Sebastián Martinez

Sebastián Martinez is a reporter and documentary filmmaker who produces KBIA's Missouri Environment program. Sebastián got his bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in documentary journalism at the same institution. His interests include nature, conservation and science.

Sebastian Martinez Valdivia / KBIA

Late summer and early fall might not seem like a very tropical time in Missouri, but it is the best season to find one of the last remaining pieces of the state’s tropical past. I’m talking about the largest edible native fruit in North America – the elusive paw paw. Despite the fruit’s uniquely exotic flavor, and the fact that it grows throughout the Midwest, you won’t find the paw paw in most groceries, which means if you want to taste it, you have to set off into the woods, which is exactly what I did on a recent afternoon.


Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

Spring is wildflower season in mid-Missouri’s many woodlands. Already, dozens of species have bloomed and are going to seed, but there’s still time to catch some of the show, if you know where to look. If you don't, then you need Randal Clark, who has been guiding people through Missouri's spring wildflowers for close to 40 years. 

On a recent Thursday evening at the Devil's Icebox parking lot at Rock Bridge State Park, Clark was getting ready to do exactly that.


Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

Two weeks into the Trump administration, several cabinet-level positions remain open, including the Secretary of the Interior, who is responsible for federal lands in Missouri and other states. The issue of federal lands has become increasingly controversial, and some Missouri lawmakers have even called for Washington to give up control of National Parks Service land. Despite this uncertainty, life goes on for many of those in charge of managing federal land in the state.

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As the winter moves in, several species of ducks are making their way into and through Missouri, en-route to their overwintering grounds. While this time of year is a boon to duck-hunters, recent research suggests ducks moving through might soon be an ominous sight for farmers.

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On a recent Friday morning, a group of about 20 Nature Conservancy Trustees, visitors and staff have gathered for a tour of the conservancy’s Dunn Ranch Prairie. The Nature Conservancy is an international non-profit focused on conservation, and its Missouri director Adam McLane is on hand for the day’s tour.  

The prairie covers more than 3,000 acres and is host to a dizzying variety of native insects and birds, but on this morning, the tour group gathered to see its most imposing inhabitants: bison.

Sebastián Martinez / KBIA

Every year on the second weekend of October, birders and bird-watchers across the country demarcate a 17-foot wide circle, set up shop within it, and bird watch from dawn to dusk. Countless chapters of the National Audubon Society organize the event, appropriately titled the Big Sit. Birders chat, knit and even barbecue during the event, all while keeping a count of all the different birds they see.

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Hinkson Creek, which runs through Columbia, might not seem like an ideal destination for anglers. While it carries some standard game fish like bass and blue gill, you’re not likely to find any record catches.

But on a recent late-Summer day, Michael Moore was after fish on the opposite end of the spectrum.

A doctoral student in fisheries conservation at the University of Missouri, Moore was turning over rocks in the creek, looking for tiny aquatic bugs to use for bait.

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Native plants are having a a boom year, thanks in large part to a butterfly.

The sharp decline in monarch butterfly numbers in the winter of 2014 led to headlines about the destruction of their habitat in the U.S.

It sparked a national movement to plant milkweeds: the family of plants monarchs rely on to lay their eggs and feed upon as caterpillars. 

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The greater prairie chicken is one of Missouri’s rarest birds. There are actually fewer than 300 left in the state. So the opportunity to see one is coveted by nature lovers. Even when it means getting up before dawn on a Saturday, and making the trip down to Wah’Kon Tah prairie, which many of the remaining chickens call home.

A group of about forty people did just that, turning up to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s El Dorado Springs office for one of a handful of greater prairie chicken viewings the department has organized this spring. After a brief orientation, the attendees hopped onto two buses, one lead by wildlife biologist Matt Hill and the other by Max Alleger, the department’s grassland coordinator.


Sebastian Martinez / KBIA

Fire plays an important role in many Midwestern ecosystems, but when it burns out of control it can also be devastating, as the wildfires in Oklahoma and Kansas have demonstrated. This time of year, when a lot of summer grasses and brush are still dead but the weather is warming up, the land is particularly flammable. That’s why agencies like the Missouri Department of Conservation take meticulous care in planning prescribed fire.


Sebastian Martinez / KBIA

  The Eleven Point River flows for more than 100 miles through Oregon County, and right through the heart of the almost 4,200 acres the Department of Natural Resources recently bought to create a new state park. The river starts just north of the small town of Thomasville: home to the Eleven Point Cafe.

Like a lot of people in the county, the cafe's owner Jamie Warren is conflicted about the new park. "I think it could bring in a lot of tourists and it could help the economy, but it’s going to take a fight," Warren said. "I’m like most of the locals: we hate change."


Sebastian Martinez / KBIA

A crucial part of the effort to mitigate climate change is finding alternatives to fossil fuels.

A recent conference at the University of Missouri in Columbia focused on one of the most controversial of those: nuclear power.


Sebastian Martinez / KBIA

On a cold but clear Saturday evening, with the sun dipping towards the horizon, a group of 20 or so bird watchers assembled at Wah Sha She Prairie, about half an hour north of Joplin. They braved the cold, hoping to see the migratory short-eared owl.