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.
- 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.
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.
Population studies of island fox, island jay, quail, native and non-native bees, and black abalone.
Special Research of National Significance
- Land/Ocean Interactions & the Dynamics of Kelp Forest Ecosystems
- Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO)