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To provide Cal Poly students, faculty, staff and the public with a unique interdisciplinary environment in which to foster the Learn by Doing philosophy by providing educational experiences on a working ranch, supporting diversified agriculture and forest resources while maintaining the integrity of ranch operations.

  —Our Mission

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Projects and Research

Projects and Research: Forestry

Using FORSEE and Continuous Forest Inventory to Evaluate Un-Even Aged Management in Santa Cruz County Coast Redwood Forests

The forest resources of Swanton Pacific Ranch were first inventoried in 1989 to support development of a Forest Management Plan. A Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) was established using a systematic approach on a 500 foot grid system with fifty-two circular 1/5th acre plots (radius 52.7 feet). In 1997, the CFI system was updated with more permanently located plots that included witness trees and GPS coordinates to assure proper follow-up measurement of all plots. The plots were re-measured in 2008 just after the second timber harvest project and again in 2010 after the 2009 Lockheed Fire to determine the extent of mortality that occurred. CFI inventories were processed and analyzed using the FORest and Stand Evaluation Environment (FORSEE) software to evaluate stand attributes.

Contact: Steve Auten - sauten@calpoly.edu

Mortality Assessment of Redwood and Mixed Conifer Forest Types following the 2009 Lockheed Wildfire

On August 12, 2009, the Lockheed Fire ignited the west slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains burning approximately 7,819 acres. Big Creek Lumber Company, Swanton Pacific Ranch (SPR), and other resource professionals familiar with this region teamed up to develop a method for evaluating damage and thereby mortality for redwood, California nutmeg, live oak, tanoak, California bay, Pacific madrone, big leaf maple, Douglas-fir, Monterey pine, and knobcone pine. Quantitative damage criteria were used to design three Mortality Assessment models (MA), divided into three diameter at breast height classes (1-8.9, 9-16.9, >17 inches), for all tree species. These models were compared against pre-fire data from 82, one-fifth acre fixed plots from SPR’s Continuous Forest Inventory. Since the initial evaluation using the new MA in Fall 2009, each of the 2,877 trees were re-evaluated in Spring 2010 and Spring 2011 to determine if initial evaluations from the MA in 2009 were correct. To date, predictions to determine individual tree mortality using the Mortality Assessment models have been 89.3% correct.

Contact: Steve Auten - sauten@calpoly.edu

Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) measurement of channel changes

LIDAR is an airborne laser mapping technique in which laser beams are bounced off the earth's surface from an airplane, generating a three-dimensional Digital Elevation Model (DEM). The use of LIDAR allows for large amounts of data to be collected quickly at a comparable cost to a ground survey but with far greater detail.

A comparison of ground survey and LIDAR data of the Little Creek Watershed was completed using longitudinal profiles, 60 stream cross-sections and meander geometry to determine whether LIDAR data can be used to measure change in channel features in a forested environment.

A project to determine the best way to regenerate native Monterey pine forests in the presence of pitch canker has been completed. The project involved 27 plots in the southern end of the Ano Nuevo stand on Monterey pine on the ranch property. Of these plots 9 were left untouched as controls and 18 were group cut to create 6 each of 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2 acre gaps. There were two slash treatments applied to the plots, lop and scatter and machine pile and burn. Each of the treatment plots was then planted with trees screened for resistance to pitch canker. The gaps were created in fall 2001 and planted in winter of 2002.

Pitch Canker Resistance Screening Project

This project began in 1999. Approximately 80 trees have been selected for screening and had a series of at least two inoculations done on them to determine the natural resistance or susceptibility level. The trees are located on 5 properties including Coastways Ranch by Ano Nuevo State Reserve, Rancho Del Oso in Waddell Creek, Big Creek Ranch, part of the old Gianone Ranch, and Swanton Pacific Ranch. The project has examined the development of cloned rooting stock to be used to produce pitch canker resistant planting stock for Christmas trees and ornamental plantings.