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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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