USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences > Blog

August 17, 2012

Water Sampling in Big Fisherman’s Cove

Filed under: Uncategorized — justinbo @ 5:55 am

In our last week interning here on Catalina Island, I started to realize that soon I would have to go back to Los Angeles and begin the school year. While I’m extremely excited to be surrounded by people I haven’t seen for almost three months now, I have to say that I’m definitely going to miss the sheer amount of space and endless beauty that this place provides.

This week, I have been working extensively with Professor Ginsburg’s Environmental Studies 320a course, working as the student’s teaching assistant. We have been working in the lab each day this week, testing for different nutrients in the water column of Big Fisherman’s Cove.

On Monday, students collected water samples from the cove using a Niskin bottle. To compare data at different depths, the students collected water at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 meters. From this, they looked at dissolved oxygen content, as well as ammonia and iron levels.

For the analysis of ammonia and iron, we used a serial dilution of two different standard solutions. Using an acid base reaction with the standards, we created a color change reaction, which we then used a spectrophotometer to measure the specific absorbance of each solution at different wavelengths. With our samples, we added the same reagents and catalysts that we added to the various dilutions of the standard solution, and measured the absorbance of the samples as well.
robaxin

Standard solution, catalyst, and reagent for the ammonia analysis.  Photo by Justin Bogda


canadian pharcharmy online
Top: standard solution assay for ammonia analysis.  Bottom: seawater samples from 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 meters in Big Fisherman’s Cove.  Solutions are in cuvettes, ready to be analyzed by the spectrophotometer.  Photo by Justin Bogda

Sample in spectrophotometer before analysis.  Photo by Justin Bogda

Receiving a standard curve from our standards, each at a different concentration covering the ranges that we expected to see in our samples, we were able to make a curve correlating the concentrations with absorbance, and compare our samples to that curve to determine what the specific concentrations of our samples were.

The first day that the class tried the assay for ammonia, results were less than ideal. I performed the assay as well, and struggled to make a standard curve from which I could get meaningful data. The following day, I tried to perform the assay again, this time using more precise instruments such as volumetric flasks to perform the dilutions, and I obtained much better results. Ammonia levels were in the range, between .5 and 4 µM, that we expected. Iron, for which we tested today, was seen in concentrations between .5 and 2 µM, a bit less than the 10 µM concentration that we expected.
celebrex
Measuring nutrients such as ammonia in the water provides a baseline measurement that, according to our records, has not been done in some time. If concentrations were greater than we expected, it would be an indication of pollution from the land, as natural levels ammonia from excretions from organisms should be negligible. It is helpful to measure indicators of water health, especially in a protected area like Big Fisherman’s Cove, so that if there were potential threats to it such as sewage runoff, we could detect it.
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When I look back on this summer, I feel a definite sense of accomplishment. While a great deal of the work we did this summer was immediately beneficial to my practical skills and knowledge, I feel even better that my fellow interns and I set up projects and potential research that can be built at the Wrigley campus by the Environmental Studies department and other collaborators. I will be coming back throughout the fall to continue with the restoration project and seeding, so while I leave Catalina nostalgic, I’ll get to continue work here soon.

August 7, 2012

Soil Analysis at University Park Campus

Filed under: Uncategorized — justinbo @ 5:37 am

This past Thursday we finally were able to take the soil samples from our plots on the Deer Valley Trail to USC’s University Park campus and start testing them. This marked the first step in collecting real data from our plots that will go toward our experiment.

Our experiment looks at the effects of invasive plant species on soil health and quality. To measure the overall health of the soil, we need to get accurate reads on the nitrogen, total carbon, and organic carbon in the soil. As stated before, upon removal of invasives from the plots, we hope to see a decrease in nitrogen level. When the health of the soil increases with declining invasives, and with the eventual return of native plants, we hope to see the carbon content in the soil increase.

Before we trekked back to the mainland to analyze our samples, we decided to take more samples to use comparatively with the samples from our plots. To see what a more “healthy” soil profile should look like, we took two samples from beneath two different native plants, Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) and sagebrush (Artemisia californica). Along with these samples, we also samples from each of the three potential sites for our restoration project, to get an idea of soil health in these areas.

Using a geology lab on campus with the help of our professor Dr. Lisa Collins, we weighed approximately 10 mg from each soil sample, and packaged them accordingly to be analyzed by an elemental analysis. To weigh 10 mg, it required a great deal of precision, and quite a few practice runs between the four of us to not spill at all and to keep the samples neat and organized. Soon enough, we were able to measure out the samples so that they could be analyzed.

Above: Intern Judy Fong carefully measures out 10 mg of a soil sample.  Photo by Justin Bogda.

The elemental analysis uses standard curves to interpret how much of a substance is in a sample. For total carbon, the 10 mg samples, packaged in small, flexible tin cups, are burned at 900 °C, and reduced to carbon monoxide. This then runs through a mass spectrometer that detects the amount of carbon monoxide released, and this value is compared to a standard curve to detect the amount of carbon in the soil. Similarly, nitrogen gas is read by the mass spectrometer and compared to a standard curve. In order to measure the organic carbon in the soil, we had to measure separately another 10 mg from each sample, and instead put them in small silver cups. In order to just measure organic carbon, rather than total carbon, a small amount of hydrochloric acid is added to the cups. By doing this, calcium carbonate, the main component of the inorganic carbon in the sample, is released from the sample, and only the organic carbon is left.

Above: Soil samples after they have been measure, ready to be analyzed by the elemental analysis.  Photo by Justin Bogda.

Within the next week, our first sample results should be complete, and we can finally begin collecting quantitative data for our project.

August 5, 2012

Deer Valley Native Plant Restoration Project

Filed under: Uncategorized — dtellez @ 12:39 am

One of our main projects for this internship is establishing native plant restoration sites within previously disturbed soil along the Deer Valley trail adjacent to USC’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. The first site is along a disturbed slope where fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) was removed manually last year and has begun to re-sprout.  The second site was degraded due to soil collection for maintenance purposes; thus, both the area of removal and the connecting path traveled by trucks and bulldozers is where we plan on working.  We hope these sites will provide data for native plants’ effects on the area through soil nutrients and overall growth, as well as what restoration methods have the highest rates of survivorship. Along an interpretive trail, the sites will provide educational opportunities for students, residents, and other visitors on restoration efforts.

Intern Justin Bogda surveys the north facing region of the proposed Deer Valley restoration site. Photo by Stephen Holle

We are working towards installing restoration plots that will provide data on what methods increase rates of survivorship.  Periodically, we will test the soil for nitrogen and carbon content; thus, creating a baseline for how native plants contribute to nutrient pools in a disturbed area.  We hope that the results from this project will possibly provide an alternative to carbon emission cap and trade.  Instead of a market-based solution for businesses to offset their carbon emissions, we theorize that by investing in restoration efforts, businesses will contribute to the improvement of disturbed ecosystems while also promoting sustainability.

With the guidance of Peter Dixon, Senior Technician for the Catalina Island Conservancy Native Plant Nursery, we have formulized not only a restoration plan, but also an experimental design within it.  Prior to any restorative work, we will test the soil to quantify its quality.We will compare various plant mixtures of seeded and potted plants, perennials and annuals.  Fortunately, the location of the restoration site is within an area of relatively high native plant diversity.  During a recent site survey, Dixon identified over 20 native plant species present, and we are working towards identifying several more native grasses.  From these preexisting plants, we plan to collect seed, process it, and replant within the restoration site.  Furthermore, we will be looking at the varying successes of planting annuals, climax species such as Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia) and Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), and coastal sage shrub species. In order to ensure the success of the site, we will use erosion mats to prevent soil erosion, and fencing to prevent deer and bison predation.

In terms of timing, seeding will occur in August, while all potted plants and shrubs will be planted just before fall to maximize the amount of rainfall available. In addition, our plant plots will be watered monthly during initial plant establishment.  However, we will include control plots to observe the success of plants that are not manually watered.  The four of us will continue to work on these restoration sites throughout the fall and early winter. The fall and spring ENST 320A classes may also take soil samples for the field component of the course. Next summer’s USC interns will continue expanding on the restoration sites and assume basic maintenance.

Interns identify native grasses already established in disturbed soil within restoration site. Photo by Stephen Holle

Editor’s note: The ENST Catalina Island Internship at USC Dornsife is offered as part of a summer internship program offered to undergraduate students in the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. This course takes place on location at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Students investigate important environmental issues such as ecological restoration, protected-area planning and assessment, and invasive species management. During the course of the internship, students will work closely with USC faculty and staff scientists from the Catalina Island Conservancy to support ongoing conservation and management programs being implemented on the island. Instructors for the course include David Ginsburg, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Lisa Collins, Lecturer in Environmental Studies, and Tony Summers, Invasive Plant Program Supervisor from the Catalina Island Conservancy.

 

 

July 28, 2012

On the Trail

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — judithfo @ 8:48 pm

Last Thursday, we were able to make significant progress on our Deer Valley Trail projects. We finally got our hands on the necessary supplies, including cement and flags for our plots. We were able to dig almost all the holes for the informative trail signs. The interns from last year had written and designed them, but getting them in the ground proved to be a challenge for us, as the soil was incredibly solid and we lacked the proper tools. However, we were able to use heavy metal rod to create holes deep enough for the signs. The first one was successfully mounted into the ground using cement.

The same day, we also accomplished a lot for our fennel project. After obtaining and processing the soil samples the day before, we began the fennel treatments. To ensure the plots were random we picked papers out of a hat for the three treatments (full removal, mowing, and a control). The different treatments are designated by a different color flag in the middle of each of the plots. For the full removal, we used shovels and grubbers to break the fennel at its taproot, which will prevent it from growing back. This is the primary method used by the Catalina Island Conservancy. Full removal is the most effective method but can result in soil disturbance and requires intense manual labor. Because of this, we are also looking at the effectiveness of mowing. To mow the fennel, we used pruners to cut the fennel stalk as low to the ground as possible without disturbing the taproot. Mowing will almost always result in fennel re-growth, but we are looking to see if mowing continuously once a year will eventually kill the plant. We did not touch the control plots. We had two of each treatment at each site, totaling to four plots per treatment type. We also decided to take additional soil samples from under native plants so that we can already have a comparison in nitrogen levels before the summer ends.

We felt a sense of accomplishment in finishing one of the major steps in our project. After this, we will be taking soil samples once a quarter to monitor the soil nutrient levels and observe any changes. Most likely, next year’s summer interns will resume the project and continue with the annual mowing.

Top: Judy Fong mows a plot using pruners. Photo credit: Dawnielle Tellez. Bottom: Dawnielle performs full removal of fennel. Photo credit: Judy Fong

 

We hope to not only unlock interesting answers regarding how different fennel treatments affect soil nutrient levels, but also to provide a consistent project for future Environmental Studies interns to build upon. The trail will serve as a field lab for classes and groups. The class ENST 320A: Water and Soil Sustainability will be utilizing the trail as a platform to perform soil samples in the future. For example, one of the ENST 320A field trips to Catalina could process the soil samples for that quarter and contribute to our data. In addition, the restoration project should provide experience removing fennel and other invasive grasses, watering, taking more soil samples, and potentially some seed or root collection. We hope that our work with the fennel project and restoration project will help allow for learning opportunities and hands-on experience for students. We expect that this trail will be getting more and more use as time goes on. Whether it be through the informative signage or the restoration site, we hope that our efforts will make a lasting impact on whoever uses the trail in the future.

 

Editor’s note: The ENST Catalina Island Internship at USC Dornsife is offered as part of a summer internship program offered to undergraduate students in theUSC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. This course takes place on location at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Students investigate important environmental issues such as ecological restoration, protected-area planning and assessment, and invasive species management. During the course of the internship, students will work closely with USC faculty and staff scientists from the Catalina Island Conservancy to support ongoing conservation and management programs being implemented on the island. Instructors for the course include David Ginsburg, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Lisa Collins, Lecturer in Environmental Studies, and Tony Summers, Invasive Plant Program Supervisor from the Catalina Island Conservancy.


 

July 27, 2012

Soil Sampling

Filed under: Uncategorized — sholle @ 6:48 pm

On Thursday July 26, 2012 we procured our first set of samples from the 12 plots located on the Deer Valley Trail. Initially, we began by taking two spoonfuls of soil in replicate from the various plots and placed them in the appropriately labeled bags. The samples will be used later to determine specific concentrations of nitrogen, carbon, and the pH level within the soil to establish an understanding of current soil conditions.

Also a control will be set up looking at the same nutrient samples in an area where Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and other invasive species have not outcompeted native plants such as Coastal Sage Brush (Artemesia californica). Later, we will work in the lab to determine the levels of nitrogen and carbon, which will then be compiled in a format to quantify long term trends. Ultimately, the aim of this work is to assess how over time the soil and flora communities respond to manual treatments of fennel. We are hoping to see the potential for less labor intensive techniques such as mowing to be effective for long term treatment strategies, but only a long term data set will allow us to make a more informed judgment.

We also attained samples from the two potential restoration sites we have identified along the trail. The areas currently remain highly disturbed and the samples will be used to determine the soil composition prior to the application of seeding and potted plants, which we will install during August and through the fall. Our work will then return full circle back to the John Ackerman Native Plant Nursery by establishing data sets related to the effectiveness of propagation techniques, which conservancy employees can use to make management decisions. Within the restoration site we hope to see a strong reestablishment and survivorship rate in the native flora communities and an overall more stable soil composition over time.

 

Editor’s note: The ENST Catalina Island Internship at USC Dornsife is offered as part of a summer internship program offered to undergraduate students in theUSC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. This course takes place on location at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Students investigate important environmental issues such as ecological restoration, protected-area planning and assessment, and invasive species management. During the course of the internship, students will work closely with USC faculty and staff scientists from the Catalina Island Conservancy to support ongoing conservation and management programs being implemented on the island. Instructors for the course include David Ginsburg, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Lisa Collins, Lecturer in Environmental Studies, and Tony Summers, Invasive Plant Program Supervisor from the Catalina Island Conservancy.

 

 

Military History of Catalina Island

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — dtellez @ 7:15 am

Today, most people would classify Catalina Island as a vacation destination, a unique blend of adventure, sport, romance, and history. But beneath the aura of the sleepy beach community lies a rich military history, filled with top-secret operations, strategic surveillance posts, and intensive, elite training. Dating as far back as the Civil War, Catalina is no stranger to military involvement. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Cost Guard operations were all carried out across most of the Island.  Some structures still exist today as a glimpse into Catalina’s military history.

Behind the boating, fishing, and other water related activities that attract so many visitors to Two Harbors, persists a piece of Civil War history, Union Army barracks once occupied by the 4th California Infantry. As the westernmost site of the war erected in 1863, the Santa Catalina Island barracks were strategic in the Union’s guard of the harbor from Confederate privateers and pirates. Additionally, the volunteer infantry helped maintain the safety and integrity of the mining industry that flourished on the Island. In 1864, eighty-three soldiers were stationed in the area. Some speculate that these men were sent by the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the ulterior motive of surveying the Island as a potential reservation for combative Native Americans captured during the war. Upon the soldiers’ arrival, the Army ordered all civilian inhabitants to evacuate from the Island, but soon after they rescinded the order. Prior to the Army’s establishment, during the 1860’s mainly miners and ranchers inhabited the Island, some of who had lived on Catalina for over a decade. After the Army’s abandonment of the barracks, they served as the housing for film crews during the making of movies in the 1920’s and 30’s. Finally, in 1951, the barracks fell into the hands of Isthmus Yacht Club.

The present day Civil War barracks in Two Harbors, which now serves as the Isthmus Yacht Club. Photo: Dawnielle Tellez

It was not until the second World War that the Island was heavily utilized by the military. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, security, military presence, and heightened fear of attack were felt across Catalina. The Coast Guard issued identification cards to all residents, the San Pedro Channel became a designated control region for military purposes, and steamer service ceased preventing tourists from visiting the following summer. Navy Underwater Demolition Teams, precursors to the Navy Seals, trained on the island. UDT squads served mostly in the Pacific Theater; notably in the epic Battle of Peleliu, where despite the war’s greatest bloodshed, not a single member was lost. In addition, the US Maritime Service based its training camp in Avalon. Some merchantmen were lucky enough to rub elbows with Norma Jean Doughtery, a model later known as Marilyn Monroe, who was married to a USMS member. Also stationed on the Island were the Coast Guard training camps. Dominating the Isthmus and West End of Catalina, the US Coast Guard established multiple sentry and surveillance posts, ceased yachting, and underwent two months of intensive training.

Navy UDT crew training on Catalina Island in 1944. Photo from http://ikidyounotvc.blogspot.com/2011/01/hank-weldons-wwii-navy-udt-crew-helped.html

Hidden among steep valleys and within the interior of the island were top secret military camps. The Army Signal Corp was based at Camp Cactus, where up to 60 men operated newly developed radar to detect Japanese warplanes. Additionally, the Office of Strategic Services, that laid the groundwork for the Central Intelligence Agency, operated on Catalina for several years, performing training raids on other parts of the Island. They specialized in surveillance, sabotage, and covert warfare, later serving behind enemy lines in Burma and China gaining intelligence for the Indian and British armies.

Despite the upheaval of military activity, civilian life did not differ drastically from that on the mainland. Catalina residents took part in wartime, gas, and food rations. Distinct differences, however, were evident at times. Some recall the tense moments during mandatory blackouts to help prevent night attacks and the trailing of US Air Force avengers, mine sweepers, and submarine chasers after each passenger voyage across the channel. Even with the strong precautions taken, the enemy crept ever closer to Catalina’s shores. Japanese submarines were spotted as close as 5 miles from the Island.

 

Works Cited

http://www.ecatalina.com/history-catalina-ww2.html

http://www.laalmanac.com/history/hi06b.htm

http://www.visitcatalinaIsland.com/twoHarbors/poin_civilWarBarracks.php

Editor’s note: The ENST Catalina Island Internship at USC Dornsife is offered as part of a summer internship program offered to undergraduate students in the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. This course takes place on location at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Students investigate important environmental issues such as ecological restoration, protected-area planning and assessment, and invasive species management. During the course of the internship, students will work closely with USC faculty and staff scientists from the Catalina Island Conservancy to support ongoing conservation and management programs being implemented on the island. Instructors for the course include David Ginsburg, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Lisa Collins, Lecturer in Environmental Studies, and Tony Summers, Invasive Plant Program Supervisor from the Catalina Island Conservancy.

July 24, 2012

Summer Diving Experiences

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — judithfo @ 10:12 pm

When discussing potential projects for this internship with our professor, he suggested we balance out our terrestrial fieldwork with some scientific diving. Having all participated in the Guam and Palau scuba diving course, we were more than happy to dive whenever we could.
Prior to this summer, two Environmental Studies students, Laura Wang and Christine Sur, had established a seagrass monitoring project with David Ginsburg. The project aimed at measuring seagrass abundance to provide further information on the ecosystem health of Big Fisherman’s Cove. The seagrass is quantified using 50 meter transects along six headings that branch out from a single point. A quadrat is placed at ten-meter increments and the number of seagrass plants is recorded. Measurements have been taken on a monthly basis since October 2011. Last Thursday, we contributed to the seagrass monitoring project for the first time and obtained the measurements for July. It is surprising how such a simple method could reveal so much regarding the stability and health of a marine ecosystem. Although the seagrass is such an integral part of the ecosystem, there has not been significant research done on seagrass until this project was established last year. The original developers of the project have now graduated, and their work has been crucial to establishing a baseline that future Environmental Studies divers can build on in the future.
Over the past couple weeks of our internship, we have tried to complete at least one dive a week to improve our proficiency underwater. By now, we have become rather familiar with Big Fisherman’s Cove. But this summer has given us opportunities to explore dive sites farther than the cove, such as Habitat Reef, Pumpernickel, and Blue Caverns. We frequently encounter other divers and researchers around the dive lockers, many of them graduate students conducting their own research at Wrigley. One morning, we were able to dive with a graduate student and help with scrubbing cages underwater for his project working with gobies in the cove. It is always exciting to see all of the different people the USC Wrigley Campus attracts, be it graduate students, undergraduates such as ourselves, or middle school campers.
Thus far, this summer has presented us with amazing opportunities to scuba dive. We all share the same passion for diving, so it is extremely rewarding to be able to observe other dive researchers in addition to diving on our own, exploring new sites, and partaking in research projects such as seagrass monitoring.

Stephen Holle prepares for a dive. Photo credit: Judith Fong

July 16, 2012

Deer Valley Trail Invasive Plant Project Begins

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — justinbo @ 10:45 pm

Last summer, the Wrigley interns played an integral role in establishing the Deer Valley Trail. For the past few weeks, other than continuing our work with the Conservancy’s invasive plant management and native plant restoration projects, we have been surveying this trail and looking for ways to extend our work with the Conservancy to the trail in the form of a research project. After some research into potential projects and a quick trip to the mainland for supplies, we were finally able to begin our project today, Monday, July 16th, 2012, with the installation of 12 plots along the trail.
Our project is going to be a long-term study into the effect of invasive plants (specifically fennel) on soil health. With the hypothesis that invasive plants increase nitrogen and carbon pools as well as the pH of the soil to an extent that is detrimental to native plant growth, we predict that if fennel is entirely removed from a plot, the nutrients in the soil will return to a more stable level. Furthermore, if native plants are introduced where invasive plants once were, we expect that soil health will increase to an even greater extent.
We chose two areas that are extremely disturbed with fennel to place our plots. We have three separate treatment methods that will be utilized. One treatment of the fennel will be full manual removal, one will be mowing the fennel just above the taproot, and one will be left alone as a control. In each of the two areas that we chose, we have six plots, two for each of the three treatment methods. The plots are scattered randomly, and no two replicates of the same treatment are next to each other at each site.
These 12 plots are concentrated in two areas at each end of the trail. The square plots are four feet across and are made of PVC pipes which we anchored into the ground with stakes after drilling holes into the PVC connectors.
In the next week, we will be using several methods with the direction of our Professor, David Ginsburg, to take soil samples within these plots. After we get a baseline, we will treat each of the plots and remove fennel when needed. Then, we will continue taking samples on a semi-weekly basis for the remainder of the summer, and continue with monthly or semi-monthly samples for the remainder of the school year. We plan on personally continuing the project into the school year, but we also plan to work in conjunction with Dr. Ginsburg and his students in his undergraduate course, ENST-320a.
So what exactly do we hope will come from this project? The Conservancy primarily uses herbicides for the treatment of large patches of fennel rather than manual removal, which is very labor intensive and causes a great deal of soil disturbance. Being in the watershed of the marine protected area down in Big Fisherman’s Cove, the fennel along the trail and in the surrounding area cannot be treated by herbicide, so large monocultures of fennel scatter the watershed. Some of the fennel is hard to reach, and on steep inclines, and full manual removal is often difficult or impossible. Part of our project hopes to see that if the fennel is mowed and allowed to grow back, how many times it will take before the fennel taproot runs out of enough nutrients and life to come back. If the mowed plots eventually are cleared of fennel, the prospect of applying this treatment method to the remainder of the watershed is available.
In a separate plot along the trail, we plan to not only take soil samples and remove invasive plants, but also actively restore the area with native plants. This project will be separate from the 12 plots that were set up earlier today, but the results will provide further insight into the soil health of the watershed, and how it can change with our remediation.

Drilling PVC

Photo credit: Dawnielle Tellez

Photo credit: Judy Fong

July 9, 2012

Invasive Plants

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — sholle @ 10:29 pm

Environmental problems are complex entities which take a broad set of skills and understanding to properly address and mitigate. On Catalina Island three interns and I from USC are getting experience working with various conservation organizations seeing firsthand what it takes to properly preserve valuable and productive ecosystems. Last week we worked with Peter Dixon who is in charge of the native plant nursery on Catalina Island. From the early morning until the late afternoon we spent our time touring various ecosystems around Catalina Island looking for California Locoweed (Astragalus trichopodus var. lonchus), Vernal Barley (Hordeum intercedens), Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans) and Black Sage (Salvia melifera). When we found the flora species of interest our group harvested 10% of the seed from each plant and counted maternal lines in order to keep track of the genetic diversity. All this work goes toward maintaining a viable seed bank, which is necessary for restoration and the retention of native and endemic species on Catalina. One of the species, Hordeum intercedens is a relatively rare grass on the island and proved to be especially difficult to locate given the abundance of similar invasive grasses.

Above: USC students survey a watershed on the east side of Santa Catalina Island. Photo Credit: Stephen Holle

Seed collection is especially important because grasses like H. intercedens face an immense amount of competition from invasive grasses, which often times have more dense and broad distributions. Invasive grasses are one of many environmental problems on Catalina Island because their biomass contributes large amounts of nitrogen to the soil, which further promotes the spread of invasive plants such as fennel. A possible explanation for the persistence of invasive species on Catalina Island could be due to the increased influxes of nitrogen from invasive grasses and other plant species. As Peter Dixon explains, “native and endemic grasses on Catalina are typically found in dispersed distributions while invasive grasses have higher and broader population densities.” As a result long term “plant invasions increase soil nitrogen pools and total ecosystem nitrogen stocks” (Rout 2009) and contributes to invasive plant success and rapid colonization around the island. Given these ideas about nitrogen influxes and the spread of invasive plants my fellow interns and I are developing a short term project in order to understand the spread of invasive plants using applied conservation. Although our time is limited on Catalina Island, we look forward to establishing baseline studies for future continuation.

Works Cited:

Rout, Marnie. “An Invasive Plant Paradox.” Science 324. (2009). 734. Online.

Editor’s note: The ENST Catalina Island Internship at USC Dornsife is offered as part of a summer internship program offered to undergraduate students in the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. This course takes place on location at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Students investigate important environmental issues such as ecological restoration, protected-area planning and assessment, and invasive species management. During the course of the internship, students will work closely with USC faculty and staff scientists from the Catalina Island Conservancy to support ongoing conservation and management programs being implemented on the island. Instructors for the course include David Ginsburg, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Lisa Collins, Lecturer in Environmental Studies, and Tony Summers, Invasive Plant Program Supervisor from the Catalina Island Conservancy.

July 5, 2012

Catalina Internship Program 2012: Let the Summer Begin!

When we left San Pedro on the Miss Christi headed to Santa Catalina Island for the summer, we had no idea what we were about to experience.  Once we arrived on the island, Tony Summers, program supervisor of the invasive plant program for the Catalina Island Conservancy showed us the beautiful and diverse ecosystems of the area.  He focused our attention on plants that we had never noticed during our previous visits to the island and also described the islands rich flora history built around endemic, native and invasive species. Through his introduction to the island, we began to visualize what the rest of the summer would entail.

Invasive plant removal along one of Catalina’s watersheds. Photo: Stephen Holle

Our first week of the internship consisted of learning how to mitigate the degradation of the Island’s natural ecosystems through the removal of invasive species. In particular, we focused on minimizing the impact of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).  In addition to invasive plant removals, we also began our work with Peter Dixon in the Conservancy’s nursery, where native plants are raised to be introduced onto the Island and help repopulate areas where native plants struggle to thrive.  We all look forward to provide to Catalina’s ecosystem management through this fieldwork.

In the coming weeks we will continue our work with the conservancy as well as several side projects. All of us have very diverse and at the same time interrelated backgrounds. All four of us have achieved AAUS scientific scuba certification through USC Dornsife Environmental Studies program. The course allowed us to travel to Guam and Palau where we were able to collect data for actual research while also experiencing some of the top dive spots in the world. We plan to use our experience scientific diving to expand our opportunities on this internship.  In big fisherman’s cove, we hope to create a detailed map of the different habitats.  In addition, our professor, David Ginsburg, will guide us through monitoring of sea grass in Big Fisherman’s Cove, and we plan to begin monitoring sea grass in new locations outside of the cove as well.

In addition to working with Tony and the conservancy, we will continue to expand on the trail last year’s interns established on the USC Wrigley campus. We plan to finalize the informative signs that were developed last summer and manage fennel growth and basic maintenance. We would also like to develop an interactive field map to enhance hikers’ experience with our trail.  We also will begin several terrestrial research initiatives to aid the conservancy in its work and provide new information about how invasive species both spread and flourish.  In the coming weeks, we will continue blogs detailing our continued work with the conservancy, as well as our individual research projects, as they continue to develop and give insight into the ecosystems of Catalina, and what we can do to conserve them.

USC ENST Interns after a day of Fennel removal on Catalina’s west end.  Photo: Tony Summers.  Judy Fong (far left) is a Sophomore Environmental Studies major and hopes to use this internship to gain experience in conservation work and learn about ecosystem management strategies.  Dawnielle Tellez (center left) is a Junior Environmental Studies major interested in conservation of endangered species and marine ecology.  Justin Bogda (center right) is a Junior Environmental Studies and International Relations major interested in International environmental policies, and hopes to work in environmental law and policy.  Stephen Holle (far right) is a Senior Environmental Studies major and is interested in natural resource management and finding ways to bridge the growing gap between science and policy.

Editor’s note: The ENST Catalina Island Internship at USC Dornsife is offered as part of a summer internship program offered to undergraduate students in the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. This course takes place on location at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Students investigate important environmental issues such as ecological restoration, protected-area planning and assessment, and invasive species management. During the course of the internship, students will work closely with USC faculty and staff scientists from the Catalina Island Conservancy to support ongoing conservation and management programs being implemented on the island. Instructors for the course include David Ginsburg, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Lisa Collins, Lecturer in Environmental Studies, and Tony Summers, Invasive Plant Program Supervisor from the Catalina Island Conservancy.

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