Francis Castillo y Mulert
My name is Francis Castillo y Mulert and I was born and raised in the village of Córdova, in northern New Mexico. As a kid I spent most of my time playing down at the river, the Río Quemado, the first water source off of the Truchas peaks, swimming and fishing. I love to garden, take photographs of nature, play basketball, drum and play on the piano, and spend time with good friends. Currently I am a student at Santa Fe Prep High School in Santa Fe. My immediate goal is to get a good education and major in Environmental Engineering as an undergraduate. I would love to eventually start a business that focuses on green solutions.
Year(s) Awarded: 2013
Exploring Non-Native Species for Community Transformation
I would like to empower my community to learn how the Siberian elm can be harmful not only to this unique environment, but can be seen as a catalyst for larger climate problems. Together we would like learn how to remove it safely from our environment.
Many feel that change in global climate patterns are largely caused by the use of fossil fuels. Missing in this understanding of climate change is environmental imperialism: the human introduction of exotic non-native species to habitats that are outside their natural range. Anthropogenic introduction of species is homogenizing the earth’s biota. Invasive species can displace native ones and can cause deviations that can drastically change the environment. I was born and raised in the village of Córdova which sits about an hour north of Santa Fe. One of the biggest ecological problems we face may seem small to people who are experimenting with lowering the CO2 rates in the atmosphere, but which I believe adds to climate change in silent ways. It is the massive problem of the invasive Siberian Elm introduced into North America in 1860. If you drive through the northern villages of Chimayo, Córdova, Río Chiquito, Cundiyo, Truchas, Trampas, Ojo Sarco, Vadito and Peñasco you will see an assault on the landscape that is out of hand. The Siberian elm is everywhere. The Siberian elm displaces native vegetation in New Mexico and continues to deprive existing native vegetation of sunlight, mineral nutrients, and water. It also evapo-transpires water from waterways at a rate much higher than native species.
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture has classified Siberian Elm as a Class C species. According to the state, management decisions need to be determined at a local level. In places like the small villages of northern New Mexico where there are not any local governments, many people do not have the resources or the no-how to remove this pest from their property. Through this project, I would like to empower my community to learn how the Siberian elm can be harmful not only to this unique environment, but can be seen as a catalyst for larger climate problems. Together we would like learn how to remove it safely from our environment.
Francis’ vision as to how his community would be different if his idea was to succeed:
The first thing that could happen is that other things would begin to flourish. This includes the renewed growth of native plants and a decrease in evaporated water plumes from waterways. Additionally, structures that were threatened by the Siberian Elms, would no longer be vulnerable to the threat of looming crashes onto roofs. I also believe that if successful, people would have a more positive attitude about their effect on their communities.