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

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 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.

July 19, 2011

Some Planning and Preparation

by Sabrina Lawrence-Gomez

In between preparing our lab samples, we had a meeting today with Charlie de la Rosa. Charlie is beginning his PhD in the Evolutionary Biology program at UCLA (our enemies!), so this was one of the last opportunities we had to talk with him before he leaves for school.

The focus of our meeting was the future of Deer Valley Trail. We had been discussing adding interpretive signs to our trail for some time, so it was finally time to start planning them out! We discussed many ideas for potential signs like an introduction to island biogeography, a map of all of the coves of the West End, an overview of sustainable trail design, or sign with all of the trail’s endemics on it. We also discussed the location of each sign. The goal is to have a sign at each control point, but we still weren’t sure which locations are best for which sign topics. It is also important that the trail is reversible so that hikers can begin the trail from the top of the ridge or from that bottom and have the same experience. Charlie suggested we continue to work through ideas for signs and begin drafts to help with the creation process.

We also talked about the sign design and funding. We are going to research different signs that we have seen that we like, and contact their creators. Charlie is very fond of the steel signs at Joshua Tree, so hopefully we can get in touch with them and find out how their signs are made. Unfortunately we don’t exactly have funds for the project yet. We talked about fundraising ideas and hope to coordinate with Wrigley to get money for these signs. I hope we can get through all of this red tape and have our signs completed before the end of the summer!

Next on the agenda was the a fennel removal volunteer day geared towards Conservancy employees. We discussed dates to invite Conservancy employees to help us remove fennel along the trail and then enjoy the amenities at the Wrigley waterfront, including snorkeling and kayaking. We chose the 27th and 29th for our work days. I hope that we can pull these events off! It will be a great opportunity for us to get more hands to work on the removal along our trail and teach more people about marine life at Wrigley Marine Science Center .

Before he left, Charlie invited us to a Stop the Spread event focused on educating volunteers on fennel removal in Howland’s Landing tomorrow. I hope we can all attend. Learning how the Conservancy teaches its volunteers how to remove fennel will be a really good model for us to follow when we have the LA Conservation Corps comes out on Monday.