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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

2020 Scott Creek Watershed Research Symposium - a Virtual Series

Join us for one or more of our virtual research symposium series with interesting topics and fascinating scientists working in the Scott Creek Watershed. Each of the series will be 1 hour long including any discussion or question/answer time. 

Session 1 - August 5, 3-4 pm

Robots never tire; one year of sample collection and eDNA analysis on Scott Creek

Presenter: Dr. Jim BirchDirector of the SURF Center (Sensors: Underwater Research of the Future), Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

In aquatic environments, the use of environmental DNA (eDNA)—the genetic material shed by all animals—has opened new possibilities in monitoring practices.  For instance, there is much interest in whether eDNA can be used to reliably and accurately quantify native species (Steelhead trout and Coho salmon) and/or identify invasive species (striped bass and the New Zealand mud snail).  Despite the promise of eDNA, its use is limited by the seemingly mundane act of acquiring samples. We have found that our understanding of many ecological processes changes dramatically when sample frequency is increased, but increasing sample frequency is usually not possible with a “human-in-the-loop” due to expense, equipment availability (e.g., boats), remote study/monitoring sites, weather, etc.  Thus, introducing an autonomous sampling scheme offers an opportunity to move eDNA studies into the realm of the resource manager.

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) we have developed a robotic laboratory-in-a-can we call the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP).  The ESP can autonomously collect samples and preserve these samples for later analysis, or perform assays for near real-time results.  In this talk, we will share some preliminary results from a 1-year deployment of the robotic ESP instrument at a weir on Scott Creek within the Swanton Pacific Ranch, 15 miles N of Santa Cruz, CA.   Water samples were filtered and eDNA collected 1-3 times a day over that year, in order to understand how eDNA signal of ecologically important species (trout, salmon, striped bass) varies with environmental measurements (temp, turbidity, rainfall, etc.) and how the eDNA signal varies within a watershed.  This autonomous collecting capability opens the door for fully automating analytical procedures in situ, ultimately resulting in eDNA ‘weather maps’ for the resource manager.

Stay tuned for a link to the recording for this session.


Session 2 - August 12, 3-4 pm

Mountain Lion Behavior and and Survival Around People in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Presenter:  Dr. Chris Wilmers, Professor of Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz; Principal Investigator, Santa Cruz Puma Project

We began our study on mountain lions in the Santa Cruz Mountains 12 years ago and collared our very first animal on the Swanton property.  In this talk, I will give an update on the progress of our project and speak to the important issues of how humans impact the behavior and survival of mountain lions.

Session 3 - August 19, 3-4 pm 

A Floristic Study of Swanton Pacific Ranch, Santa Cruz County

Presenter: Reed Kenny, PhD Student at UC Davis, Professional Botanist

The Swanton Pacific Ranch (SPR) is located north of the small town of Davenport, in Santa Cruz County, and is owned by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. SPR is ca. 3,200 acres and contains areas of salt marsh, coastal bluff, coastal prairie, riparian forest, redwood forest, mixed evergreen forest and chaparral in approximate ascending order of elevation from 0 - 420 m. In this study, we conducted a floristic inventory at SPR documenting 634 taxa. We vouchered 546 taxa with 974 specimens. We were unable to relocate 83 taxa, 53 represented from historic collections and 35 represented by personal observations but lacking vouchers. Overall, we documented 93 families at SPR, with Asteraceae, Poaceae and Fabaceae being the top three most speciose respectively.  Non-native taxa made up 26% of the flora (N = 169). Locally rare taxa, following designation by Neubauer, made up 13% of the flora (N = 83). Sixteen taxa are listed as rare by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). We vouchered one new taxon for Santa Cruz County, Senecio aphanactis, which has a CNPS rare plant rank of 2B.2, documented a new occurrence of Hesperocyparis abramsiana a federally endangered conifer, and described a new variety of Sanicula crassicaulis. Overall, this small coastal ranch contains 10% of the flora of California. 

Registration is free, just click here.

Session 4 - August 26, 3-4  pm

The GPS at Swanton Pacific Ranch. From plate tectonics to climate change - a tool of many uses

Presenter: Dr. Doerte Mann, Engineer, UNAVCO 

The GPS (Global Positioning System) station at Swanton Pacific Ranch was installed in 2007, and is part of a larger network of ~1200 of these stations (The "Network of the Americas", formerly "Plate Boundary Observatory") that are distributed all over the country, as well as Mexico and the Caribbean. It is funded by the National Science Foundation, and operated by Unavco.

The station has been measuring its exact geographic position ever since, creating a time series that tracks tectonic motions along the San Andreas and San Gregorio fault zones. This information is used to generate maps displaying future Earthquake Probabilities. Using a collocated weather station, this station has also been used by NOAA to determine the integrated water vapor in the atmosphere, mapping extreme weather events such as atmospheric rivers. Other uses of high precision GPS stations in the NOTA network are monitoring land subsidence and ground water depletion, supporting earthquake early warning systems, and providing a reference network for applications from surveying to driverless cars.

Registration is free, just click here.

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