UCSC Fort Ord Natural Reserve

Nature of Research/Program Description: 

The University of California Natural Reserve System (NRS) is a unique assemblage of 41 protected wild land sites throughout California. The reserves encompass nearly all of the state's major ecosystems, preserved in as undisturbed a condition as possible to support University-level research and teaching programs. The four NRS sites that form the UC Santa Cruz unit are spread along 60 miles of the central coast: Año Nuevo Island Reserve (25 acres), Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve (4,200 acres), Fort Ord Natural Reserve (606 acres), Younger Lagoon Reserve (72 acres). The UCSC NRS also administers the UCSC Campus Natural Reserve (400 acres). 

Located on part of the former Fort Ord Army Base, Fort Ord Natural Reserve supports excellent examples of maritime chaparral endemic to the Monterey Bay region. This rare habitat and several associated plant and wildlife species depend largely on Fort Ord land for their survival. Eleven listed plant species reside there (including the federally endangered, state-threatened sand gilia and the federally threatened Monterey spineflower), along with six listed animal species (including the federally endangered Smith's blue butterfly). The site also supports a mixture of other habitats: coast live oak, coastal scrub, mixed annual grassland, and native perennial grassland. The reserve was established because of its unique flora and fauna of the Monterey Bay maritime chaparral and as mitigation for the adjacent UCSC Monterey Bay Education, Science, and Technology Center (MBEST) under the Fort Ord Base Closure Habitat Management Plan (HMP). As part of this plan, the reserve will protect rare habitats and associated special-status species into perpetuity and foster teaching/research opportunities, especially in conservation biology of the HMP species.

Field learning

Rich habitat diversity, unique biotic communities, and proximity to UCSC and other campuses create valuable teaching opportunities; students use the site for internship programs and independent research on projects that directly support management efforts. UC students can also focus on developing new k-12 education programs, using the UCSC Fort Ord Natural Reserve as an outdoor classroom. 

Habitat restorationUCSC and CSU undergraduates remove invasive exotic flora and restore maritime chaparral; small disturbed areas available for other experiments in restoration ecology.

Selected Research

  • Baseline studies: Status of HMP-listed species; preliminary surveys of birds, legless lizards, coast horned lizards, ants, and habitat-use patterns.
  • Conservation biology: Distribution and genetic studies of the black and silver forms of the California legless lizard; survey of coast horned lizards; survey of native ants and invasive Argentine ants; research on the demographics and community ecology of sand gilia, Monterey spineflower and shrubs of the maritime chaparral; the role of change in ant biodiversity on seed dispersal; comparative genetic and morphological analysis of different and gilia populations.

Read more: http://nrs.ucop.edu/reserves/fort_ord/fort_ord.htm#ixzz34AK1fpiK

Contact: Field Manager - Joe Miller, joemiller@ucsc.edu

Keywords: Monterey Bay; coastal habitat; habitat restoration; oak woodland; wildlife; intern; credit

Location Details: 
Marina, California
Targeted Students/ Eligibity Requirements: 

Motivated students of any major eager to engage in hands-on-experiential learning and field research. Prior experience with plant and/or animal identification is helpful, though not mandatory.

Program Time Period: 
Academic Year
Winter Quarter
Spring Quarter
Fall Quarter
Academic Credit
Joe Miller
Contact Title: 
Reserve Manager
Contact Email: 
Program Goal(s): 

We utilize the unique physical setting of Fort Ord to allow students to become familiar with conservation science methods and applications in the realms of field ecology, land stewardship, and environmental education.

Applied Physics
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Business Management Economics
Classical Studies
Cognitive Science
Computer Engineering
Computer Science
Computer Science: Computer Game Design
Earth Sciences
Ecology and Evolution
Education and Teaching
Electrical Engineering
Environmental Studies
Feminist Studies
Field and Exchange
Film and Digital Media
German Studies
Global Economics
History of Art and Visual Culture
Human Biology
Italian Studies
Jewish Studies
Language Studies
Latin American and Latino Studies
Legal Studies
Marine Biology
Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Network and Digital Technology
Physics (Astrophysics)
Physics Education
Plant Sciences
Robotics Engineering
Technology and Information Management
Theater Arts
Additional information: 
Occasional paid opportunities