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August 2020

New buildings nurture community at James Reserve

Situated on a mountainside so natural and lovely that the nearest town is called Idyllwild, the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve has bustled with visiting university students and researchers since it joined the NRS back in 1966. As the decades wore on, however, calls for its accommodations outgrew the reserve's lodgings. Now, thanks to funds from Prop. 84 and alumni of the boys' school once located on site, the reserve sports double the beds, quadruple the kitchens, and a classroom, all of which provide space for dozens of visitors at a time.  Read more >>

A phoenix from the ashes

Way back in 1996, the field station at what is now the NRS's Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve was consumed by wildfire. The habitat regenerated over the next two decades, but the reserve had to operate without any buildings. Funding from Prop. 84 changed all of that. Now the reserve has a sleek, fire-resistant building that can help schoolchildren and scientists study this surprisingly wild section of Los Angeles. Read more >>

Fighting a frog pandemic in the field

People are hardly the only species susceptible to epidemic disease. Amphibians worldwide have been ravaged by a fungus that has driven some species extinct. Among the victims have been the mountain yellow-legged frogs of the Sierra Nevada. Teams of scientists, including some from the NRS's Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, are actually treating infected populations of these frogs in the wild. They're trekking medication, gear, sanitizing measures, and their own food and tents to remote alpine lakes to ensure yellow-legged frogs survive there into the future. Image: Isaac Chellman/NPS Read more >>
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CHI in space

Since 2019, NASA's ECOSTRESS sensor has been measuring surface temperatures on Earth from aboard the International Space Station. Its mission: to detect how plants cope with heat and water stress. Their project scientists need info from earthbound temperature sensors to calibrate their models for different ecosystems. The NRS’s California Heartbeat Initiative is providing NASA with soil sensor data from the NRS’s Blue Oak Ranch Reserve. The info will refine ECOSTRESS models for oak forests, chaparral, and grasslands. The NRS is also volunteering data from its nearly 30 other climate monitoring stations as well in case that info can help as well. Photo: ECOSTRESS image of Death Valley, NASA/JPL

Morphing mine facilities into a field station

Industrial buildings are long on function, short on comfort. So when the NRS acquired the premises of a former gold mine, the managers of McLaughlin Natural Reserve had their hands full converting it into a field station. But even after plenty of DIY remodeling, some things—including removing a high-voltage power system—proved beyond their abilities. Funds from Prop. 84 came to their rescue, enabling both extensive renovations of the field station building but also adding accommodations, a greenhouse, and a revamp of the reserve's connection to the grid. Read more >>

High-tech hawk perch?

Raptors consider the NRS's weather stations ideal places to sit and scan the landscape for prey. The weather stations all sport anemometers, sensors that clock wind speed and direction as they rotate with the breeze. Hawks like this one, photographed at Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve by reserve director Andy Brooks, can obtain 365-degree views without so much as lifting a feather. But the weight of the hawks, while slight, also affects the quality of the data being collected. To remedy this problem, NRS climate monitoring station manager Wendy Baxter has devised clever perch deterrents to keep the data accurate.
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