One group is helping ensure a flighty resident sticks around the neighborhood.
More than 50 Antioch High School students recently participated in an important restoration project at the Antioch Dunes Wildlife Refuge.
The goal: Clean up the area and plant buckwheat for the endangered Lange's Metalmark butterfly.
"It is one thing to learn about an endangered species through a lecture, but a lecture is nothing compared with the learning our academy experienced," teacher Shira Sweitzer said.
"We got our hands dirty to help the (butterfly) right in our backyard."
The students said it was nice to do something so important for the environment, Sweitzer said, adding that some are now interested in a refuge internship.
Coordinated and spearheaded by Laura Horton of San Francisco's Wild Equity Institute, the project was funded via a Toyota and National Audubon Society grant.
The Toyota TogetherGreen program centers on building conservation leadership, supporting cutting-edge conservation projects and "inspiring people to spend time in nature and take action," the website states.
Horton, who won the grant, said the objective of her project is to "foster collaborative restoration efforts between conservationists, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local high school students in support of the highly endangered Lange's Metalmark Butterfly."
With the yearlong fellowship program comes $10,000.
A friend connected Horton to Antioch High's environmental academy, which is less than two miles away from the local wildlife refuge. "It worked out perfectly."
The Lange's Metalmark is found only at the Antioch Dunes.
The butterfly has an important association with the naked stemmed buckwheat; its eggs are deposited on the buckwheat leaves, and its larvae only feed on this plant, which is also a vital source of nectar for the adult butterfly.
The school's Eco-Cats have made two trips to the Dunes.
The first group featured some 30 students and three teachers, while the second visit included 26 students and three instructors. Altogether, about 500 native plants were planted, and some invasive plants were removed.
"They have done an amazing job," Horton said. "Louis Terrazas (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), who manages the refuge, has been very pleased with the work."
The students will meet again to discuss conservation work and a summer project.
Students can apply to work at the refuge doing similar work for their January and February visits.
The two or three chosen will earn a stipend and certificates of completion. In addition, Horton will bring environmental experts to the Eco-Cats.
AHS's Sweitzer said the students are excited about visiting the Dunes in the fall — this time to see "the eggs once they are deposited on the buckwheat leaves."
Horton likes this project for several reasons.
"It brings together high school students and faculty, environmentalists, government workers and the highly endangered butterfly," she said.
"I am really excited because not only will it give the students a chance to participate in the protection of a species on the brink of extinction (in their own backyard) but, also, because they will learn some resource management skills and have something great to put on their resume for college or jobs.
It also provides much-needed support for the Fish and Wildlife Service. They need all the help they can get."
Said student Maddy Gonzaga, "This field trip helped a lot of us realize what our academy is really for, and experiences like this help us decide if we want to keep going on the environmental path ..."
Reach Trine Gallegos at TrineG@att.net