Santa Cruz Island Reserve

Santa Cruz Island Reserve
Santa Cruz Island Reserve/Photo by Lobsang Wangdu

The Santa Cruz Island Reserve is located roughly 25 miles off the Southern California coast and is the largest of California’s eight Channel Islands. The island has two major mountain systems flanking a central valley that formed along an active fault zone. The mountains are rugged and cut by steep-sided canyons, some with perennial streams and freshwater springs. The coastline is mostly steep and rocky, with some protected coves and sandy beaches. Diverse habitats include rocky intertidal zones, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, grasslands, oak woodlands, and bishop pine forests. The reserve contains breeding grounds for harbor seals, seabird nesting colonies, many endemic plant and animal species, and well-preserved archaeological sites. The Santa Cruz Island Reserve operates in partnership with both The Nature Conservancy, which owns 76 percent of the island, and the National Park Service, which manages the remainder of the island as part of Channel Islands National Park.

Selected Research

  • Archaeology: Ongoing studies of the island’s prehistoric Native American cultures; the evolution of cultural complexity in hunter-gatherer societies.
  • Terrestrial botany: Defense mechanisms of insular endemic plants; age structure in island chaparral communities; population genetics of endemic species.
  • Terrestrial zoology: Reproduction and kinship studies for two endemic species: island jay and state-threatened island fox (Urocyon littoralis).
  • Geology and geomorphology: Structure, diversity, and origin of the island’s geological formations; fluvial system responses; sediment transport in island watersheds.
  • Aquatic biology: Population studies of kelp bed fishes and selected intertidal invertebrates.

Rare and Sensitive Taxa

Inventory and monitoring of selected plant species; population genetic analysis; establishment of new outlying populations of selected taxa.

Habitat Restoration

Management strategies for invasive nonnative species (feral pigs, feral honey bees, fennel); vegetation monitoring following removal of grazing impacts.

Fire Research and Prescribed Burns

Impacts of fire on island plant species and communities; fire as a management tool for promoting native plants.

Long-term Studies

Population studies of island fox, island jay, quail, native and non-native bees, and black abalone.

Special Research of National Significance

Lyndal Laughrin
Santa Cruz Island Reserve
Marine Science Institute
UCSB Natural Reserve System
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Santa Cruz Island Reserve website

Santa Barbara County, in the Santa Barbara Channel; 32 km (24 mi.) long by 9 km (6 mi.) wide; 31 km (19 mi.) southwest of Ventura, CA.

Field station with dormitory for 30+, private rooms sleep 6 to 12, kitchen, dining hall, laundry, electricity, propane, library/conference room, internet; wet and dry lab; four-wheel-drive vehicles; 17-foot Boston whaler; five-person inflatable boat.

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

Santa Cruz Island geographic information system (GIS) (part of Channel Islands GIS) on site and at UCSB; electronic Channel Islands bibliography; herbarium/invertebrate collections; flora of the island (Santa Barbara Botanic Garden 1995), plant and bird species checklists (Channel Islands National Park).

Resident reserve manager and steward

18,652 hectares (46,090 acres) on the portion of the island owned by The Nature Conservancy

0 to 742 m (0 to 2,434 ft.); reserve field station located at 61 m (201 ft.)

50 cm (20 in.) per year in central valley of island.

Mean monthly maximum: 22 ºC (71 ºF)
Mean monthly minimum: 10 ºC (50 ºF)

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