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New Book Explores Ancient Agaves of the Southwest Desert

How they evolved as cultivars for Native Americans over thousands of years

Book Cover: Chasing Centuries

San Diego, CAChasing Centuries: The Search for Ancient Agave Cultivars Across the Desert Southwest (Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2019) takes readers on a journey through the deserts of Arizona in search of ancient agaves unique to pre-Columbian archaeological sites. Author Ron Parker, a xeric plant enthusiast and amateur botanist, spent years in the field observing and researching these living relics of the past. Lavishly illustrated with photos from the author’s own field trips, this book is sure to become a go-to guide for agave aficionados ready to set out on their own adventures.

Anthropologist and author of Kumeyaay Ethnobotany Michael Wilken-Robertson praises the book. “This lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched work takes the reader on a fascinating adventure through thousands of years of history of human-agave coevolution in the rugged landscapes of Arizona. Chasing Centuries is a book to be savored, carried into the field, kept as a reference and gifted to anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of how Arizona’s ancient peoples played an enduring role in shaping the natural habitats of the region.”

Author Ron Parker, a resident of Arizona, has been studying agave populations in the state for many years, and has been out in the field with renowned botanists and regional archaeologists. When not chasing agaves, he maintains the well-known xeric plant discussion forum,, an impressive online repository for information on agaves and other succulent plants. A lecture circuit and book tour across the Southwest is planned for 2019 and beyond.

Book Details

Chasing Centuries: The Search for Ancient Agave Cultivars Across the Desert Southwest

Author: Ron Parker
ISBN: 978-1-941384-48-0
Retail: $26.95
Year Published: 2019
Softcover | 7 x 9 | 176 pp.

“La Jolla: Jewel by the Sea” in the news

“Part photo book, part history book, La Jolla native Ann Collins’ premiere book, “La Jolla: Jewel by the Sea,” is a tribute to the place Collins calls home. To launch the book, she will be at Warwick’s Books, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7812 Girard Ave.

And the venue could not be more appropriate.

Born and raised in La Jolla, Collins got the idea to make a photo-book through her connections at Warwick’s.

“My photographic interest is nature, landscapes and seascapes. I started taking pictures and making them into cards to sell at Warwick’s. A book seller there suggested I do a La Jolla photo-book,” she said.”

Read the rest of the article at

La Jolla: Jewel by the Sea was also featured on La Jolla Lifestyle‘s website.

New Book Focuses on La Jolla’s Unique Community

La Jollan Ann Collins highlights this San Diego jewel with stunning photographs

San Diego, CA—La Jolla is a seaside community that began more than a century ago as an artist colony. The arts continue to be an important part of life in La Jolla. Residents and visitors have many opportunities to enjoy theater performances, concerts, murals, art galleries, architecture, an art museum and more. No less artistic is the rugged coast line carved by the sea. This community continues to inspire artists today and is the focus of a new book by native La Jollan and photographer Ann Collins. La Jolla: Jewel by the Sea is published by Sunbelt Publications.

In the coffee table book, Collins’s striking photographs of her hometown are accompanied by captions that contain snippets of historical details. Notable La Jollans of the past and present are also featured. Aaron Chang, photographer and owner of Ocean Art Galleries, praises the book. “Ann has put together an excellent tour of La Jolla, both past and present, with many insightful gems that will hit a chord with both locals and visitors alike.” A book launch will be held on November 8th at Warwick’s iconic bookstore in La Jolla. The reception will start at 7:30 pm.

Ann Collins is an author and award-winning photographer who enjoys snorkeling with the leopard sharks and boogie boarding with friends at La Jolla Shores. Her work has been featured in books, magazines, newspapers, and calendars, including the prestigious Sierra Club calendars. During Women’s History Month 2018, she was a featured artist at Her work hangs nationwide on the walls of office buildings, hotels, retirement homes, healthcare facilities, and Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.

Book Details:
Title: La Jolla: Jewel by the Sea
Author: Ann Collins
Publisher: Sunbelt Publications, Inc.
Category: Travel | Photography | History
ISBN: 978-1-941384-43-5
Publication date: Fall 2018
Retail price: $24.95
Hardcover, 10” x 9”, 112 pages

May 5th, 1918 Drowning Memorial Tribute and “HELP!” Book Launch

On May 23rd, 2018, the City of San Diego Lifeguard Service and The Lifeguard History Project of the San Diego Lifesaving Association hosted a memorial tribute for the 13 victims of the May 5th, 1918 drowning.  The event of 100 years ago spurred the growth of the lifeguard service in San Diego.  The new book HELP! San Diego Lifeguards to the Rescue: A History of Their Service – Volume 1 1868-1941 by Michael Martino details the tragedy.

The first two copies of the book were presented to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Council Member Lorie Zapf as part of the ceremony.  Ten years in the making, HELP! is a comprehensive look at the early history of San Diego’s lifeguard service.

As part of the ceremony, 13 lifeguards, including Sgt. Rick Strobel, participated in a remembrance swim out.  Each victims’ name was read out and a bell was rung.  A lifeguard ran out into the cold waves.

Michael Martino, a former lifeguard himself, signed books at a reception held at Wonderland Ocean Pub after the ceremony.

For more photos from the event, take a look at the album on Facebook.

New Book Chronicles The Beginnings Of the San Diego Lifeguard Service

The development of the lifeguard service in San Diego began slowly, in fits and starts since the late 1800s. It took a tragedy off the coast of Ocean Beach to really mark the start of the modern-day San Diego lifeguard service.

Thirteen people drowned on May 5, 1918 in a rip current event at Ocean Beach. Although San Diego first hired lifeguards in 1914, the 1918 tragedy is what led the city to allocate the necessary resources for the lifeguard service.

Michael Martino, former chief lifeguard for California State Parks, is author of a history of the lifeguards called “HELP! San Diego Lifeguards to the Rescue, A History of Their Service, Volume 1: 1868-1941.”

He said the Ocean Beach tragedy, “was the most catastrophic, single event drowning in San Diego’s history.”

Martino said he wrote the book for lifeguards, beach goers and the general public.

“My really big goal was, I want somebody with really no knowledge of the ocean to pick this book up and say this story is fantastic … because what these men did and it’s something that I think that all of us as San Diegans and people who enjoy the beach can be proud of because its not just about lifeguards, it’s about how communities rallied and demanded safety for their families when they came out to the beach,” he said.

Martino joins Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss the book and the history of the lifeguard service.

Martino will sign copies of his book at an event memorializing the 100th anniversary of the Ocean Beach tragedy starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Ocean Beach lifeguard station.

HELP! San Diego Lifeguards to the Rescue

New Book Authored by Former Lifeguard Chronicles the History of San Diego’s Lifeguard Service

San Diego, CA—San Diego is well known for its beaches, protected by the watchful eyes of highly trained lifeguards.  It is hard to imagine that this wasn’t always the case.  Michael T. Martino’s new book, HELP! San Diego Lifeguards to the Rescue: A History of Their Service Volume 1 • 1868-1941, follows the evolution of the lifeguard services in San Diego, starting with the early pre-lifeguard years where citizens provided the aquatic rescues in bay and ocean. This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant events in the history of San Diego’s lifesaving service.

HELP! San Diego Lifeguards to the Rescue: A History of Their Service • Volume 1: 1868-1941 | $19.95 | 9781941384398

The tragic event that spurred the growth of the lifeguard service happened on May 5, 1918. A rip tide resulted in the drowning deaths of 13 people, most of whom were soldiers stationed at Camp Kearny. An event commemorating the 13 victims will be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, at the Ocean Beach Lifeguard Station at the foot of Santa Monica at Abbott Street. The full details of this tragedy are fully documented in Martino’s book. Martino will be presenting the first copy of his book to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who will be attending the commemorative service. The May 23 event is also the official launch of Help!, which was 10-years in the making.

Serge Dedina, the Mayor of Imperial Beach, had this to say about the book: “Mike Martino has written a riveting and compelling history of ocean lifeguarding in San Diego that is an important look at the evolution of beach and civic culture in Southern California. Help! is a must-read for anyone who loves these beaches and the vital role of their ocean lifeguards in protecting visitors to California’s ultimate recreational destination.”

This very readable history of lifeguards along the San Diego Coast, is the most comprehensive ever written.  So comprehensive, in fact, that a second volume covering from WWII to present is scheduled for 2020.  Martino is uniquely suited to author these books as a former lifeguard who finished his career as an Aquatic Specialist, which is the Chief Lifeguard for the California State Parks system.

Commemorating the terrible event of 100 years ago reminds every one of the dangers of rip currents and large surf that continue to affect us today. As the beach season begins, what better time to review the ever important lifeguard message of beach safety that is so integral to the history of the profession. And, what a great read to take to the beach for summer reading. Martino will be signing books at a reception immediately following the ceremony on May 23.

Podcast “You Can’t Eat the Sunshine” Features Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Visit the link below to listen online or download a copy of the podcast to your computer.  An interview with ABDSP interpreter LuAnn Thompson starts at the 56:35 minute mark.  She highly recommends exploring the park with the Anza-Borrego Desert Region guidebook.

Episode #126: From Show Caves to Palm Canyons: Treasures of Southern California’s Desert State Park System

“Join us this month as we get an education from two devoted parks interpreters: LuAnn Thompson shares her favorite things about the landscape and creatures found in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Andy Fitzpatrick introduces us to the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, including the Route 66 roadside attraction turned State Parks resource, the astonishing Mitchell Caverns.”

Book Details How Kumeyaay Use Indigenous Plants

Source: KPBS, January 23, 2018
By Brooke Ruth, Maureen Cavanaugh

Kumeyaay Ethnobotany: Shared Heritage of the Americas

The Kumeyaay Nation was once a vast territory, spanning the U.S.-Mexico border. For thousands of years, native peoples lived close to the land and learned to use indigenous plants for food, clothing, protection and medicine.

Some of that knowledge has been lost to time, but a surprising amount of it has been preserved in the memory of elders and now in a book by Cal State San Marcos anthropology professor Michael Wilken-Robertson.

“Kumeyaay Ethnobotany: Shared Heritage of the Californias” explores the plants the Kumeyaay use to make food, medicine and traditional arts.

Wilken-Robertson is giving a lecture and will be signing books on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Bonita Museum and Cultural Center, 4355 Bonita Road. The event is free.

Wilken-Robertson joins Midday Edition on Tuesday.

Animal attraction: San Diego’s mammals get their own atlas

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, December 30, 2017
By Lisa Deaderick

Scott Tremor’s dad introduced him to the outdoors, creating a love of nature and research that later led him to study biology at San Diego State University. It was while he was studying mammalogy there that he noticed there weren’t very many resources on mammals in San Diego County. Fast forward 30 years to his current role as lead author and organizer of a new atlas on the county’s mammals.

“The San Diego County Mammal Atlas is a natural history of the mammals of San Diego County, the biodiversity of which is one of the greatest in the United States … this book covers the biology of all 91 terrestrial and 31 inshore marine visitors known to have occurred here during recorded history, since 1796,” he says. “(As a student at SDSU) I felt like there were few resources on the mammals of the county beyond a list, and that there wasn’t a lot of information on the natural history of the species. I think that’s when I got the inspiration (for the book).”

Tremor, 53, is a mammalogist with the San Diego Natural History Museum and lives in Pacific Beach. The atlas has been more than 10 years in the making, with maps, original photographs, illustrations of skulls, criteria for identification (including the echolocation calls of bats), and information on habitat, diet, reproduction, predators, behavior and conservation challenges. He took some time to talk about his work on the book, his passion for natural history and why conservation is so important to him.

Q: Tell us about the new atlas on the county’s mammals.

A: Many mammals of San Diego County face serious consequences from the continued growth of the human population and the expansion of terrestrial development, as well as increased marine harvesting. In a time of changing climate, with fires increasing and droughts intensifying, we are also seeing changes in the distribution of many mammals, including non-native species that may displace, depredate, compete with, or indirectly affect native ecosystems and species. These factors give rise to management concerns at every scale; land managers increasingly need better information to sustain wildlife.

This book is designed for use by land managers, wildlife biologists, scholars, and students from high school level and up. It is complementary to the San Diego County Bird Atlas, the San Diego Natural History Museum’s online San Diego County Plant Atlas, and the online Amphibian and Reptile Atlas of Peninsular California. Thanks to these scholarly works, San Diego County is now biologically one of the best-documented regions in the world.

Q: Why did San Diego’s mammals need their own atlas?

A: Given the complexity of our habitat and the onslaught of urbanization, San Diego County is home to many rare and endangered species. Facing threats such as climate change, fire, marine harvesting and land development, it is important that land managers have the necessary information to sustain a wild and healthy ecosystem.

Q: How do we know that “the diversity of mammals in San Diego County is greater than any other county in the United States …”?

A: Well, that’s a good question. Not all counties in the United States have been quantified for their mammalian diversity and it is possible that another county could take the lead one day, but to our knowledge, San Diego is currently the county with the highest documented number of mammals in the U.S.

Q: And why is this diversity in San Diego so much greater than other places in the U.S.? What is it about San Diego that lends to this level of diversity?

A: Being a coastal county, San Diego boasts a wealth of marine mammals as well as terrestrial mammals. The California bight (curved Southern California coastline from Point Conception to San Diego) draws many marine species in close to the coast, including a fascinating array of occasional visitors like the killer whale. On the terrestrial front, the amazing topography of our county has created both Mediterranean and desert environments, with a large number of habitats, which support species of many families. We also have a surprisingly high number of volant (flying) mammals, our bats, and we’re fortunate to have a dedicated bat biologist at the museum.

What I love about Pacific Beach …

Access to the bay and the beach and living in a very walkable community where there is always plenty to do.

Q: What is it about mammalogy that you enjoy?

A: I love the exploration of the natural world. Traveling to different parts of our diverse region and learning more about the animals that inhabit, and are unique to, our region is amazing to me. I love seeing so many different animals in the course of my work, and I really enjoy collaborating with the experts — so many incredible scientists who have dedicated their lives to one or more of these fascinating creatures. I am particularly passionate about natural history collections and the scientific documentation of our time. These collections are so integral to documenting and understanding our region, and contemporary collections are necessary to compare to historical data, but also to provide legacy data for future generations of mammalogists. I feel that in our collections, so many things are recorded that will undoubtedly tell the story of our time in a way that we cannot fully comprehend.

Q: What did you learn as a result of working on this book that you didn’t know before?

A: Although our county is better studied than most, I learned that there is a serious lack of information on many species. Although many remain, filling some of these knowledge gaps was fascinating. For example, I learned that the role of rabbits in the ecosystem is very important, and that the waxing and waning of grasslands is strongly affected by their foraging habits. Also, I learned that the ringtail (a member of the raccoon family) is more elusive than rare. The atlas inspired people to share data and report sightings of unusual mammals. Thanks to their efforts, we now know that this species is likely more abundant than previously believed.

Q: What were some of the fascinating discoveries you made in the course of working on this book that stood out for you?

A: The historical perspectives in the atlas are fascinating. Pronghorn, which look similar to antelopes, were numerous on the San Diego coast, foraging on planted fields in Point Loma in the 1800s. The last San Diego grizzly bear was also one of the largest in California and it was killed on Camp Pendleton in 1901. Some of the most fascinating contemporary data came from citizen science and the public. For example, for marine mammals, data from the San Diego Whale Watch gave us incredible insights into the seasonality and frequency of inshore cetaceans.

Q: What do you want people to understand about conservation?

A: San Diego species face many threats, and conservation of these species is an active and adaptive process as we learn more about the world around us. San Diego is a testing-ground for many kinds of conservation — including the Multiple Species Conservation Plans, the Habitat Conservation Plans, and Natural Communities Conservation Plans — which are all strategic ways to address the multiple threats to our region.

Q: Why is conservation important to you?

A: I think we are truly fortunate to have such great biodiversity in our county, and I feel it is our obligation to protect it.

Q: What does it mean to you to have completed a book like this?

A: I feel I have made a contribution to society, which provides a biological baseline for future generations.

Q: What’s been challenging about your work with this project, specifically?

A: Time. Having to sacrifice time with family and friends to complete this has been personally challenging.

Q: What’s been rewarding about that work?

A: I have grown as a scientist and as a member of the San Diego community.

Q: What has it taught you about yourself?

A: That with time and perseverance, I can bring a group of people together to accomplish an enormous task.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: Keep it simple.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: Even though I’m a terrestrial biologist, I love the ocean.

Q: Describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: A good Mexican meal, a bike ride along a quiet road, and a swim in the ocean!

Updated Anza-Borrego desert guidebook hits the shelves

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, December 31, 2017
By J. Harry Jones

For those interested in exploring San Diego County’s desert, there has been one widely accepted guide book for the past 40 years.

The Anza-Borrego Desert Region guide, published in 1978 and now in its sixth edition, has been updated for the first time in more than a decade.

Published by Wilderness Press and written by Lowell and Diana Lindsay, the latest edition provides hikers and motorists with new detailed charts, maps and descriptions of hundreds of hikes and routes through the 650,000 acres of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and adjacent areas.

“The biggest change is the hiking descriptions and charts we have in there,” said Diana Lindsay, 73. “It’s a mile-by-mile description as you’re driving down the roads, either the paved roads or the dirt roads, and it tells you at every stop what to see, what to look at, where all the hikes are.”