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IRC Staff Spotlight: Matilde De Santiago, Program Coordinator

PictureMatilde with an oak seedling at the Augustine staging area nursery

​The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are home to hundreds of native species that play an important role in our local ecosystem. Through various restoration projects and programs, Irvine Ranch Conservancy and partners OC Parks, City of Irvine and the City of Newport Beach protect the natural resources, while providing outstanding visitor experiences throughout the open spaces.
Matilde De Santiago, a program coordinator for Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s Restoration and Enhancement team, is responsible for staging area enhancement projects and trail enhancement projects across the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. She oversees nurseries at Quail Hill in the City of Irvine and the Augustine Staging Area in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon, where native plant seedlings are grown for restoration projects on the Landmarks. Matilde also helps coordinate large group stewardship projects for corporate groups, schools, and other large organizations to get involved in helping to restore local native habitat.

​Celebrating four years as part of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy team, Matilde’s love of nature and open space first brought her to IRC as a volunteer. Matilde was an Irvine Ranch Conservancy docent for about two years, where she developed and led programs to introduce the public to the beauty and serenity of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.
“My favorite part about the job is seeing wildlife out on the land,” said Matilde. “When I see wildlife, it reminds me about how important our mission is to ensure that habitat is protected and restored for the creatures that call these lands home. Wildlife is also a great indicator of the ecological health of an area.”
With the majority of Matilde’s job based outdoors growing native plant seedlings, challenges such as weather can directly affect the restoration work being done at the Quail Hill and Augustine nurseries.
“Extremely hot days oftentimes stress some of the new plantings and seedlings growing in the nurseries to the point of losing them,” said Matilde. “When there is plant loss, I reseed and replant hoping the new batch of seedlings and plantings will survive the next extreme weather event.”
Focusing mainly on stewardship projects throughout the Landmarks, Matilde has had the opportunity to experience the variety of trails and habitats that make up the open spaces.
“My favorite trail is the Dripping Springs trail. I helped in the restoration and enhancement of the trail along with IRC volunteers, the public and corporate groups. The result is a beautiful trail lined with native shrubs that leads to a spring in Limestone Canyon,” said Matilde.
When Matilde is not working at the nurseries or on enhancement projects with IRC, she enjoys camping and amateur astronomy.
For more information about Irvine Ranch Conservancy and stewardship work on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, visit