One of the best remaining examples of a coastal-strand environment in Southern California, the Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve protects a wide variety of shoreline and estuarine habitats. Largely undisturbed coastal dunes support a rich assemblage of dune vegetation, while older and more stable backdunes are covered with southern coastal scrub habitat. In the heart of the reserve, Devereux Slough is a seasonally flooded tidal lagoon that dries out in the summer to form salt flats and hypersaline ponds and channels. A variety of intertidal habitats occur along the sandy beach and the large rocky reef at the point. Thousands of migratory birds visit throughout the year. Located adjacent to the Santa Barbara campus, the reserve provides a unique and accessible research and teaching resource. Many university courses, including botany, ecology, biodiversity field methods, natural history, marine biology, invertebrate zoology, and environmental studies.
The reserve has a Nature Center with exhibits of local research and habitats, a meeting room, a laboratory, and staff offices. There are no overnight facilities at the reserve.
Several ongoing restoration projects aim to improve the biological functioning of the reserve. Over the past seven years, Coal Oil Point Reserve has restored more than 30 acres of wetland margins, vernal pools, coastal sage scrub, dunes, and beach habitat. These areas are now self-sustaining and rich in native wildlife. Native plants are propagated on site in the reserve’s native plant nursery. Plants are grown primarily from seeds collected on the reserve to ensure the preservation of the genetic stock adapted to the area. Restoration projects offer opportunities for undergraduate internships every quarter.
Reserve staff monitor and protect listed and rare species such as the western snowy plover. The reserve recovered a historical nesting site abandoned for decades due to unmanaged beach recreation. Today, visitors can spot western snowy plover nests and chicks with the help of volunteer docents who are present at Sands Beach seven days a week.
Self-guided Walking Tour
Visitors can tour reserve trails on their own while listening to interpretive podcasts, or take a guided tour on the first Saturday of each month.
- USGS earthquake monitoring: COPR has one of 200 antennae used by USGS geologists to study earth movement
- Reserve-managed monitoring of water quality, aquatic invertebrates, birds, western snowy plover population status and breeding success, and subtidal organisms
- Tick distribution and Lyme disease
- Coastal processes and sea level rise
- Sandy beach food web
- Predictions of western snowy plover habitat loss and adaptation to sea level rise
Special Research of National Significance
- PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans): Large-scale marine science research program that focuses on understanding the nearshore ecosystems of the U.S. West Coast and involves collaborating scientists from four universities. At Coal Oil Point, PISCO researchers use a remote sensing antenna to monitor rocky intertidal and ocean currents.
- Ecology of Lyme disease