Volunteer Profile: John La Grange

All San Diego Natural History Museum volunteers are special, but John La Grange, an associate in our Botany Department, is exceptional. John started as a volunteer 11 years ago for the San Diego County Plant Atlas. Our Botany staff was so impressed with his ability to identify plants, they invited him to join them in the field. Shortly after, they asked him to be a department associate, a designation given to volunteers who go above and beyond—and John has certainly earned that title. He collects and mounts specimens, scopes out new locations to collect, contributes to scientific publications, and helps prepare for and joins in field research with Curator of Botany Dr. Jon Rebman.  

Because of John’s knowledge of the Baja California Peninsula, Dr. Rebman invited him to participate in trips to the Sierra Cacachilas Mountains and Revillagigedo Islands. On the Islands, John assisted Dr. Rebman with collecting shells and subsequently prepared a report on the shells he found, which will be included in a soon-to-be-published scientific paper for the Proceedings of the San Diego Society of Natural History, our Museum’s current scientific publication.

John has also participated in fieldwork for a National Geographic grant to find 15 species in Baja that have not been collected since the 1800s. On two separate trips, even with questionable locality information, John La Grange encouraged Dr. Rebman until they were rewarded with the discovery of two of the missing species. The hunt will continue with John providing much-needed support.

John’s interests extend beyond plants and include Chinese, diving, surfing, hiking old mines, collecting minerals, and growing tropical fruit in his backyard. And John loves the ocean. After attending UC San Diego, he worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Southwest Fisheries. He studied the problem of dolphins being entangled in fishing gear and decided he much preferred being on the boat over working in the lab. John developed a commercial fishing business that took him around the world. Though he recently sold his boat, he still has his hand in the fishing industry as a conservation consultant.

The Nat is a wonderful place to volunteer. John La Grange, like many volunteers, says, “I get more out of it than the Museum does.” We beg to differ. It is definitely a mutually beneficial arrangement.

If you are interested in volunteering at the Museum, please visit our website to view a list of current opportunities.

Posted by Director of Volunteer/Intern Services Janet Morris.

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