren Nancarrow’s Facebook page by accident and would like to subscribe to your blog. I have a daughter who just started studying animal sciences at Cal Poly SLO and I think she’d also find your work very interesting.
    Thanks!
    Cara Furio

    • HI, Cara – Thanks for visiting, after a bit of a hiatus I am writing new blogs…but there’s so much more I’d like to talk about, just need to find the time! So anyway…welcome!

  2. I’m interested in knowing what you believe the “the myths and realities regarding wildfire in Southern California” are.

    • Hi Bob,

      Well, you know my answer: ask me to come give a presentation and you’ll find out, as I can’t answer that in a sound bite. I can tell you the “myths and realities” revolve around issues of primary concern that are relevant to the topic of wildlife and habitats as those are my specialties. (If you only want to know how to get insurance companies to pay more or faster for your lost property, this may not be seminar for you.) Topics covered relate to if and how large wildfires can be reduced or prevented; how you can best keep you house from catching fire while maintaining some kind of aesthetic, native landscaping around your house; what types of vegetation may or may not be more likely to burn; what species are more drought tolerant, what is the history of wildfire and how does that relate to living safely in the back country. It’s a lot to talk about, I cover some topics more than others, but that should give you a general idea.

  3. […] a wildlife exclusion and humane pest control business. In addition to her personal website ( https://wildlifezone.wordpress.com/about/), she  writes the Wild Zone for San Diego Loves […]

  4. […] someone experienced working in the wild with very dangerous wildlife, I was asked to attend the board meeting to provide testimony regarding the risk of allowing a […]

  5. Extremely informative and fun Blog Renee. Thanks for doing what you do to get the word out about the fragility and value of the natural world.
    And just a heads up… Eisele’s comment above was likely more a shot across the bow to see if you disagree with San Diego County’s official policy of denying type-conversion of chaparral, refusing to consider climate change in fire planning, and promoting the now rejected notion that fire managers need to burn chaparral.
    Eisele used to work for the county.


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