Ryan Fitch serves San Diego Zoo Global as a Research Associate in Plant Conservation. As a member of the division’s habitat restoration team, he works to plant and maintain native shrubs and remove invasive species at our local restoration sites. He also brings plant and arthropod identification skills to the team.
Currently, Ryan works with the team on habitat restoration sites at Lake Hodges, ensuring that planted material continues to thrive by watering and controlling weeds and erosion. The Lake Hodges project involves planting 20,000 native coastal sage scrub shrubs across 25 acres over two years. This project is located within a vital wildlife corridor along the San Dieguito River Park that connects inland mountain habitats to coastal ones. Shrubs are planted in an experimental design. The project incorporates vegetation sampling, allowing us learn how the diversity of plantings affects restoration success. Ultimately, the restoration project replaces large stands of fire-prone, non-native grasses with plantings of species native to highly endangered coastal sage scrub habitat.
After working for seven years as a civil engineer, Ryan changed careers to focus on local biodiversity conservation, with an emphasis on plant and arthropod interactions. Ryan earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology from San Diego State University, where he conducted research on pollination and seed dispersal in the highly endangered and federally-listed Mexican flannel bush. Ryan, an avid hiker and biker, feels very fortunate to live with his family in the most biodiverse county in the United States, a place he remains passionate to protect.