McLaughlin Natural Reserve

McLaughlin Natural Reserve
McLaughlin Natural Reserve / Photo by Lobsang Wangdu

McLaughlin Natural Reserve is one of only a few sites in California that protects unusual serpentine habitats for research and teaching. The McLaughlin Reserve encompasses several geologic formations, two watersheds (Putah and Cache Creeks), and a variety of vegetation that includes oak woodlands, non-serpentine chaparral, serpentine chaparral, and grasslands.

Overlain on this natural diversity is a mosaic of human land-use, yielding grazed and ungrazed grasslands, relatively pristine habitats, and reclaimed mining areas. Surrounding the reserve are 30,000 hectares (75,000 acres) of accessible public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Baseline Data

The Homestake Mining Company has collected baseline data on the site’s geology, soils, hydrology, air and water quality, archaeology, and terrestrial and aquatic ecology; ongoing environmental monitoring adds to the computer database.

Field Courses

The site is visited by university courses in plant ecology, California floristics, geology, and creative writing.

Expanded Facilities

Establishment of the reserve as a field station dedicated to environmental research is part of the long-term reclamation plan for the gold mine.

Selected Research

  • Serpentine habitats: Dynamics and succession of serpentine chaparral; the spread of exotic grasses on serpentine.
  • Ant studies: Ant specificity to unique isolated habitats; determinants of polymorphism and foraging strategies in ants.
  • Host-association effect on herbivory of the Indian paintbrush species.
  • Ecological and evolutionary responses to habitat mosaics: integrating across spatial and temporal hierarchies of plant biodiversity

Cathy Koehler
Paul Aigner
Stewardship Director
McLaughlin Reserve
26775 Morgan Valley Road
Lower Lake, CA 95457
McLaughlin Natural Reserve website

Napa, Lake, and Yolo Counties northwest of Davis; two-hours from Davis campus.

6,000-sq. ft. field station with 23 beds, classroom, lab, greenhouse, wi-fi, computer, kitchen, showers, laundry, gym, storage space, and shop space.

The reserve bibliography includes citations of journal articles, books, theses, art, and other works published about or based on activities conducted at the reserve.

Plant List
Natural history handbook with species lists; meteorological, air quality, water quality, and aquatic ecology databases available in various formats.

Resident director position (shared by Paul and Cathy) and Reserve Steward.

2,853 hectares (7,050 acres)

379 – 888 m (1,245 – 2,914 ft.)

75.7 cm (29.8 in.) per year.

July: 24.6 ºC (76.2 ºF)
January: 7.3 ºC (45.2 ºF)
Dendra Weather Data

McLaughlin Natural Reserve 1
McLaughlin Natural Reserve 2
Paul Aigner, restoration director of McLaughlin Natural Reserve, admires the native wildflowers that have returned thanks to his campaign to knock back invasive weeds at the reserve. Image credit: Lobsang Wangdu/NRS