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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.