Avery Calhoun, CSUMB/UROC Intern
As a member of the CSUMB Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, Avery had the opportunity to conduct original research on The Preserve during Summer 2017. Tasked with creating a habitat suitability model for buckwheat plants (Eriogonum spp.) on the Santa Lucia Preserve in order to improve Smith’s Blue Butterfly (Euphilotes enoptes smithi) surveys. Smith’s is endangered, and endemic only to a small area between Big Sur and Marina. This butterfly relies solely on two species of buckwheat and knowing where these plants exist on The Preserve would drastically improve survey precision.
Avery used ArcGIS to create a habitat suitability model based on conditions cited in literature that were conducive to buckwheat growth. She then tested the model, surveyed areas for different species and mapped them with both handheld GPS units and a drone. A significant portion of the project was devoted to developing an aerial surveillance protocol that allowed for accurate mapping of drone flight-paths to ArcGIS.
Caitlyn Barrera, CSUMB/UROC Intern
Caitlyn is a senior at California State University, Monterey Bay earning a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. At the Conservancy, Caitlyn assists an environmental DNA (eDNA) project that detects the presence of California tiger salamanders in various ponds throughout The Preserve. She is passionate about conservation and hopes to use the skills she learns with the Conservancy to pursue a higher education in research. Caitlyn aspires to become a conservation leader and work for an environmental non-profit agency with a mission similar to that of the Santa Lucia Conservancy.
The focus of Caitlyn’s research with the Santa Lucia Conservancy is the continuation of a longitudinal study of the eDNA in a selection of perennial ponds on the Santa Lucia Preserve. This study is tracking the presence or absence of the federally threatened California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense). All of the populations of California tiger salamanders found on The Preserve contain 100% native genetics. Research of these populations is critical to sustainable management of the species since most of the surrounding areas contain crossbred individuals with the invasive barred tiger salamander. The eDNA study will be compared to other traditional detection methods of visual and net surveys.
TJ Francisco, Stanford University
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, TJ is interested in tropical ecology and interdisciplinary approaches to conservation. Since beginning his studies at Stanford three years ago, TJ is eager to learn more about California ecology. During his summer internship with the Conservancy he assisted with ecological surveys and restoration initiatives and gained experience in conservation biology and related disciplines through field and lab work. He also conducted a project analyzing the effect of the Conservancy’s conservation grazing program on insect diversity.
Samantha Faul, Stanford University
Samantha recently completed her undergraduate degree in Earth Systems, an inter-disciplinary environmental science major at Stanford University. She will soon be returning to complete a master’s degree, with a focus on conservation and sustainable natural resource management. As most of her prior engagement with ecological research has taken place in an academic context, she was drawn to this internship for the opportunities it presented to understand how conservation organizations actually use scientific research to inform management practices and to observe the inner workings of a non-profit. Sam helped to evaluate the impacts of the Conservancy’s conservation grazing program on grassland vegetation and grassland bird communities within The Preserve. Having completed a field season in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties two summers ago, she is looking forward to spending more time studying the varied and beautiful ecosystems of California’s Central Coast.
Isabella Fenstermaker, Outreach Coordinator
Isabella Fenstermaker joined the Conservancy as an intern in December 2016, and has since taken on the role as Outreach Coordinator. In this time, she has dedicated much of her time at the Preserve to studying California Tiger Salamanders through pond surveys and environmental DNA analyses.
Isabella completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at UC Davis and returned to her hometown of Pacific Grove after graduation to work with the landscape she explored throughout childhood on the Monterey Peninsula.
Isabella enjoys carefully exploring tide pools, and even plans her trips to the water’s edge according to the tides.
Max Hofmarcher, CSUMB Intern
Max is an environmental science student majoring in watershed management at CSU Monterey Bay. For the Spring 2018 semester he worked primarily with Christy Fischer as the GIS intern assisting with work at the Rancho Cañada Golf Course Restoration site. Max also worked with conservancy staff performing DNA sampling, raptor surveys, and other field work. He gained valuable experience in various field techniques, environmental restoration planning, GIS map making, and team oriented conservation events.
Scott Blanco, Conservancy Volunteer
Scott joined the Conservancy in March 2017 and has participated in activities ranging from California Tiger Salamander and Red-Legged Frog surveys, Tricolored Blackbird capture/banding to vegetation transects and host plant surveys, preparing and ground-truthing oak restoration GIS layers, invasive species monitoring and treatment, and hands-on experience with the Conservation Grazing program fencing and exclosure monitoring.
Scott has a B.S. in Molecular and Environmental Biology from UC Berkeley and an M.S. in Watershed Science and Policy from CSU Monterey Bay. He enjoys learning about and exploring the natural history of the Monterey Bay Region.