Older annual report narratives:

  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    
  Big Creek Reserve home page......resources page page    

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 guiding principals and vision statements for the reserve:

The guiding principal 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.


TOP, 1997-98, 1996-97, 1995-96, 1994-95, 1993-94, 1992-93.


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.

TOP, 1997-98, 1996-97, 1995-96, 1994-95, 1993-94, 1992-93.



Reserve Annual Report 1996-97

This year we completed renovation of the Big Creek gate cabin, currently used as the manager's residence. The Smiley family moved back into the cabin in November. The renovated cabin has electric lighting, is fully insulated, and includes an office for the manager. New windows, redwood slab tables and counters, and a new oak floor make the cabin an attractive place to live.

The Smileys' move opened up the newly rebuilt Whale Point visitor cabin for use by faculty and students. Several small classes have used the facility, and UC Davis graduate student Jeff Kennedy and his field assistant were in residence for April-June. The building works well for this type of use, although improvements are planned as time and resources become available. The greatest need is for a covered deck around two sides of the building.

In spring we received funding from UCOP for purchasing fire and safety equipment, primarily to protect people and facilities at the Whale Point site. In August 1997 we installed a compressed air foam fire suppression unit on the side of the new visitor cabin. This unit enables us to cover the cabins at Whale Point with long-lasting protein foam if a fire threatens, greatly increasing our chances of protecting the buildings from a wildfire. We also installed a gasoline-powered water pump which triples the water spraying capacity at the site.

The Marine Reserve experienced increasing use and interest. We were interviewed by the Sacramento Bee for a major story on coastal fisheries (the story appeared on Dec. 22, 1996). A "flotilla" of state assembly bills was proposed in 1996-97, with a focus on water and fisheries issues. Data from the Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve has been urgently sought after, as it is the prime example in California of a "no-take" marine reserve. Michelle Paddack (UCSC masters student; supported by an NRS Matthias grant and grants from the National Marine Sanctuary) looked at exactly that question. Her finding, that fish are more numerous and larger inside reserves than out, has been widely cited as evidence supporting the need for more "no-take" reserves (e.g. Science magazine article 25 July, 1977). Four new projects were funded in June 1997 to look at this and related questions in more detail, including work by the California Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and UC Santa Cruz. The projects will run for at least three years.

We co-hosted the 4th and 5th Santa Lucia Natural History Symposia in 1996-97; once at Esalen Institute and once at Big Creek in Redwood Camp. These symposia address issues and natural history of the Santa Lucia Mountains/Big Sur "bioregion", and are very successful at bringing agency, research, and community members together. The "theme" of the 4th symposium was birds, and the 5th, steelhead trout.

One serious poaching incident occurred in December 1996. Reserve steward Feynner Arias confiscated two rifles, and the game warden questioned the "spotter" who was communicating with the poachers by radio. The poachers were not apprehended. We hope they took notice that we are serious about protecting our "unhunted" deer population.

In April 1997 we hosted a Big Creek Art Show and Sale at the gate cabin. The entrance area was decorated with about 75 paintings, drawings and photographs, all representing scenes from Big Creek. It was beautifully curated by volunteer (and former student) Jeremy Jenny. Francesca Farr advised and helped us with the complex logistics of putting on such an event. Most works were for sale, and in fact we sold about $4000 worth. We kept half the proceeds, and the other half was returned to the artists to cover their expenses.

Two of Big Creek's founders (and greatest friends and benefactors), died this summer, Fred Farr and Will Shaw. They will be sorely missed. Their passing on represents a real "changing of the guard" for the reserve. Fred's children Sam and Francesca established an "Environmental Stewardship Fund" in Fred's name which will be used to benefit some of our reserve programs. In addition to Sam and Francesca, two other private owners Toni Landels Hyman and Charlie Osborne (Will Shaw's stepson) have stepped forward to help fill the void left by Will and Fred. We are very grateful for the efforts of these and other "second generation" friends.

In 1996-97 our neighbor Chris Prentiss made an agreement with the Big Sur Land Trust to convey the 480 acre section 14 "South Overstrom" property to the reserve. Although details are still being worked out, the end is in sight for this long working relationship with Prentiss. The parcel includes the last "unprotected" portion of the Big Creek drainage, as well as most of the pristine Rat Creek drainage. The property needs a biological and cultural inventory, as well as some trail building, if it is to become an integral part of the reserve.

1996-97 gave us a remarkable rainy season with heavy rains and flooding in November-January, and a spring drought with no rain after January 31. Spring was advanced a few weeks and herbaceous plant growth was curtailed in favor of the deeper-rooted shrubs which flourished. Creek flow was strong in spite of the spring drought, and all the groundwater springs are running freely.

TOP, 1997-98, 1996-97, 1995-96, 1994-95, 1993-94, 1992-93.



Reserve Annual Report 1995-96

This year we signed an access/conservation easement with Chris Prentiss, owner of the 480 acre "South Overstrom" property on the north boundary of the reserve. Chris is a neighbor who also owns the "Redwood School" property near Lucia; he is also an author and realtor. The "South Overstrom" property contains most of the upper reaches of the Rat Creek drainage, and provides a roadless, undeveloped "buffer" zone between the reserve and the homes located further north.. The agreement effectively adds the property to the 9238 acres of the "greater" reserve (protected areas for which we have use agreements). In addition to University access, the easement prevents logging or hunting on most of the property. Mr. Prentiss is currently seeking a buyer/donor who will purchase the property and donate the land to the University. This property includes the last piece of the Big Creek watershed which is vulnerable to private development.

One of our greatest benefactors, David Packard, died this year at age __. He was instrumental in the establishment of Big Creek Reserve, and gave many kinds of support, financial and otherwise, in our early years. As purchaser/owner of the Gamboa Point Ranch (also known as the "Circle M" Ranch) on our south border, he established conservation easements on this vast property, and extended access to the University for studies. Mr. Packard's daughter Julie and her husband Robert Stevens have now taken management of most of the property, and we have established excellent relations with these "new" neighbors. In May Robert Stevens rented the caretaker residence (long occupied by Paul and Barbara Kephart, but recently vacated) to Bob, Joie and Nicolas Milton, long term Big Sur residents. They are now our closest neighbors (the only neighbors closer than 3 miles away!). Robert has also given us broad permission to access the properties, including use of Potters Beach and French Camp, asking only that we notify the Miltons of our activities.

Jason Burnette, Mr. Packard's grandson, intends to rebuild the French camp cabin on its original site, restoring its former appearance. We are providing photographs and plans from our archeological surveys. According to Robert Stevens, when the restoration is completed, University students and researchers will be able to use this cabin as a base for studies.

We began our third year of managing the Big Creek (Marine) Ecological Reserve, established in January 1994, and this past January we signed a memorandum of Understanding with the California Department of Fish and Game. The MOU grants us management responsibilities and discretionary powers in administering the reserve, effectively making it part of the UC Natural Reserve System. The marine reserve actually dates back to 1989, when local fishermen and the Big Creek Reserve manager agreed to set aside a "no fishing" zone. This "handshake" agreement was the basis for the CDFG proposal to make the site one of four marine ecological reserves mandated by the Marine Resources Protection act of 1990.on of the site. Fishing has thus been excluded from most of the reserve since 1989.

The marine reserve is becoming known as "the" place in California to study the effects of "no-take" marine reserves on fish populations, because of its large size, accessibility, and history of protection from fishing. An article in "Coast and Ocean" magazine (published by the California Coastal Conservancy), stated "The Big Creek Marine Reserve represents California's first significant attempt to replenish marine fish stocks by means of a no-take zone" (Wes Marx, freelance journalist). Other articles have appeared in the Monterey Herald newspaper and Western Outdoor News weekly. There are currently five projects underway which look at the effects of the marine reserve on fish populations, and more are expected as a result of the $1,000,000 Marine Ecological Reserves Research Program, with awards expected in July 1997.

The National Science Foundation has funded an interdisciplinary program based at UC Santa Cruz called the "Monterey Bay Research Symposium." One of the pilot research projects of this innovative program is a collaborative study between UCSC research scientist Carrie Pomeroy and UCSC Masters student Michelle Paddack, to study the sociology and biology of local marine reserves. Particular attention has been given to the Big Sur skiff fishermen, and to the cooperative fishing survey which has taken place at Big Creek since 1991.

The number of unauthorized incursions into the marine reserve seems to be declining, with only 2 incidents observed in '95-96. Neither incident appeared to be intentional. This is a gratifying result of two years of vigilant enforcement on the part of our staff, with the enthusiastic backup of CDFG warden Mike Fitzsimmons. In most cases "enforcement" consisted of reserve staff paddling a kayak out to the vessel and delivering an information sheet along with a friendly warning and a request to "spread the word" to others. Only three cases actually resulted in citations from the warden. It now appears that most of the fishermen in the region are aware of the reserve and its location, and are respecting the boundaries.

In December we co-sponsored the second "Santa Lucia Natural History Symposium" along with Esalen Institute and the Santa Lucia Watersheds Council. About 20 researchers who conduct field work in the region got together and discussed whatever topics they felt were of most interest. We also shared bibliographies, reprints, and other information resources. One highlight of the meeting was the presentation of Jennifer Nielson, a fisheries geneticist, who showed us that local populations of Steelhead trout have enormous genetic variability. In the past year her studies have fueled the move to put these trout on the endangered species list.

Nearly the entire year of 1995-96 was spent on reconstruction. The manager and his family moved up to the new Whale Point visitor cabin in July, which was quickly completed so as to be fit for living. The cabin proved to be comfortable and functional, fully insulated with a state-of-the-art electrical power system and flush toilet! In August a crew of volunteers tore off the roof of the gate cabin, removed the siding, and removed the damaged sun room completely. In October/November we hired a local contractor to build a shear wall foundation under the north end of the house, and to rebuild the north and east walls as well as the roof. We then installed wiring and insulation inside the walls, and finished the interior. We also installed an oak wood floor. By the end of June the building was essentially completed, and we began working on interior cabinets and finish details. Our projected "moving in" day is November 1.

Kim Smiley continued her educational programs at the reserve. Judy Kennedy, a 4th grade teacher at Head-Royce School in Oakland, commented "The trip [to Big Creek] is such a special one, that I already have parents vying for chaperone spots [for May 1997]- good thing you have a limit on the number of cars....Kim [Smiley] is such an integral part of the whole program, too."

The 1995-96 year was characterized by above average rainfall from late December until May. The shrub layer grew and matured a lot, and we noticed senescence among the thickets of lilac (Ceanothus thrysiflorus). Wood rats are abundant, with large dens dotting the landscape. The black tailed deer are also abundant. This year, about half the does bore twins, an indicator that forage conditions are still very good.

In October, we caught two poachers killing deer along Dolan Ridge in the reserve. These men were deliberately poaching deer on the reserve and did not tag the antlers of the two deer they killed. Investigation by John Foster and other CDFG wardens revealed connections to another Monterey County family who are notorious for their poaching activities. We plan to continue vigilance in looking for these "criminal" poachers, who we suspect may strongly hinder our ability to study "natural" deer populations.

Tye DePena, a Medical Doctor and former student, obtained some remarkable photographs of Mountain Lions. We have come to recognize one of the lions as a close neighbor, who spends a lot of her time on Highlands Ridge near Whale Point. We are now collecting her scats for genetic "fingerprinting", along with scats from other lions.

In 1995-96, conditions were perfect for weed growth, and we "lost some ground" in our efforts to minimize growth of milk thistle (Silybum). However, the French Broom (Genista monspessulana) remained under control, with only a few seedlings appearing, and the major patch of horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is almost eradicated. Sticky Eupatorium (Ageratina adenophora) continued its dominance along certain riparian areas, although we managed to remove it from a few small sites. We are monitoring two patches of German-ivy (Senecio mikanoides), and have experimented with eradication procedures. The English Ivy (Hedera helix) near the gate cabin is not spreading, and the flowers are a major resource for Monarch Butterflies. We removed several isolated plants of Pampas grass.

TOP, 1997-98, 1996-97, 1995-96, 1994-95, 1993-94, 1992-93.



Reserve Annual Report 1994-95

This year we nearly completed construction of the new visitor cabin at Whale Point on the bluff below the steward's cabin (work continued into July). This 1000 square foot cabin includes meeting, work and living space for approximately 4-8 people, and an additional 6-8 more can sleep in the sleeping lofts. The cabin has electricity, propane, water, and septic systems. We expect this cabin to serve researchers and long-term visitors to the reserve, when it becomes available in summer, 1996.

On January 9, winds tore the sun room off the end of the gate cabin, and damaged the roof and chimney. It also blew out windows in the steward's cabin at Whale Point, and blew over a weather station anchored by guy wires. Faced with repairing the aged, termite-damaged cabin, we decided to put all our resources into a complete renovation rather than a simple repair. As of October 1995, the renovation is partially complete, with a new roof, new windows, and new exterior siding. The renovation includes redesign of the east wall, full insulation, and an engineered foundation and shear wall for increased stability.

The Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve completed its second year under cooperative management with the Department of Fish and Game. The reserve has generated a lot of interest in spite of the relatively difficult access, and totaled 501 user-days of activity for the year. We completed the third year of a long term study of kelp forest fish species, based on data obtained from local fishermen, and got their cooperation to extend the study to other seasons and sites. The CDFG completed 226 days of research in or near the marine reserve, setting up several underwater transects and fish baseline surveys. Donna Schroeder (UC Santa Barbara) completed her dissertation research project in the marine reserve, and several other projects made significant progress. Dan Costa and Burney LeBoef released several elephant seals from the reserve, monitoring their return to Ano Nuevo Island. Steve Murray brought his Marine Phycology class to the reserve from CSU Fullerton, and John Pearse brought his Biology of Intertidal Organisms class from UC Santa Cruz. Terry Jones of U.C. Davis completed a laboratory study based on mussels collected at Big Creek, and prepared a report entitled "Big Sur Sea Temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period". Don Potts and Kirsten Lindstrom of U.C.Santa Cruz sampled hydrocorals near Square Black Rock, in a study of their growth rates and genetic population structure. Mark Denny and Carole Blanchette sampled limpets, measuring their tenacity under wave stress, as part of an NSF-sponsored project.

This year we experienced several serious poaching incidents. Two sets of hunters were apprehended by the game wardens, including one case of deliberate poaching and attempt to deceive the wardens. This latter case will be heard before a judge in the near future. We also cited several fishermen for fishing in the marine reserve, and warned many others out. We hope to keep a vigilant eye on the reserve, and get a reputation among poachers as a place to avoid, but it remains to be seen how effective we will be. A good radio communication system is needed for safe enforcement.

This year we added our World Wide Web home page to the that of the Natural Reserve System, including information about the reserves, current highlights, and a bibliography.

We participated in a stream research and education program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This program involved three researchers and about 10 school teachers, with a goal of blending research and curriculum development into one process. The program focussed on the Big Creek drainage, and several interesting projects resulted. The program has led to further collaboration between our Big Creek resident educator Kim Smiley and the Aquarium. We also began some long term monitoring studies of the stream.

We co-hosted (with Esalen Institute) the second "Santa Lucia Natural History Symposium, a gathering of experts doing field research in the area. We published a bibliography and are currently planning a natural history database which will list resources and materials relating to the area. One spin-off of the symposium was our hosting a "Big Creek Wilderness Studies" class at the reserve, in July 1995. This class brings college age students from around the country to study the creek and the marine reserve, and resulted in a fairly thorough survey of fish in the lower parts of Big Creek.

Reserve use remained approximately stable in 1994-95, with 2100 person-days, and 1100 visitors for the academic year. 696 person-days were research-related (32%), and 752 person-days were by faculty and students from UC Santa Cruz (35%). We predict that reserve research use will rise dramatically when the new Whale Point visitor cabin becomes available, probably in the summer of 1996.

TOP, 1997-98, 1996-97, 1995-96, 1994-95, 1993-94, 1992-93.



Reserve Annual Report 1993-94

Two major changes took place at Big Creek this year. First, the Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve was formally established by the California Department of Fish and Game. This legalizes long-term protection for the kelp forest and near-shore habitats near Big Creek, comparable to the protections guarding the existing (terrestrial) reserve. Fishing and other forms of non-scientific use are strictly prohibited in the new reserve. This status allows researchers and students to invest in long term studies without fear that the sites will be disturbed by others. The marine reserve is co-administered by the University and the Department of Fish and Game, and potential applicants should contact the University's reserve manager.

The second major change was the decision to rebuild the visitor cabin at Whale Point rather than at an alternative site. This cabin (scheduled for completion in July, 1995) replaces the footprint and exterior appearance of the earlier "University Center" or "Lower Marble Cabin" which burned in the 1985 fire. The new cabin is designed to serve researchers who need indoor facilities, and includes two bedrooms, a central work/meeting room, a kitchen, bathroom, and office. The building will accommodate four persons comfortably, and can sleep as many as 10 additional persons as well. Utilities include propane, a propane-powered generator, a solar photovoltaic electrical system with 110 volt AC sine wave output, and a septic system. We plan to solve the winter access problem by purchasing another "Mule 500" an off-road vehicle which has proven its ability to tranport people all year round.

Visitor use was about the same as last years', with about 2500 person days. Research use was still low, at about 500 person-days, and classes made up the bulk of the use. Class use is near the limits we have set for the site in order to preserve the wilderness quality of the landscape and preent disturbance to natural features. Research use will probably climb after the new facilities are in place.

Terry Jones (UC Davis) published a chronology for central California coast archaeology. Much of this work was based on work at Big Creek, and most of the period phases have familiar names based on sites at Big Creek such "Interpretive Phase", "redwood phase" and Dolan phase". Researcher Julia Smith (UC Berkekey) completed her dissertation "Breeding biology of the Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia," in which she explored developmental rates and other characteristics of nestlings in coastal and Sierran populations. John Pearse (UC Santa Cruz) and his students in the intertidal ecology class resurveyed the reserve shore line, 10 years after the original survey. They found remarkable differences, indicating a warming trend with more southern elements in the biota.

TOP, 1997-98, 1996-97, 1995-96, 1994-95, 1993-94, 1992-93.



Reserve Annual Report 1992-93

Big Creek Marine Reserve is about to receive official designation by the California Fish and Game Commission, as one of four new Coastal Marine Research Reserves mandated in 1990. This outcome has been a direct result of efforts by reserve staff, the local community, the UCSC Marine Studies Program, and staff biologists at the Department of Fish and Game. An Environmental Impact Report has been prepared which lists Big Creek as one of the preferred alternatives. We need reserve designation to protect habitats and resident organisms (within one mile of the reserve shoreline) from commercial and sport harvesting. We are currently negotiating the details of the arrangement, but provisions are being made by DFG not to curtail our ongoing research and teaching programs. There may also be some startup funds we can use for the reserve.

This year we upgraded the electrical storage batteries at the Gatehouse and at the Whale Point residence cabin. We also purchased a super-efficient electric refrigerator for the Whale Point cabin, and a propane-powered generator for the gatehouse office and cabin. We thoroughly "tested" the new "Kawasaki mule" utility vehicle and found it to be extremely useful and reliable. Its off-road traction and maneuverablility, combined with "golf cart" capacity, have made it ideal for work on the reserve, particularly in winter. The two ocean kayaks and boat locker we obtained last year have been in constant use by the marine researchers. The kayaks make it feasible to work in areas away from the Big Creek cove.

Negotiations to aquire a suitable site for a Big Creek field station failed to materialize. We have decided to raise funds to initiate a master planning process, and to spend our current building funds to rebuild the researcher cabin at Whale Point on the site of the former "University Center". This will give us an interim facility which will meet some, but not all, of our needs. The 1000 square foot cabin will provide workspace and overnight accomodations for four researchers, and will accomodate some of our library and specimen collections. We have funds to put up a weatherproof shell and provide basic infrastructure. We need an additional $70,000 to complete the rebuild and equip the building.

The Rural Ecology Action Lab (Project R.E.A.L.) had another successful year. This lab is co-sponsored by Pacific Unified School in Pacific Valley, the State Department of Education, and the reserve, and is designed to help rural students designs outdoor education materials for their peers in other schools. Coordinated by Kim Smiley, Project R.E.A.L. completed a unit on marine science titled "Catch a Wave." The 200 page booklet includes about 25 teaching units. The students practiced their activities at Big Creek during our fourth annual "Neighbor's Day" open house.

We installed two weather instrument towers and assembled the parts for two more towers. When finished sometime in 1993-94, the weather monitoring system will include data from five sites, the pine-oak woodland, the grasslands, the redwood riparian, the tall coastal scrub, and the short coastal scrub. The towers are specifically designed to facilitate instrument and data management, and will give a long-term look at differences between these habitats on the reserve.

We expanded our computer mapping capability by acquiring MapInfo software to complement our Roots map editing software and base map. We now have a useful topographic base map on the computer, with most roads and trails plotted in. MapInfo is used for appending database information to map features, as well as for printing maps. We also collaborated with a group from the University of Kansas to devise a sophisticated solar insolation map of the reserve. The map uses the base map contours and a solar path algorithm to generate a quantitative picture of the average potential solar insolation. The resulting map can then be used as a starting point for analyzing vegetation zonation on the reserve.

UC Santa Cruz Professor John Pearse coordinated a new intertidal organisms survey at Big Creek. The students resurveyed sites from the 1983 survey, as well as expanding to some new sites. They discovered a lot of new species as well as some significant changes in community composition. This is particularly interesting at Big Creek because of the wilderness condition of our habitats. The changes are probably the result of regional or "natural" changes as opposed to local human disturbance regimes.

The 1993-94 budget cuts have reduced our operating budget (about $10,000/yr, or 33% of the non-salary operating budget) but our two salaries remain "intact." It appears that, at this level of funding, basic operations will be able to continue as previously, but that maintenance, safety and equipment upgrades and many of the special projects will be curtailed. Of course, cuts beyond the 1993-94 level will be even harder to absorb without reducing the scope of the program. A possible new source of funding may become available as the marine reserve is implemented. We need the $10,000/yr restored, plus one-time funding for the new cabin, restoring the gatehouse cabin, adn for setting up the marine reserve. We also need funds to carry out a master plan for the reserve and build a field station.