Natural Lands Management Training Program
The Natural Lands Management internship was developed in collaboration with the Center for Environmental Biology to provide students with practical experience in leadership and land management skills. As part of the program, students assist in developing and implementing community and science-based land management practices for the UCI Ecological Preserve or the UCI San Joaquin Marsh. After learning about the history, ecology, and management of UCI’s natural lands, students develop an independent project designed to address a conservation challenge while involving the local community.
Monitoring Southwestern Pond Turtle Populations
Photo credit: Cesar Peñaloza
The southwestern pond turtle (Actinemys pallida) is the only native freshwater turtle on the West Coast, with the southern population now recognized as a distinct species. Due to habitat loss and other threats, California recognizes the turtle as a species of special concern, and it is currently under consideration for listing at the federal level. Here in Orange County, the largest population of southwestern pond turtles is in the UCI San Joaquin Marsh, yet the population has not been censused since before a major drought in 2012. Student Fernanda Valenzuela worked closely with UCI alumnus Barry Nerhus, now a biologist and founder of Endemic Environmenal Services, to build turtle monitoring traps to survey turtles at the UCI San Joaquin Marsh. Fernanda also lead a turtle walk for the public to learn about and observe these unique reptiles!
Reserve Plant Identification App
Computer science and biology students worked with UCI-Nature to address a need for more immediate help in identifying plants in a field setting. Traditionally, identifying plant species in the field requires either carrying around a large manual, finding a local flora book, or collecting specimens to examine in greater detail later (which often isn’t permitted). This project seeks to provide an alternative by creating a mobile application that utilizes a species list and photo database to provide the user with a handful of possible species after a few questions are answered from the field based on basic plant traits. The app is designed for people with little to no experience in technical plant identification skills.
Field Methods in Conservation and Restoration
Hands-on training in the field techniques used in ecological restoration and developing professional restoration plans. Activities utilizing the UCI Ecological Preserve include methodology for biological assessments of sensitive species, standardized protocols for vegetation classification and mapping, and the design and implementation of monitoring programs.