Jennifer Salazar began working at the Soboba Tribal Environmental Department nearly five years ago as an Environmental Specialist. She was recently promoted to the position of Environmental Manager.
“I’ve been in love with biology since I was born,” Salazar said. “I think my love for science makes environmental issues very important to me and getting a formal education in biology marries the science behind the issues and trying to respond to them.”
She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from Cal State, San Bernardino and said she always planned to be a scientist/biologist. She just wasn’t exactly sure in what capacity she would find her career.
“Even though I didn’t know this work (at Soboba) would be where I ended up, it’s so important and meaningful that I’m glad that I can use my education and skills to help the Tribe and any environmental issues that affect this community,” Salazar, of Yucaipa, said.
Whether directly attending to environmental issues/concerns on the Soboba Reservation or providing environmental educational outreach through classes or events, she said seeing the positive results within the community from those efforts is the most satisfying part of her job.
“I have worked with so many Tribal members over the years and when they say how much they loved Earth Day (outreach event) or the community clean-up or how much they care for their land, it’s very satisfying to be a part of that,” she said.
While working as an Environmental Specialist, Salazar has tested water quality and conducted water quality monitoring for surface waters at Indian Creek on the Soboba Reservation. She has written a few environmental technical documents, submitted data to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and has done environmental assessments.
“I have been collecting data from Indian Creek for five years now and seeing trends and making sure the values of water quality are within normal range is very important,” she said. “Indian Creek is a cultural resource and to be a part of making sure the health of the creek is maintained is amazing.”
As manager, Salazar will shift her focus from completing tasks outlined in grants to writing the grant proposals herself.
“I am looking forward to working on developing a Soboba air quality monitoring program,” she said. “There is still so much work that will need to go into possible funding, but I am excited to get to work on that.”
Planning the next Soboba community clean-up is around the corner and will be held with limited interaction. Salazar said social distancing is very easy at this type of event and it is so beneficial to Tribal residents.
“I think Earth Day, which is so popular here, may be the only thing that has been slowed down but within the next few months we should have an answer as to whether we can proceed with that event this year,” she said. “If we are able to have one safely, I think we can proceed with some new ways of operating. I look forward to reaching out to fellow tribes and perhaps exchange ideas on how we can provide the best and safest Earth Day events for our tribal communities.”
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians