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The Nature Conservancy’s recent establishment of the Dangermond Preserve, a 25,000 acre protected area at Point Conception, presents a rare opportunity to engage historical information in designing effective protection, restoration, management. With many sacred Chumash sites and its unique location at Point Conception where the cold Pacific current meets the warmer waters from Baja California, the Preserve represents an area of exceptional natural and cultural value. Site surveys show it is home to over 50 endangered and rare species, making it a hotspot for biodiversity. The land was previously known as the Cojo and Jalama Ranches, or collectively, the Bixby Ranch. Starting as a Spanish land grant, the property was ranched for over 100 years and is home to oak woodlands, coastal prairies, and eight miles of untouched coastline.
This Group Project represents an unparalleled opportunity to work with TNC to incorporate historical ecological information with leading conservation science during the creation of the Dangermond Preserve Management Plan. The use of historical information to study past ecosystem characteristics is a broad interdisciplinary field referred to as “historical ecology”. Historical ecology is a critical component in identifying locally appropriate restoration targets. Similarly, historical ecology can help us design and manage more flexible, resilient future ecosystems. The study of historical landscapes can provide clues to how ecosystems were adapted to a highly variable climate regime, buffering the effects of environmental extremes. This research will inform planning uncertainties that TNC has regarding the creation of a management plan for the preserve.
The objective of this Group Project and student internship opportunity is to compile and synthesize historical data and information that can support TNC management and restoration planning for the Dangermond preserve. Thus, TNC is proposing a project to explore the historical ecology of the Point Conception region and the new Dangermond Preserve to determine what conservation goals are appropriate for the terrestrial or marine ecosystems. Bren students will engage in the conservation management planning process and other data and analytic approaches to inform management approaches that promote climate resilience. TNC has amassed a great deal of ecological data relevant to the property, but is lacking historical baseline information and guidance for how historical information can best inform management planning. Specifically, Bren students will:
- Analyze current ecosystem at the Dangermond Preserve and combine with historical knowledge and data-driven approaches to provide a frame of reference for assessing modern patterns and processes.
- Provide guidance for using historical information in management planning, monitoring and change detection (e.g. resampling of survey plots and photo points) in support of a climate resilient preserve.
- Provide to TNC a final report summarizing their findings at the end of the internship.