Follow this blog by Email

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Anacapa Seabird Habitat Restoration Underway

Channel Islands Restoration, in a continuation of our restoration efforts on East Anacapa Island, is in the process of growing 2,500 plants to be installed in the coming fall. While we are growing many of the same plants grown in the past, this project differs in that we are now working in cooperation with multiple agencies. CIR has joined up with the National Park Service and the California Institute of Environmental Studies (CIES) to create and expand seabird habitat. With these joint forces, new plants will be on a drip system (which improves survival rates by over 50% or more). This new partnership is very exciting, and it will create a lasting impact that visitors will notice in the years to come.

The plants are being grown in our NPS/CIR constructed and maintained shade house and plant nursery stationed on the island which was made possible by a grant from Patagonia and NOAA B-WET and was built in collaboration with the National Park Service. The plants will be installed by CIES and volunteers, who are using funds from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program to improve seabird habitat. CIR will be funding educational work trips for high school students to assist in habitat restoration as well.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

REI Funds Restoration Trips to Anacapa Island

A young volunteer plants cactus!
For the third year in a row, outdoor retailer REI has supported the Anacapa restoration project by providing a grant to CIR for native plant installation on the island.  The funds were granted to Channel Islands Restoration, which works in partnership with the National Park Service on the project.  Over the course of six trips, 30 volunteers planted several hundred plants including sage brush alkali rye grass and coastal prickly pear cactus. 
CIR Volunteer, Doreen Jones, keeping the Anacapa Island
nursery plants happy.

The volunteers who helped on these trips were all associated with local conservation groups or were employees or members of the local REI stores.  Participating groups includes Santa Barbara Audubon Society,  Ventura Surfrider Foundation and the Santa Barbara Zoo. 

 Most of the trips were led by Kelle Green, the CIR nursery manager and all around NPS volunteer.  The groups worked hard, and also had an opportunity to take a short walk on the island following the restoration work.  CIR thanks all the volunteers and REI for making these trips possible!

Volunteers from the Santa Barbara Zoo plant natives near the historic lighthouse.

Monday, August 10, 2015

CIR Awarded Grant for Anacapa Restoration

Volunteers on Anacapa Island with invasive iceplant.
CIR has received a second annual grant award from recreational equipment retailer REI, as part of CIR’s work on the Anacapa Island Restoration Project, undertaken in partnership with the National Park Service.  REI awarded a generous amount of $6,000 which will allow us to take volunteers to Anacapa Island on another series of restoration trips this fall.  REI employees and members of the Santa Barbara and Oxnard stores will be among those invited to participate.  We will also recruit volunteers from local conservation groups like the Surfrider Foundation, the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, and the Santa Barbara Zoo.  Last year, REI trips were comprised of enthusiastic volunteers and experienced NPS volunteer work leaders and CIR staff, who cleared large areas of 3 types of invasive iceplant.  This year, volunteers will have the opportunity to plant native plant species grown in the on-island nursery.  CIR staff will be busy this month preparing  for these volunteer trips.

Volunteers at Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island.
The funding from REI will pay for round-trip boat transportation, plus the cost to organize and lead the trips.  Volunteers will receive training on the identification of native and non-native plants and on proper techniques before work begins.  CIR will also present volunteers with information on the impacts of non-native species in natural areas and the history of the introduction of invasive iceplant to Anacapa Island.

Through our partnership with REI, we intend to build a greater awareness of our efforts to care for and showcase Anacapa Island—part of the Channel Islands National Park, and a recreational paradise enjoyed by hikers, paddlers, birders, and campers.  We are proud to partner with this sponsor and excited to share the news of their investment in our organization and mission.  CIR is proud to work with the National Park Service and REI on this important restoration project.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Anacapa Volunteer Trips Heat Things Up This Fall!

As summer 2014 started to fade, things began heating up for CIR on Anacapa Island.  With word from the Park Service that Anacapa’s Western Gull breeding season was over, we started planning a series of grant-sponsored volunteer trips to the island.  With funding we received and reported on earlier this year—$9,000 from outdoor retailer REI and $4,900 from the UC Santa Barbara Community Affairs Board (CAB) Foundation—we scheduled a series of weekend fall trips, with the final CAB trip slated for February 2015.  At this time, there are still two REI trips to fulfill, but by the end of November, CIR will have taken a combined total of 130 volunteers to Anacapa to restore habitat.  For many of these volunteers, this was their first experience on Anacapa Island, as well as their first visit to the Channel Islands National Park.  CIR is thrilled each time we are able to facilitate an island introduction through our amazing volunteer opportunities!

REI Trips: To kick-start recruiting, CIR staff, along with a Board Member, tabled at the Santa Barbara REI store over Labor Day Weekend where customers were encouraged to sign-up!  Trips were also promoted by Sylvia Schnopp, REI Outdoor Programs and Outreach Market Coordinator, who put notices in stores alerting employees, customers, and members to the volunteer opportunities.  Additionally, REI sent out member emails and used social media to spread the word.  As pledged in our grant application, CIR recruited volunteers from a variety of outdoor groups, including the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council.  With this widespread effort, we had a tremendous response from the community, and trip rosters quickly filled.  We also built a waiting list of around 50 individuals, which is still growing, although many fortunate standby volunteers have been called to participate!

REI trips were comprised of 9 outdoor-loving volunteers and an experienced NPS volunteer work leader.  Heading up each crew was CIR staff, Aaron Echols, a knowledgeable trip leader with ample field experience on Anacapa.  Beginning on the last day of August, our first REI volunteer group set out to restore sensitive habitat by removing invasive crystalline iceplant and small-flowered iceplant.  With 9 total trips in the series, our REI volunteer program will conclude in November.  It has been a great success in that the island’s habitat has been enhanced, CIR has increased recognition and respect throughout the community for the work we are doing, and volunteers have had profound experiences while participating on the Anacapa Island Restoration Project.

The CAB Foundation grant is affording three wonderful opportunities for UCSB students to volunteer with CIR on Anacapa Island.  Each trip was designed for 20 student volunteers, and the first trip took place in October during Fall Quarter after the first week of classes.  Prior to the trip, Lisa Stratton, of the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration, offered her classroom as a venue for CIR’s pre-trip volunteer meeting.  Executive Director, Ken Owen, gave his PowerPoint presentation to a core group of dedicated students who were about to embark with CIR to Anacapa for field work. His presentation helped to prepare students for the experience, while emphasizing the importance of habitat restoration, the history of the Anacapa Restoration Project, and the work that has been accomplished over the years by CIR, the Channel Islands National Park, and other partners.

Students were recruited for Trip #2 when CIR staff scheduled a tabling event on-campus at the Arbor.  By setting up in a busy, high-traffic area at UCSB, many more students were educated and engaged.  The tabling event succeeded at filling the next trip roster of 20 UCSB volunteers, who enjoyed their volunteering on Anacapa in early November.  There were also enough sign-ups from the tabling event that we have a huge head-start on recruiting volunteers for the final February CAB trip.

It was no surprise that the majority of UCSB volunteers went out with us to the Channel Islands National Park for the very first time and enjoyed their first visit to Anacapa.  Enthusiastic, strong, and able the UCSB volunteers enjoyed learning about the island’s ecosystems, and removing invasive iceplant was a satisfying way for them to participate in the restoration of this unique island.

Friday, August 15, 2014

CIR Receives Two Grants For Anacapa Restoration

CIR is pleased to announce that we recently received two grant awards as part of CIR’s work on
the Anacapa Island Restoration Project in partnership with the National Park Service.  Recreational retailer REI awarded an outstanding $9,000 which will allow us to take at least 70 volunteers to Anacapa Island on a series of restoration trips this fall.  REI employees and members,  plus customers of the Santa Barbara and Oxnard stores will be amongst those invited to participate.  We will also recruit volunteers from outdoor recreational groups like the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Audubon Society, and the trail councils of Santa Barbara and the Santa Monica Mountains.

Additionally, the UC Santa Barbara Community Affairs Board (CAB) Foundation awarded $4,900 which will be used to engage 60 UCSB students on a series of volunteer trips to Anacapa Island that will take place during the fall and winter of 2014-2015.  CIR will recruit volunteers from the UCSB student body through on-campus promotions and educational programs, complete with PowerPoint presentations followed by island field work.

Through our partnership with REI and The CAB Foundation, we intend to build a greater awareness of our combined efforts to care for Anacapa Island—part of the Channel Islands National Park, and a recreational paradise enjoyed by hikers, paddlers, birders, and campers.  We are proud to partner with these sponsors and excited to share the news of their investment in our organization and mission.

With this grant funding, volunteers will be afforded with round-trip boat transportation on Island Packers and knowledgeable trip leaders.  CIR places great emphasis on education and volunteers will receive training on the identification of native and non-native plants and on proper techniques before work begins.  CIR will also present volunteers with information on the impacts of non-native species in natural areas and the history of the introduction of invasive iceplant to Anacapa Island.  Additional topics include the biology of the Channel Islands and the unique plants and animals that live there, and how community volunteers and CIR sponsors continue to collaborate to restore the native plant communities on Anacapa Island.

Friday, May 30, 2014

It’s “Gull Season” on Anacapa!

The month of May finds Western gulls busy incubating eggs in their nests dotted all over Anacapa—nests that the parents fiercely defend in the presence of island visitors.  Because working around nesting gulls in their native habitat is extremely disruptive to the birds, CIR volunteers are taking a pause from the Anacapa restoration project so that this seasonal rite of passage can play out.  Work will resume in late summer after the new generation of chicks go from egg, to hatchling, to fledgling!  Before gulls began sitting on nests, CIR accomplished a succession of self-funded volunteer group trips this spring.  Utilizing Island Packers for transportation, volunteers helped cover their trip costs for the opportunity to be of service.
These volunteer groups included students from the UCSB Community Affairs Board (CAB) and a group of corporate employees from Teradyne, Inc. of Agoura Hills.  We also worked with a student group from California Lutheran University.  Their trip was preceded by classroom presentations given by CIR Executive Director, Ken Owen, who visited two ethics classes at their Thousand Oaks campus.  Ken offered his beautifully illustrated PowerPoint slideshow and a talk featuring the ethics of removing invasive species—a sensitive topic.  Both classes were fully engaged and inspired to volunteer.  Following each volunteer group this spring, the CIR Administrative office thoroughly enjoyed receiving volunteer trip reports filled with positive feedback about island experiences, and the personal satisfaction achieved in restoring Anacapa!

Despite this year’s drought, seedlings did pop up all across Anacapa, with iceplant sprouting amongst natives, and plant identification became a job for skilled volunteers.  With much of the mature iceplant already removed, some aspects of the restoration project are now requiring more detail-oriented work and are best suited to volunteers with more experience.  A select few were enlisted to help NPS Restoration Ecologist, Sarah Chaney, as members of the newly designated “Anacapa Field Team.”  This is a group of experienced, specially-trained volunteers to tackle sensitive restoration tasks and oversee the volunteer groups that visited the island this spring.

CIR continues to partner with NPS, and to help accomplish restoration goals, we’ve written and have been awarded grant funding from the UCSB CAB Foundation and REI, the outdoor company.  With this backing, we will coordinate a series of volunteer group trips after gull season for these organizations.  CIR will also begin planning trips that will extend opportunities to experienced volunteers as well as new volunteers who wish to participate on the Anacapa Island restoration project.  Weekend trip dates will be available, and with a reasonable fee to help offset trip costs, these self-funded outings will offer individuals the chance to volunteer on Anacapa—now a rare opportunity! The Park’s intention to declare Anacapa “iceplant free by 2016,” is clearly manifesting, with so much of it already gone, and the revegetation of native plants so fruitful.  Under the guidance of Sarah Chaney, the project has progressed and relies on her continual assessments to ensure that no harm is done in the recovery process of native plants. The evolution of this project is indicative of its success, as the alien red-flowered iceplant from South Africa is no longer the clear and obvious threat it once was to the island’s native plant communities.  Overall, the Anacapa project has triumphed, due to the diligence of NPS staff, the contributions of CIR, and the many years of service provided by thousands of volunteer hands. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Anacapa in the New Year: 2014 Changes and Challenges

Since last summer, in the wake of a tragic accident, the number of volunteers who can be accommodated on the National Park Service boats has been greatly reduced, for safety. These volunteers generally need to have had some previous experience boarding and debarking small boats, and must be able to demonstrate the motor skills, balance and physical confidence needed to do this safely.  As a result of the reduction in passenger capacity, CIR’s volunteer program on Anacapa has needed to transition to smaller groups and less-frequent trips, with priority given to experienced volunteers.  We are planning to offer alternate transportation options to accommodate more volunteers in the future.

After three years of concerted effort, restoration and recovery of East Anacapa Island has progressed very well, in spite of the continuing drought.  There are no more acres of dense iceplant to pull and haul away!  Instead, we are now doing more specialized work, concentrating on eradicating multitudes of small iceplant seedlings, while also observing and sparing seedlings of native plants emerging from carpets of dead iceplant. We continue to produce native plants in the island nursery, and plant them in place of iceplant, limited only, again, by lack of water.  From November 2012-October 2013, we planted over 11,000 plants!  So far, our nursery production has focused primarily on native plants that grow quickly to produce cover, and that tolerate exposed, salty conditions.  Now we are able to add nectar and larval food plants to the palette, as we broaden our restoration goals to re-establish natural habitat structure and food webs. 

On December 8th, CIR volunteers from REI spent a day helping with the Anacapa restoration project.  Employees from both the Santa Barbara and Oxnard stores put nearly 300 plants in the ground!  Their trip was, surprisingly, CIR’s only Anacapa volunteer trip throughout December into January, as adverse marine conditions, park operations, and the holiday season precluded additional trips.  To prepare for their arrival, CIR field staff Aaron Echols and volunteer John Reyes worked on Anacapa for several days, joined briefly by volunteer work leader, Mike Buratti.  Together they planted, watered, and repaired damage to the shade house, caused by high winds.  Aaron and John continued by scouting areas for additional plantings, and auguring and staking hundreds of holes to facilitate the volunteer planting day.

California brown pelicans nesting on Anacapa Island
(Photo taken by permission, by a monitoring biologist)
Aaron remains heavily involved in the island’s habitat restoration.  He directs volunteer field leaders, and oversees occasional NPS volunteer groups.  He keeps the irrigation system maintained and operational, makes repairs, assembles shade screens, and continues to keep invasive species at bay.  In late January, Aaron even discovered a new weed species Urtica urens on the North side of the Anacapa lighthouse trail, taking a herbarium sample for the Park’s assessment.

Meanwhile, CIR’s volunteer trips to Anacapa on the park boat resumed in February.  In 2014, we will now recruit handfuls of experienced volunteers for the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month.  Additionally, CIR has received numerous trip requests from volunteer groups.  There are already a few calendared this Spring, with a few more in the works!  Student groups, Rotary groups, and corporate groups are all interested in helping to restore Anacapa, and volunteer trips are being planned with Island Packers transportation.

CIR also plans to offer Anacapa restoration trips on Island Packers!  While involving a trip fee, these trips would be open to our ever-growing volunteer list, and they would occur on weekends—something our volunteers have been requesting for years!  Weekend trips would allow more volunteers the opportunity to experience the satisfaction and fulfillment in helping restore Anacapa’s precious, unique natural habitat.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

CIR Continues to Conserve Anacapa Island – Planting, Weeding, Watering!

CIR Continues to Conserve Anacapa
Island – Planting, Weeding, Watering!
By Linda Benedik

2013 was another busy year of habitat restoration on Anacapa Island!  As in prior years, CIR volunteer workdays typically occurred on Wednesdays, when Channel Islands National Park (NPS) regularly transports supplies and personnel to the island and provides volunteers with round-trip transportation.  CIR administrative staff recruits individuals and groups for the workdays, and then meets volunteers before departure at the Channel Islands National Park (NPS) headquarters to ensure paperwork is complete, and that everyone is prepared for boarding the park boat.

In late Summer, NPS initiated a pre-requisite briefing presented by Park Superintendent, Russell Galipeau, who discusses the purpose of self-assessment, and encourages volunteers to avoid “normalizing risk.”  This presentation is being produced by NPS into an instructional video that volunteers will be required to view before travel on the park boat. NPS boat captains continue to brief volunteers on the day’s marine conditions and to give a comprehensive safety orientation for park boat travel.  Once volunteers arrive on the island, their workday is led by CIR field staff and/or NPS personnel, assisted by volunteer work leaders, who are specially-trained to oversee the activities of less experienced volunteers.

CIR provides a great deal of staff time to the Anacapa Project, both administratively with behind-the-scenes volunteer coordination, and out in the field with management of volunteers and their activities.  A familiar face on Anacapa is that of CIR field staff, Aaron Echols.  This year, Aaron’s work on the island has revolved around invasive plant treatment, preparing planting sites, and working with volunteers to install and care for nursery-grown native plants.
Before volunteers arrive on the scene, Aaron locates areas of high iceplant (Malephora crocea) resurgence and seedling recruitment for removal. Other species of high concern that occasionally require his attention are: Cretan Lavatera, Crystalline Iceplant, and Small-flowered iceplant.  Recently, a soil penetrant called “EZ-Wet” has been added to the planting water to enhance initial watering of the new plants, and a product called “Cloud Cover” has been applied to new plantings to reduce transpiration water loss in the first critical period after planting.

Aaron manages the island’s rudimentary but effective irrigation system to facilitate watering of remote plantings.    The system comprises a network of ¾ inch plastic tubing, plus strategically-located 55 gallon water storage drums along the lines.  Installation of the water distribution system replaced backpacking of water, and is easily extended to additional areas as plantings are expanded.
Tending to the island’s nursery is also part of the regular maintenance Aaron provides.  His work ranges from patching holes in the netting cover to prevent pesky sparrows from entering, to pricking out seedlings from flats to containers, transplanting plants to larger pots, organizing supplies and maintaining the nursery watering system.

In preparation for the arrival of volunteer groups, which have included CIR volunteers, as well as high school groups, Aaron can be found “scalping” through dead iceplant thatch, using a power weed trimmer, digging planting holes with a gas-powered soil auger, filling water storage drums, and bringing plants and tools to the worksites.  Once volunteers arrive, Aaron provides an orientation and offers instruction while supervising their activities – weeding, planting, watering – until he waves goodbye as they depart the island.  Aaron has worked with multiple volunteer groups on the same day, and may supervise several consecutive days of volunteers on the island. He is truly an asset to the various volunteer programs engaged on the island, and to the restoration of Anacapa’s natural habitat.
Ventura County Master Gardener, Kelle Green reveals that, in the past year, a total of 25,000 native plants were grown in the island’s nursery, which was constructed by CIR and the NPS in 2010. The volunteer nursery crew grows all the plants used in island restoration from seed collected on the island. As planting season resumed in late Fall 2013, volunteer groups on Anacapa are planting 150-250 plants per workday, depending on their group size.

In addition to the many individual volunteers that CIR recruits from a variety of sources, this year we were also joined by employees of several local businesses who arranged for a group volunteer workday, including REI, Deckers Outdoors, The North Face, Amgen, Citrix Online, and the Santa Barbara Zoo.  There were also student groups from Buena, Oxnard, Ventura, Rio Mesa and Pacifica High Schools , as well as UCSB, who arranged service days on the island.  In the spring of 2013, REI sponsored two very special weekend day trips to Anacapa, and volunteers signed up for these trips at the CIR booth during the REI Oxnard Grand Opening festivities.  Anacapa Island and the NPS welcomed two REI-funded volunteer groups of 30 strong, who traveled to the Park on an Island Packers boat for two great days of habitat restoration.

During the month of June, CIR volunteer trips paused while the Island’s large breeding population of Western Gulls produced and raised this year’s ‘crop’ of chicks.  We were gratified to see young chicks enjoying the all-important shade of newly-established native plants.  As CIR trips resumed in July, volunteers continued their work troweling and removing invasive plant species.  Throughout the dry summer months into early fall, watering became a huge priority.

In September, Kelle Green reports that the Master Gardeners were “really cooking” in the nursery, transplanting seedlings to 4x6 tree pots, and preparing for a productive volunteer planting season.  Suddenly, the government shutdown closed Channel Islands National Park, and restoration activities came to a halt.  The island was closed to visitors, including nursery crew and volunteers.  The shutdown threw the nursery’s plant production off-stride, and set back nursery plant production for this season. By mid-November, the nursery was just starting to recover from the disruption that had been caused by the shutdown.
The nursery currently has many plants to go out, including giant coreopsis, island buckwheat, seablite, alkali heath, seaside daisy, island lotus, golden yarrow, saltgrass, cliff aster and, California aster.  

Volunteer Work Leader, Ron Nichols, has made many trips to Anacapa Island throughout the year.  He has supervised volunteers in the winter rainy season, when planting was the focus, and worked with volunteers during the dry summer season, when watering and removing invasives like crystalline iceplant were the primary tasks.  On a personal level, he’s enjoyed seeing Anacapa’s Western Gulls go through their annual island nesting rituals, as chicks hatch and scurry around their renovated native habitat, and then fledge.  In describing his volunteer experiences, the most valuable benefit Ron receives from his frequent service on Anacapa Island is that he can keep his eye on the plants that he’s put into the ground himself, and watch them mature.  This gives him a feeling that he has become a part of these plants, and subsequently, “a part of the island.” This gives him a sense of great personal satisfaction and “ownership,” which are rewards shared by other volunteers, as well.

Frequent CIR volunteer and recently trained Work Leader, Mike Buratti, echoed Ron’s feelings of pride for his work on Anacapa and is grateful to have participated in the island’s habitat restoration.  As we enter the fall season, Mike reports he’s been doing a lot more planting than pulling – which is a good thing, he says, as there is simply a lot less iceplant to pull!  With volunteer watering efforts increasing, he believes that native plantings are having a much better rate of success presently.  When asked what keeps bringing him back to Anacapa, Mike heartily responded, “Progress!”   To work in an area previously covered with an iceplant carpet, which he helped to pull with his own hands, and to see that area now thriving with natives that he planted, Mike describes it a personally gratifying experience, to be able to witness such progress.

Through inspired partnerships, and a great deal of combined effort, the NPS, CIR and many, many volunteers have been a part of this progress that continues to change the face of East Anacapa Island, and return the island habitat to its natural state.