Santa Cruz Island Reserve

Santa Cruz Island Reserve is located on the largest of roughly 25 miles from Santa Barbara, California's eight Channel Islands off the Southern California coast. The island has two major mountain systems flanking a central valley that formed along an active fault zone. The mountains are rugged and cut by steep-sided canyons, some with perennial streams and freshwater springs. The coastline is mostly steep and rocky, with some protected coves and sandy beaches. Diverse habitats include rocky intertidal zones, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, grasslands, oak woodlands, and bishop pine forests. The reserve contains breeding grounds for harbor seals, seabird nesting colonies, many endemic plant and animal species, and well-preserved archaeological sites. Santa Cruz Island Reserve is protected, owned, and managed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC); the remainder of the island is managed by the National Park Service as part of Channel Islands National Park.

Selected Research

  • Archaeology: Ongoing studies of the island's prehistoric Native American cultures; the evolution of cultural complexity in hunter-gatherer societies.
  • Terrestrial botany: Defense mechanisms of insular endemic plants; age structure in island chaparral communities; population genetics of endemic species.
  • Terrestrial zoology: Reproduction and kinship studies for two endemic species: island jay and state-threatened island fox (Urocyon littoralis).
  • Geology and geomorphology: Structure, diversity, and origin of the island's geological formations; fluvial system responses; sediment transport in island watersheds.
  • Aquatic biology: Population studies of kelpbed fishes and selected intertidal invertebrates.

Rare and sensitive taxa

Inventory and monitoring of selected plant species; population genetic analysis; establishment of new outlying populations of selected taxa.

Habitat restoration

Management strategies for invasive nonnative species (feral pigs, feral honey bees, fennel); vegetation monitoring following removal of grazing impacts.

Fire research and prescribed burns

Impacts of fire on island plant species and communities; fire as a management tool for promoting native plants.

Long-term studies
Population studies of island fox, island jay, quail, native and non-native bees, and black abalone.

Special Research of National Significance

Contact Information
Lyndal Laughrin
Mailing address on mainland
UC Natural Reserve System
Marine Science Institute
Building 520, Room 2312
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-6150
Campus Office Phone
Island Phone

Santa Cruz Island Website

Santa Barbara County, in the Santa Barbara Channel; 32 km (24 mi.) long by 9 km (6 mi.) wide; 19 mi. southwest of Ventura, CA.
Google Map

Field station with dormitory for 30+, private rooms sleep 6 to 12, kitchen, dining hall, laundry, electricity, propane, library/conference room, internet; wet and dry lab; four-wheel-drive vehicles; 17-foot Boston whaler; 5-person inflatable boat.

Santa Cruz Island geographic information system (GIS) (part of Channel Islands GIS) on site and at UCSB; electronic Channel Islands bibliography; herbarium/invertebrate collections; flora of the island (Santa Barbara Botanic Garden 1995), plant and bird species checklists (Channel Islands National Park).

On-site reserve manager and steward.

18,652 hectares (46,090 acres), on the portion of the island owned by The Nature Conservancy

0 to 742 m (0 to 2,434 ft.); Reserve field station located at 61 m (201 ft.)

Average Precipitation
50 cm (20 in.)/year in central valley of island.

Average Temperatures
Mean monthly maximum: 22ºC (71ºF)
Mean monthly minimum:10ºC (50ºF)

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