Field Science Saturdays

Maintaining a healthy and natural ecosystem is a continuous process, requiring both monitoring and experimentation.  Monitoring informs land managers about how the park’s vegetation and wildlife are changing over time, while experimentation answers questions that are useful to park management.  Usually monitoring and experimentation are performed by professional researchers, however at Crystal Cove everyone has the opportunity to help us learn more about the park.  On the second Saturday of each month, Crystal Cove Conservancy hosts Field Science Saturday, where the public is welcome to come to the park and help the Conservancy staff conduct research.  In the past, attendees have collected data on a variety of projects, from the Moro Canyon backcountry to the Historic District’s beaches.

In the backcountry, research efforts are directed towards studying coastal sage scrub, the primary plant community found in Crystal Cove.  The historic range of coastal sage scrub has been greatly reduced across Southern California, thus it is increasingly important that the few fragments left are well maintained and that future restoration projects are successful.  To help in this effort, past Field Science Saturday participants have monitored mammals, birds, and butterflies.  Animals can be used as indicators of quality habitat, thus by tracking changes in their populations over time we better understand if the park provides resources necessary to support a diverse wildlife population.  Other participants have collected data for an ongoing restoration experiment in the park, which is studying the effectiveness of different restoration strategies such as hand pulling weeds and erecting fences around native seedlings.

In the historic district, our attention is focused on the beach cottages, many of which are vulnerable to high water events like king tides and storms.  In May and August of 2017, Field Science Saturday participants measured the height and shape of the beach, factors that affect the vulnerability of the cottages.  By continuing to collect this data, it will become clearer how sand moves seasonally, and if it is changing over a longer timescale.

Through Field Science Saturdays, attendees get the chance to not only learn about the park, but also become citizen scientists, engaging in real research.  Through this it becomes more feasible to collect large amounts of data, a key to any well designed and robust study.  If you and your family or friends are interested in attending a Field Science Saturday join us at our next event on October 14th .

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