Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve

Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve
Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve / Photo by Christopher Woodcock

Set in the southernmost mountains of the Transverse Ranges, the Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve is located in the Cold Creek watershed of Malibu Creek, perhaps the most pristine and biologically diverse watershed in the Santa Monica Mountains. Cold Creek itself flows year-round through the reserve. Smaller tributaries of Cold Creek additionally provide the reserve with a well-developed corridor of riparian habitat.

Primary habitats include chaparral, coast live oak woodland, and annual grasslands. Overall, there are more than 300 vascular plant species. The reserve also harbors an abundance of fauna, particularly birds and reptiles.

All of Stunt Ranch burned in 1993, but has recovered well. The site’s natural diversity remains undiminished and continues to provide excellent educational and research opportunities.

Research is also possible at other natural areas adjacent to the reserve under management of the National Park Service, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Mountains Restoration Trust, and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Educational Outreach

The Cold Creek Docents offer interpretive programs for thousands of students annually from local schools; various university classes use the site, including those from UC as well as other universities.

Environmental Monitoring

Plans include establishing a weather station, stream gauges, fixed plots, transects, and photo points.

Field Courses

Site is visited by university courses in biology, archaeology, social sciences, ecology, biogeography, others.

Selected Research

  • Stream ecology
  • Ecophysiology of chaparral shrubs
  • Post-fire successional processes in chaparral plant and animal communities
  • Effects of slope and vegetation on post-fire erosion
  • Fire modeling using remote-sensing digital imagery from NASA
  • Ant distribution and interaction
  • Scrub jay communication and caching behavior
  • Signal variation and categorization by wrentits
  • Division of labor and reproductive skew among paper wasp foundresses

Faculty Director
Brad Shaffer
Assistant Director
David Blake
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Hershey Hall
610 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Los Angeles, CA 90095-7246
Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve website

Los Angeles County, in Santa Monica Mountains; 7.2 km (4.5 mi.) north of Malibu; 42 km (26 mi.) by road from UCLA.

Research/education center

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

Maps, aerial photos, geologic surveys; extensive species lists of fungi, vascular plants, and vertebrates.
Plant List

Staff reserve manager and faculty reserve director on campus.

125 hectares (310 acres)

392 to 472 m (1,285 to 1,550 ft.)

305 mm (12 in.) per year.

High: 32 ºC (90 ºF), can top 41 ºC (105 ºF)
Low: 4 ºC (40ºF), can dip to -4 ºC (25 ºF)
Dendra Weather Data

Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve
Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve