Each year, thousands of scientists from around the world conduct field research in the protected landscapes of the UC Natural Reserve System. The NRS draws investigators for many reasons. The reserve network reflects California's diverse ecosystems at sites located across seven degrees of latitude. Reserve lands are protected for the long term, enabling researchers to conduct experiments without fear of the land or their equipment being disturbed. Data archives enable scientists to build on decades of previous research. Overnight accommodations, laboratories, Internet access, and other amenities make fieldwork more comfortable and productive.

Research Using Multiple Reserves

NRS reserves span a north-to-south distance of 600 miles, and an east-to-west distance of 300 miles. The vast reach of the system enables researchers to compare species and conditions in one portion of the state with those of another, at a spatial magnitude relevant to entire ecosystems. For this reason, a number of major research projects involve transects featuring multiple NRS reserves.

Motte StationInstitute for the Study of Ecological Effects of Climate Impacts • ISEECI

A platform for synthesizing past, current and future environmental change research, and for understanding and potentially mitigating future climate impacts, leveraging the UC Natural Reserve System as a biologically and geographically diverse laboratory; 24 reserves.

California Phenology Project

A project tracking the dates of life stage events (leaf out, flowering, etc.) in selected native plant species to observe the impact of climate change on natural communities; more than 100 sites monitored at eight reserves.

NRS Climate Monitoring Network

Replicate, high-precision climate station equipment using identical data collection protocols provides data to reserve users; 26 stations at 22 reserves.

TeachingPartnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans • PISCO

Large-scale, integrated studies of the coastal ocean, rocky intertidal, and kelp forest ecosystems of the U.S. West Coast designed to obtain a comprehensive understanding of how these systems function; seven reserves.


Sampling marine algae off the U.S. West Coast to monitor radiation leaked from nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan after a major earthquake in 2011; five reserves.

Research Projects of National Significance

Large national research projects are addressing many of today's most critical environmental problems. NRS reserves are part of several major national efforts to understand basic physical and ecological processes that govern the functioning of the environment.


Critical Zone Observatories • CZOs

Critical Zone Observatories study the outer skin of Earth, a layer that extends from the bottom of groundwater basins to the treetops and is essential to aquatic and terrestrial life. Angelo Coast Range Reserve is part of the Eel River Observatory, one of nine National Science Foundation-funded CZO sites in the United States.


Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments • GLORIA

GLORIA monitors alpine plants at risk from climate change at the tops of the world's highest mountains. The first GLORIA sites in North America were established in the White Mountains in 2004. Since then, government agency and university scientists, graduate students, and volunteers have all collected data for this collaborative project while utilizing facilities at the NRS's White Mountain Research Center.

Long-Term Ecological Research Network • LTER

The Long Term Ecological Research Network was created by the National Science Foundation in 1980 to research ecological issues that can last decades and span huge geographical areas. The Santa Barbara Coastal LTER, one of 27 sites in the network, studies how land and ocean processes structure giant kelp forest ecosystems. Santa Cruz Island, Coal Oil Point, Carpinteria Salt Marsh, and Scripps Coastal reserves all supply SBC LTER data.

USDA Forest Service Experimental Forests

Experimental forests provide places for long-term science and management studies in major vegetation types. The NRS's Sagehen Creek Field Station, part of the Sagehen Experimental Forest, is the site of a pilot project to improve forest habitat while reducing wildfire fuel loads.

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