Reserve Highlights

Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve and Big Creek State Marine Reserve:    
  Annual Report Narratives: 1992-93, 1993-94, 1994-95 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98 ,1998-99,1999-00 2000-2001,2001-2002    
  Visitation statistics, project and class lists, and other annual report data    

Reserve Annual Report 2001-2002

In the past year, Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve has become involved in planning for the future, both internally and externally in the Central Coast Community. In spring, 2002 the UC Santa Cruz Natural Reserves Advisory Committee adopted the following mission, guiding principles and vision statements for the reserve:

The mission of the Natural Reserve System is to contribute to the understanding and wise management of the Earth and its natural systems by supporting university-level teaching, research, and public service at protected natural areas throughout California. Within this mission, the guiding principle of the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve is to contribute to the understanding of ecological processes as they occur in intact, protected natural systems through on-site research and education, and to provide a benchmark for interpreting long-term environmental change.

The Vision of the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve: The intact ecosystems and the aesthetic qualities of the Reserve will be fully protected for future generations of teachers and researchers. Its natural systems will be sustained to provide a benchmark against which to compare environmental changes elsewhere and through time. The reserve will be an access window through which nature can be investigated, observed and monitored, but not fundamentally altered. Human activities in the reserve will be managed so as to avoid disturbance to natural processes while providing a full program of investigation and teaching sufficient to support the UC and NRS missions. Students and faculty will conduct in-depth research about terrestrial and marine systems, acquiring knowledge that can be used to advance science and improve stewardship of natural communities and biological diversity. Investigators supported on-site will exchange ideas and enthusiasm. The reserve will inspire students and teachers to appreciate the character and value of nature per se, and to seek ways to balance natural and human-dominated landscapes. Reserve staff will provide data, logistical support, and expertise to visiting researchers, students, and other persons engaged in studies of natural ecosystems. As feasible and appropriate the reserve will also provide public services to the greater community by supporting nature study, land management efforts, and environmental improvement.

Also in spring 2002, UC Santa Cruz Reserves Director Margaret Fusari completed the Academic Plan for the UC Santa Cruz Reserves, including Big Creek. This plan highlighted our accomplishments, potential for improvement, and projected needs for facilities improvements at the reserve. We are currently developing alternatives for meeting our facilities needs, and have engaged architects, planners and other consultants to help us proceed. We are aiming to be comprehensive and develop a long range plan that addresses a variety of needs, both present and anticipated. Many friends, neighbors and supporters have volunteered their time to assist with this effort.

In an effort to try and reduce some of the negative impacts of State Route 1, we have been working with Caltrans to develop the Coast Highway Management Plan. As part of this process we initiated the Big Sur Volunteer Road kill Survey, a community-based effort to monitor species, timing and location of road kill along the highway. The first year of the survey successfully revealed the broad extent of road kill (over 150 animals identified), but also the seasonality, with distinct peaks in June and September. The survey also highlighted 12 "hotspots" where road kill is most likely to occur, and where mitigations might be most valuable to enact. Survey findings.

Visitor use in 2001-02 was about 10% higher than in previous years. Most of the increase may be attributed to an increase in visitation by classes from UC Santa Cruz (see annual report part 3). Research use remained low, reflecting the lack of investigators in-residence during the summer. More visitors elected to use the Whale Point visitor cabin as their overnight accommodation, in spite of the lengthy travel time and access problems. With some exceptions, most researchers used the reserve as a base for field collections and field observations rather than for experimental ecological research (see annual report part 4). See visitor statistics page for long term trends in visitor use, publication lists, and other information.

A field geology project by University of Arizona scientist Mihai Ducea and graduate student Steven Kidder led to the successful NSF funding of a project to study magmatic arcs and crustal tectonics in the Santa Lucia Mountains. This project is due to start in 2003 and will bring graduate and undergraduate students to the reserve along with professor Ducea. Several articles are in press or in preparation for this work.

UC Santa Cruz undergraduate student Erin Avery completed a senior thesis project on the effects of fire retardant on coastal prairie plant communities. She found that application of recommended amounts of fire retardant can strongly influence soil nutrients and stimulate the growth of non-native plants.

We purchased and installed the first of a series of replacement "HOBO Weather Station" units. We plan to keep one or two of the old stations operative until they fail, but plan to install the new system at each of the five permanent weather station locations. We also made substantial progress in evaluating and analyzing old weather data files dating back to 1978. The goal is to make Big Creek weather data fully accessible in a standardized database. Preliminary results are accessible on the Big Creek Weather Page.

Reserve Education Coordinator Kim Smiley and the UCNRS H.O.S.T. program sponsored a teacher-intern, Debolina Dutto, from Berkeley, in summer 2001. Debolina spent several weeks at the reserve learning teaching and science techniques, along with workshops and other activities designed to help her bring field science into the classroom. Kim also hosted school groups, both local and from across the state. She also trained her students as well as some college groups to contribute to the Student Volunteer Stream Insect Survey. One interesting finding is that children seem to be as proficient if not better at identifying stream insects, when compared with adults. These and other findings may be seen on the stream insect survey web page

The Big Creek State Marine Reserve received its new name in January, 2002 as a result of the Marine Managed Areas Improvement Act. Formerly called the Big Creek Ecological Reserve, the marine reserve continued to host fisheries and other marine science researchers. UC Santa Cruz faculty and the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) set up a long-term study of biological community assemblages in- and outside the reserve. Their goal is to understand ecosystem processes and environmental change, both human-induced and natural, and to communicate their findings in a constructive way to policy makers, resource managers and to the general public. They chose to work at Big Creek because of the protection offered by the marine reserve, as well as for the opportunity to work at the mouth of a pristine wild stream.

The California Department of Fish and Game and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) completed surveys of subtidal habitats and fish assemblages, and have jointly produced a map of the marine reserve bottom habitats as well as baseline data on the numbers, species and sizes of fish in- and outside of the marine reserve. More recently NMFS tested a new laser scanning technology in the marine reserve in an effort to improve techniques for counting, measuring and identifying fishes. Their findings have highlighted the value of no-take marine reserves in sustaining larger and more numerous fish. The deep water surveys have also revealed a need to capture additional deep-water habitats within the reserve so as to protect a representative sample of habitats, particularly hard-bottom habitats in waters deeper than 100 feet. One proposal would extend the boundary to three miles from shore, which would extend the depth to about 2500' (760m). The California Sea Grant College Program published its final report for the Marine Ecological Reserves Research Program. The report contained 8 articles based on research in the Big Creek State Marine Reserve.

The Big Sur Skiff Fishing Survey completed its 14th year, including 11 consecutive years of fish sampling and measurement. The data show fluctuations in the average length of some species, but overall, the mean length has not declined, suggesting that healthy fish populations may remain in many of those areas.

In addition to long term projects, the marine reserve also supported graduate and undergraduate thesis projects. Current graduate student projects include studies of rockfish recruitment and genetics as well as studies of intertidal community responses to disturbance from highway construction and maintenance. Undergraduate projects include measurements of kelp forest fish sizes in- and outside of the marine reserve boundaries.

We had two marine poaching/trespass incidents in 2001-02. One was by a locally-based vessel which claimed to have stopped in the marine reserve without fishing; the other was by an Alaska-based vessel which apparently was ignorant of the reserve and its boundaries. In both cases CDFG game wardens responded and contacted the fishers directly. There were no serious cases of trespass or poaching in the land reserve.

Only minor facilities changes and improvements were made in 2001-02. We reinforced the decking and installed rails around the upper Whale Point Cabin. A new telephone line was installed connecting Whale Point with the Entrance area and outside lines, and new solar panels and batteries were installed at both facilities locations, upgrading our solar photovoltaic electrical generating capacity by about 50%. We also installed secondary containment trays for all of our lead-acid batteries, including those in the weather stations.

Reserve staff made a major effort to remove Pampas Grass (Cortaderia jubata) from the highlands portions of the reserve. Thousands of small to medium sized plants were removed. We also experimented with methods for controlling thistles (Silybum marianum and Carduus pycnocephalus) on Highlands Ridge, with limited success. We continued to monitor and manage weeds on two of our three highway-related revegetation projects. Effective weed control has been achieved on both sites, and revegetation with on-site natives is progressing. The third "Wing Gulch" site is relatively inaccessible, except for the former access road which is completely revegetated with native shrubs. We employed many volunteers for these and related trail projects, and the trail system is nearly restored to its pre-1999-wildfire condition, including numerous improvements.

Overall, 2001-02 was a year of planning, analysis, and documentation. It was also a year of increasing class use by UC students and faculty, partially compensated by a slight reduction in research use. Increased use of the Whale Point visitor cabin by classes and other groups is showing us that a demand exists for that kind of facility. It also highlights the relative ease of managing visitors in a centralized, modern facility.

 

Reserve Annual Report 2000-2001

The 2000-2001 year at Big Creek was characterized by steady progress in planning and building relationships with neighboring agencies and stakeholders, recovery from the 1999 wildfire, and an increasing awareness of the significance of the marine reserve to policy planning and marine resources protection. We also completed the Big Creek K-12 Education Center. Visitor use maintained at about the same levels as during previous years. The total seems to be about equally divided between University teaching, University research, and public service. In contrast to previous years we did not have any researchers in residence during the summer months, and this was reflected in a decline in research use. Note that public service includes agency research as well as educational use such as K-12 education. Graphs of visitor use may be viewed at http://www.redshift.com/~bigcreek/annual/user_statistics .

In 2000-2001 the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) moved forward with the Big Sur Coast Highway Management Plan. The coast highway corridor is probably the single greatest environmental problem for the reserve, and we are making every effort to incorporate our issues and concerns into this plan. Reserve manager Smiley attended meetings and contributed issues and ideas to the scenic/conservation working group and the maintenance/repair working group, and has worked directly with project coordinator Aileen Loe on strategies to optimize public and community involvement. He also agreed to coordinate a study of road kill on the highway, to run from October 2000 until October 2001, and wrote an initial draft of a plan for managing trees and forests in the highway corridor.

Reserve lands continued to recover from the 1999 Kirk Complex wild fire. During the spring most of the burned area was overgrown by a dense cover of deer weed (Lotus scoparius) or wild pea (Lathyrus vestitus). These are nitrogen-fixing native plants which seem to be an important stage in the succession and revegetation of burns in our area. Reserve staff continued to rebuild trails and facilities damaged by the fire. Reserve steward Feynner Arias took advantage of the burn on highlands peak to scout out a new trail, which overlooks upper Devil's Canyon. Along with reserve steward Rohana Mayer and numerous hard-working volunteers, he opened this trail up for access. They also searched out invading pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata) and pulled out thousands of plants. It seems that the open ground created by the fire was an open invitation for this weed to invade the reserve. Although we successfully removed the majority of plants within the reserve, neighboring lands have not been treated and there was undoubtedly a major invasion of the backcountry by this weed.

We completed the publication of the Fred Farr Symposium volume. The final 100 page book is very accessible, written for a general rather than technical audience, and illustrated with nearly 100 photographs, including color photographs taken by UCSC photographer Norman Locks. Reserve steward Rohana Mayer is credited with the layout and attractive presentation for the book.

This year we completed the Big Creek K-12 Education Center, funded by a grant from the UC Natural Reserve System and University outreach funds. The facility includes the "yurt," a 20' diameter circular classroom furnished with display cabinets, a freezer for storing specimens, some specimen cabinets, a couple of work tables, and a computer desk. It also includes two large outdoor decks. One has three storage sheds for storing equipment and supplies, and a picnic table for working on study skins. The other, larger deck has two outdoor specimen boxes and two picnic tables, and is set up for teaching classes. The center is located on a hidden terrace across the creek from the entrance cabins, and gives the impression of being in the center of the wilderness. This is accentuated by the rugged path that crosses the creek on a footbridge, passing by a pile of mountain lion bones before climbing to the terrace.

Education coordinator Kim Smiley has moved her K-12 education program into the center and has used it to host several groups as well as two UCNRS H.O.S.T. teachers. In the summer of 2000 we hosted Glenda Peppin, a science teacher from Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. Glenda worked closely with Kim for several weeks, learning her methods for teaching students to become "local experts" as well as how to make study skins and sample stream insects. Glenda prepared teaching materials to take back with her to Crenshaw, and has implemented them in a project to create a community park near the school. She has also returned to Big Creek for updates and plans to bring a group in the winter of 2001-02.

Last fall reserve manager John Smiley met with the Devil's Creek Flat inholders and outlined some of the long range planning goals being developed. The owners were very appreciative of being informed, and many were quite supportive of the goals being discussed. One of the DCF owners, Polly Osborne, volunteered her services as an architect to help with initial planning. UCSC Natural Reserves Director Margaret Fusari took on the project of writing up a Big Creek Reserve academic plan, based on UCSC faculty input.

The three highway-related revegetation projects were closely monitored and photos may be seen on the web site http://www.redshift.com/~bigcreek/roads . The Wing Gulch access road has grown in almost completely with native perennial plants, while the inaccessible dry cut face above remains bare. The revegetation of the bridge construction zone was set back by a December 2000 drought, which killed seedlings of lupine, California Poppy and other natives, but the area remained bare and was not invaded by exotics, and the native seed bank is still present and should germinate in fall 2001. The "Big Creek 2000 slide" material disposal site was managed by cutting thistles and removing a few other exotics, and now has a good cover of mostly native perennials on the soil patches. The success of all three projects at excluding undesirable exotic weeds derives primarily from the presence of an established perennial native seed bank and the timely monitoring and intervention as needed.

The Big Creek Internet web site has proven to be an effective way to communicate information to our users and other interested parties. Many more components have been added and now the web site includes about 200 web pages and 1000 photographs, data graphs, bibliographies, and other resources. The reserve "description" is new and many older pages are frequently updated such as the "fire recovery" pages and the "stream studies" page.

The Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve completed its seventh year as one of the premier "no-take" marine reserves in California. Researchers from the Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the University of California have completed three years of fieldwork, and are now preparing results for publication. The research is designed to investigate the value of "no take" marine reserves on fisheries. Goals include (1) estimation of fish stocks within and adjacent to the Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve, as well as (2) mapping of substrate and estimating reproductive potential of fishes within the reserve. The research also looks at (3) the genetics of fish and invertebrate populations along the coast, and (4) includes a sociological investigation of the local Big Sur hook and line fish survey, which has been underway at Big Creek since 1989.

These studies took on added importance this year as the California legislature passed the "Marine Life Protection Act" which mandates the creation of a system of marine reserves along the coast. Reserve manager John Smiley was invited to give two presentations about management of the Big Creek Marine Reserve. The first was about community involvement with enforcement of marine reserves, and was presented to the annual meeting of the American Fisheries society. The second was one of a series of talks on social and ethical aspects of marine reserves, organized by UCSC research scientist Carolyn Pomeroy. This was part of the Second International Conference on Marine Conservation Biology. Both talks presented the experience of creating, organizing and overseeing the Big Creek Marine Reserve, and included recommendations for creating a system of marine reserves along the California coast.

This year Big Creek was an important support facility for the Partnership for the Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO). The UC Santa Cruz PISCO group used Big Creek for a base of operations for intertidal and subtidal surveys, and as a study site for subtidal fish counts and other surveys. The UC Santa Barbara PISCO group also used the reserve as a base for collecting fish just south of the reserve waters.

The Big Sur skiff fishing survey completed its tenth year of data collection. The survey revealed declines in the mean length of certain fish species, including species targeted by the lucrative live fish market. Other species' mean length did not show a decline. The annual length/weight index revealed that autumn 2000 was a relatively "fat" year, as were autumn 98 and autumn 99. Graphs of the skiff fishing survey results may be seen at http://www.redshift.com/~bigcreek/projects/kelp_fish_survey .

We experienced one deer-poaching incident in fall 2000. By working closely with the local Warden we were successful in having the offenders apprehended. They were cited and had to serve some time in jail. We did not experience any marine reserve poaching incidents during 2000-2001. Most fishermen seem to be aware of the marine reserve and respect the exclusion zone, and our neighbors are vigilant. We receive concerned calls whenever a boat enters the reserve, even legitimate research vessels.

Reserve Annual Report 1999-2000

The most dramatic event of 1999-2000 was the "Kirk Complex" wildfire which came through the reserve in September and October, burning about 75% of the land area of the reserve as well as 80,000 acres of the adjacent Ventana Wilderness Area. The fire was started by a lightning storm in early September, causing many fires which burned together to form one large complex. One fire started in the reserve near Highlands Camp, but was extinguished by our local U. S. Forest Service and volunteer fire brigade after burning about ¼ acre. However, fires to the south burned for weeks, finally entering the reserve and burning across from east to west. The fire suppression team, headed by the USFS, created two fire lines through the reserve. The Highlands Ridge fire line was a hand line running across the ridge from Circle M flat to Devil's Creek Flat. The Dolan Ridge fire line was a bulldozer line beginning at Block Point and running up the ridge through section 14 and out of the reserve. After the fire was controlled we worked with the suppression rehabilitation team and the burned area emergency rehabilitation team to minimize negative impacts of fire suppression. The largest single problem was a massive growth of thistles wherever fire retardant was laid down. We spent about 50-70 hours of work chopping thistles to prevent their setting seed. This event closed the reserve for most of September and October, and we kept the interpretive trail closed until January. See the "fires" page for detailed information and hundreds of photographs.

In February 2000 a road cut above the highway in the reserve gave way, dumping about 20,000 tons of material onto the highway and onto the beach below. In order to facilitate re-opening the highway with minimal impact to the reserve and marine reserve, we worked with Caltrans to create an artificial slope immediately adjacent to the actual landslide, in a spot where sliding has occurred in the past. We saved topsoil and vegetation and replaced it on top of the slope in patches to facilitate vegetation recovery. In June the Big Creek Bridge earthquake retrofit project was completed. The bridge is still very attractive and is much stronger than its original design. The cleanup left about a ¼ acre of cleared ground, which will probably grow back in with native plants. We seeded both areas, the slide and the bridge project clearing, with California Poppy and Yellow Bush Lupine gathered from the reserve. This event closed the highway and reserve access for most of February and part of March.

A draft master plan for the reserve was prepared, based on previous planning documents, plans from other reserves, discussions and workshops with faculty, staff, students, researchers, neighbors, and other stakeholders. The plan is still in progress, but several highlights are worthy of mention. One is the need for improved facilities at the reserve entrance, and a need for creation of a maintenance area. Another is a proposal to set a permanent cap on use at about double the current level of 2500 person-days per year, to provide long term protection for wilderness values of the reserve. The draft plan is now being circulated among stakeholders and will be modified as appropriate to serve multiple needs of the reserve.

The Big Creek Internet web site: http://www.redshift.com/~bigcreek took on a new dimension this past year, as a way of communicating information about the fire and its consequences. In response to queries about the fire from concerned persons, the reserve manager began taking digital photos and posting them on the web site along with commentary and picture captions. The practice continued after the fire, documenting effects on the stream and vegetation, and later documenting the Big Creek 2000 landslide and its management. Many more components were added in spring of 2000 and now the web site is quite rich, including about 100 web pages and 500 photographs, data graphs, bibliographies, and other resources.

In the summer of 1999 we obtained a permanent funding augmentation for the reserve, and used some of the funds to hire a half-time person to serve as an additional steward. Duties of the new position include clerical and data-management as well as field work and maintenance tasks. We hired Rohana Mayer, a Big Sur resident who was born and raised at Big Creek before it became a reserve, and who knows the land and community intimately. Rohana's expertise and interest are primarily in plants and we hope to train her to become our "plant" expert. In addition to her other duties she did the digital layout for the symposium volume, a huge task involving manipulation of perhaps 100 graphic images and all the other task of assembling a book for publication. Rohana also took charge of our monthly water quality monitoring program.

In Fall 1999 we obtained a grant from the NRS systemwide office to construct a "Big Creek Education Center" on the site of the Terrace Camp across the creek from the entrance area. In November we began construction of a deck and floor upon which to erect a "yurt" (a type of round tent). The project was interrupted by winter flooding and road closures, but was resumed in the spring. By June 30 the yurt was complete and ready for occupation by reserve education coordinator Kim Smiley. The yurt is reached by a short but winding trail, which crosses the creek on a footbridge and climbs to the flat terrace. The terrace itself seems to be situated in pristine wilderness, with all signs of human intrusion hidden by dense vegetation and the canyon walls. Kim plans to use the yurt to house teaching materials and shelter students when the weather is bad.

The other facilities remain stable. We moved insect cabinets from the entrance area shed to make a corner office for Rohana, but the space is inadequate for reasons of health and work efficiency. This building needs to be torn down and replaced with an adequate facility that supports office, library, specimen curation, visitor needs and researcher space. We wired the shed with 110 volt current from the entrance area residence cabin, providing better quality current and more capacity for running tools and computers.

Visitor use seems to be increasing slightly, but the annual total of about 2300 user-days does not reflect this as the reserve was essentially closed during the fall class season. As in past years the total seems to be about equally divided between teaching, research, and public service. It should be noted that most of the public service user days involve either K-12 teaching or private educational programs such as Esalen Institute.

Marine Reserve Report The Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve completed its sixth year as one of the premier "no-take" marine reserves in California. Researchers from the Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the University of California completed the third year of the Marine Ecological Reserves Research Program. The research is designed to investigate the value of "no take" marine reserves on fisheries. Goals include (1) estimation of fish stocks within and adjacent to the Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve, as well as (2) mapping of substrate and estimating reproductive potential of fishes within the reserve. The research also looks at (3) the genetics of fish and invertebrate populations along the coast, and (4) includes a sociological investigation of the local Big Sur hook and line fish survey, which has been underway at Big Creek since 1989.

We received one report (Gingras, et. al. 2000) about the results of near shore mapping by the Department of Fish and Game, but the rest of the results of the study are still in preparation for publication. The mapping study indicated that soft sediment covers approximately half the reserve, with coarse sediment covering another quarter. The remainder appeared to consist of different types of rocky bottom including reefs and outcrops. We also received a copy of an article, published in Ecological Applications, about a study of fish sizes in and adjacent to the reserve.

We experienced almost no poaching or trespass incidents in 1999-2000. Each year we repaint the orange triangles marking the north and south boundaries of the reserve. Most fishermen seem to be aware of the marine reserve and respect the exclusion zone.

The Harbor Seal "nursery" produced over 60 pups this year, far more than in the previous two years.

The Big Sur skiff fishing survey completed its ninth year of data collection. The survey revealed declines in the mean length of certain fish species, including species targeted by the lucrative live fish market. Other species' mean length did not show a decline. The annual length/weight index revealed that 1999-2000 was a relatively "fat" year, as was 1998-99, at lest for species that feed up in the water column. Graphs of the skiff fishing survey results may be seen at http://www.redshift.com/~bigcreek/projects/kelp_fish_survey.

 

Reserve Annual Report 1998-99

1998-99 was a year with some interesting new developments for Big Creek Reserve. In July of 1998 we held a research symposium in honor of the late Fred Farr, one of the founders of Big Creek. About 50 Big Creek affiliates gathered to hear talks, including researchers, students, neighbors, and friends of the reserve. Opening statements were made by Congressman Sam Farr and Chancellor M.R.C.Greenwood, and 50-minute talks included topics ranging from Big Creek geology through fish studies to photography. The day ended with a sit-down dinner at Devil's Creek Flat and musical entertainment. A symposium volume is in preparation which is designed to retain the feel of the talks yet contain useful content for future reference.

In April we hosted a "pre-planning workshop" at the reserve to get a cross section of ideas relating to developing a new master plan. At the workshop we discussed vision and mission of the reserve, as well as brainstorming ideas for how to best proceed with development of facilities. A clear picture emerged from the participants that, in addition to its other functions, the reserve should serve as a natural, undisturbed benchmark for comparison with other, more disturbed sites. Development should proceed only to the degree that these values can be maintained. Although these ideas already play a major role in guiding management of the reserve, it is significant that they have come forth in the context of long-range planning.

The reserve also "hosted" a major construction project; an earthquake retrofit of the 570' long Big Creek highway bridge. Reserve manager John Smiley worked long hours to assist in the planning and construction, with the primary goal of protecting the riparian vegetation along the creek as well as make some minor improvements to the driveway. Problems arose with anchoring the central pier of the bridge, and as of summer 1999 the project was still incomplete. However, no riparian trees have been cut or uprooted, and the integrity of the site has been well-maintained. The only "casualty" seems to have been the Black Oystercatcher's nesting site. These birds have nested on the offshore rock in Big Creek cove since the early 1980's, but failed to nest in the spring of 1998 and 1999, probably because of the bridge construction noise.

Researchers from the Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the University of California completed the second year of the Marine Ecological Reserves Research Program. The research is designed to investigate the value of "no take" marine reserves on fisheries. Goals include (1) estimation of fish stocks within and adjacent to the Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve, as well as (2) mapping of substrate and estimating reproductive potential of fishes within the reserve. The research also looks at (3) the genetics of fish and invertebrate populations along the coast, and (4) includes a sociological investigation of the local Big Sur hook and line fish survey, which has been underway at Big Creek since 1989.

We have experienced almost no poaching or trespass incidents in 1998-99. The only case was a couple of fishermen who climbed down the rocks at the north end of the marine reserve and began to fish from shore. They left immediately upon being informed of the protected status of the fishes.

Once again our road system, ungraded since 1988, made it through a winter with no major damage. The road is stabilized and heavily vegetated along the margins with perennial plants, and serves as an alternative model for dirt road maintenance.

Three groups of researchers used the Whale Point visitor cabin during the year. Diane Thompson (UCSC Ph.D. student) and her field assistants spent several months in residence studying foraging and competition between honeybees and bumblebees. Jeff Kennedy (UC Davis Ph.D. student) used the cabin as a base for surveying vegetation in and adjacent to the reserve. Carrie Pomeroy (UCSC research scientist) and her field assistant Chris Wilcox used the cabin in September (and occasionally other dates through the year) in support of her sociological study of the Big Sur fishery.

 

 
Home......Resources......Applications......Staff......Links

 

Reserve Annual Report 1997-98

The winter storms of 1998 closed Highway 1 after February 2, and it did not re-open until May 21. It was possible for reserve staff and researchers to get in and out of the reserve during most of this time, but delays were long and the detours difficult. Most spring class visits were cancelled or delayed. Partly as a consequence, the total number of reserve users was reduced from previous years (2330 person-days as opposed to 3000 last year; see user-statistics below)

One major road repair took place along Highway 1, a mile north of Big Creek near a drainage named Wing Gulch. Here, rock and soil were falling directly onto the pavement from an overhanging cliff, closing the highway repeatedly and creating a very dangerous situation. In order to reach the top of the cliff to stop the slide, the contractors hired by CalTrans had to re-open an old road leading partway up Wing Gulch. Using heavy equipment, they cleared about an acre of Ceanothus thrysiflorus thicket and loose slide material, and pushed it over the edge. Trucks hauled the material away to disposal sites up and down the highway. All work was coordinated and approved by the reserve manager, John Smiley.

Upon finishing the job, the contractor agreed to obliterate the access road, which was occasionally used by poachers and other trespassers. In a small canyon, on a north facing slope, we predict that the vegetation to recover quickly. However, the face of the cut above the slide was permanently altered, with all soil removed. This face will probably remain bare and open for many years. It is interesting to note that a colony of cliff swallows (Hirundo pyrrhonota) continued to nest and feed their young under the overhang of the cliff face during the entire operation, even when tons of rock and material were crashing down around them.

Other winter storm damage was on a much smaller scale. Several slides blocked the reserve roads for varying lengths of time, but generally access was open the entire time. Overall the reserve roads remained in excellent shape all winter, and we maintained our no-grading policy. This year marked the 10th year in a row with no grading.

As a consequence of the rainfall and extreme plant growth, trail access has been difficult to maintain this year. Nevertheless, most trails remained oven and we managed to improve a drinking water source high on Dolan Ridge. This improvement, consisting of a buried spring box and outlet pipe, will provide water for staff and visitors who wish to work in section 14, the proposed new aquisition to the reserve. We also re-routed a lower section of the Boronda Camp trail so as to avoid unstable "Cardiac Ridge" steps. The trail now begins near redwood camp and joins the old trail up on Mining Ridge.

In September, UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood visited the reserve at the invitation of Congressman Sam Farr, one of the Big Creek inholders. Lively discussions focussed on Big Creek, UC Santa Cruz, and Big Sur, and plans were made for a Big Creek research symposium to be held in honor of the late Fred Farr, Sam's father and former assemblyman. The symposium was to be held at Big Creek, and a balance was to be achieved between inviting too many people for our facilities and yet having a substantial event that would capture what the reserve has accomplished in its first 20 years.

The "Fred Farr Research Symposium: Views of a Coastal Wilderness: 20 Years of Research at Big Creek Reserve" was held at the reserve the following summer. A group of about 50 persons heard seven presentations by reserve researchers as well as introductions by Chancellor Greenwood and Congressman Farr. Guests included several of the Big Creek private owners and representatives from the UCSC campus development office as well as faculty and students from UCSC and other institutions. We videotaped and audiotaped the proceedings, and preparations are underway to produce a publication based on the talks.

One by-product of the symposium is that the Whale Point visitor cabin is now fully furnished and can sleep 5 in beds and another 5 in the sleeping lofts. We also purchased chairs and tables and can seat about 30 for seminars and presentations (we actually seated 45 during the symposium).

David VenTresca and the Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) completed their annual cruise sampling fish populations in and around the marine reserve. They also contracted with Moss Landing Marine Labs to make an underwater map of the near shore waters; field work for this was completed in May using side-scan sonar. The Pacific Fisheries Environmental Group (PFEG) of the National Marine Fisheries Service also completed their cruise, including about 25 dives with the "Delta" submersible. They also completed a side-scan sonar mapping project of the deeper waters in and around the reserve, as well completing fish counts. Mary Yoklavich, the project leader, has found extremely interesting deep water habitats just outside the reserve boundaries and would like to see the boundaries of the reserve extended.

Reserve manager John Smiley hosted the annual marine skiff fishery potluck in August. He presented the seventh year of data on fish sizes gathered by the fishermen themselves, showing that lengths of the principal species are remaining stable. The fall fishing survey was successfully completed by March.

Carrie Pomeroy, a research scientist at UCSC, also completed interviews and observed the fishermen working, as well as processing the data collected, in her first major field season studying the sociology of this fishery and our cooperative data gathering process. Carrie's project along with the CDFG and the PFEG projects are funded for the next two years by the Marine Resources Protection Act grants program administered by the California Sea Grant Program.

UCSC graduate student Diane Thompson made substantial progress on her dissertation research with Apis mellifera (honeybees) and Bombus spp. (bumblebees). Diane hosted three groups of field assistents supported by the University Research Expeditions (UREP) program. Although the weather was not as cooperative as Diane hoped, she was able to make very interesting observations on bee foraging and pollination in a year with super-abundant flowers. She also observed severe predation by Alligator Lizards (Gerrhonotus multicarinatus) on bumblebees.

In spring reserve manager John Smiley compiled a regional natural history bibliography from sources gathered at the five Santa Lucia Natural History Symposia (co-hosted by Big Creek Reserve and Esalen Institute). The 1300-citation bibliography is also available in Excel file format.