Habitat Management Projects

Copeland Creek Riparian Restoration Project

2013-present: The section of Copeland Creek that runs across SSU lands are heavily invaded by blackberry and other undesirable species. An integrated vegetation management plan and long-term consistent treatments are needed for successful restoration. Students are developing grant applications, treatment plans, cultivation of natives, and monitoring. Crews of disadvantaged youth undertake needed restoration work each summer.

Do constructed vernal pools provide habitat for endangered California tiger salamanders?

2015-16: Constructed vernal pools have been used as a method for creating California tiger salamander habitat. We investigate whether constructed pools are as effective as natural pools in supporting tiger salamander populations.

  • Faculty: Derek Girman (Biology)
  • Partners: Dave Cook (SCWA), Julian Weisler (US Fish and Wildlife)
  • Students: BIOL 599 Thesis Research
  • Results: Edwards 2016 (Poster 1.3 Mb) - Factors affecting productivity of the endangered california tiger salamander on the Santa Rosa Plain

Land use changes and their affects on riparian areas

2015-16: Changes in land management have had significant effects on riparian areas of the North Coast. We conduct interviews with neighbors of the Fairfield Osborn Preserve (Sonoma Mountain) and Galbreath Wildlands Preserve (Outer Coast Range) to find out more about land use and riparian changes in the last 50 years.

Determinants of red-legged frog abundance in critical habitat

2015-16: The top of Sonoma Mountain is designated critical habitat for threatened red-legged frogs. Over a dozen ponds within the area have potential to support breeding. This study compares red-legged frog adult and egg mass abundance to water quality, invertebrate diversity, and the occurrence of predatory insects.

  • Faculty: Fran Keller (Biology)
  • Partners: Jeff Wilcox (Sonoma Mountain Ranch), Norwick Memorial Fund
  • Students: BIOL 495 Special Studies, BIOL 393 Independent Research
  • Results: Defancesca et al. 2016 (Poster 4.5 Mb) - Ecosystem Dynamics of California Red-Legged Frog Habitat (Rana draytonii) Throughout a Breeding Season

Management implications of climate change impacts on amphibians and reptiles

2015-16: As seasonal changes in temperature and precipitation are altered by climate change, amphibians and reptiles face new challenges. An improved understanding of how abiotic conditions and species interactions affect abundances of these vertebrates in a variety of habitat types can inform land management practices and allow scientists to predict the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. This study incorporates IT technology and citizen science.

  • Faculty: Derek Girman (Biology)
  • Partners: Jack Arnold Memorial Fund, Fairfield Osborn Preserve, Pepperwood Preserve
  • Students: ES 599 Thesis Research
  • Results: Bradbury 2016 (Poster 1.3 Mb) - Impacts of abiotic conditions on herpetofauna abundances in the Mayacama and Sonoma mountains, Wittman 2016 (Poster 1.4 Mb) - The Evaluation of Citizen Science Smartphone Technology in Herpetofauna Monitoring

Freshmen studies in habitat management

2015-16: A Watershed Year is a freshman year experience that introduces students to local watersheds as they learn about science. The course focuses on teaching students how to conduct their own research. Course development was funded by National Science Foundation (PI: Lynn Stauffer).

  • Faculty: Martha Shott (Mathematics and Statistics), Jeremy Qualls (Physics), Nathan Rank (Biology), Fran Keller (Biology)
  • Partners: Goldridge Resoure Conservation District, Center for Environmental Inquiry
  • Students: SCI 120 A Watershed Year (Freshman Year Experience)
  • Results: Brajkovich et al. 2016 (Ppt 7.1 Mb) (Report 0.1 Mb) - Comparing salamander abundance between two similar environments,

Evaluation of fish habitat restoration on Dry Creek

Spring 2015: A backwater channel on Dry Creek was constructed in the winter of 2012. This project evaluates whether the channel provides a refuge for Steelhead and Coho Salmon as planned.

  • Faculty: Jeff Baldwin (Geography)
  • Partner: Neil Lassettre (Sonoma County Water Agency)
  • Students: GEOG 490 Senior Seminar
  • Results: Penpraze 2015 (Report) - Quivira backwater channel survey

Center for Environmental Inquiry's Land Management Training Program

student collecting insects

Spring 2014 - Present: The Land Management Program prepares 20 students each Spring semester to work on ecological restoration projects at partner sites in Sonoma County. With WATERS support, a watershed unit was introduced into the program and included training in riparian restoration strategies and watershed management principles and skils. Partner organizations provided training and supervised students at work sites. Some students in the program additionally undertook independent watershed related research projects.

  • Staff: Suzanne DeCoursey (Center for Environmental Inquiry)
  • Partners: Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, UC Davis Bodega Marine Reserve, Fairfield Osborn Preserve, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and Pepperwood Preserve

Insect biodiversity monitoring at riparian restoration sites in the City of Santa Rosa

student collecting insects

Spring 2014 - present: Students documented insect biodiversity at three restoration sites in the City of Santa Rosa: Colgan Creek, Fresno Avernue Migration Corridor Preserve, and Samuel P Jones Shelter and Community Center. Comparisons before and after restoration determine how restoration efforts affect insect biodiversity.    

  • Faculty: Fran Keller (Biology)
  • Partners: City of Santa Rosa

Effects of vegetation management on native plants and animals

February 2012-present: New riparian management techniques are focused on promoting native species diversity and maintaining flood capacity. These techniques include removing and controlling non-native blackberry, active restoration of native plant species, limbing the lower branches of existing trees to promote taller, shadier canopies and to allow maximum  flow during floods. Do these techniques meet the multiple objectives of controlling floods and increasing the abundance of native species? What are the effects on other organisms (e.g., birds and fish)? Can successional processes be ‘fast-forwarded’ to result in taller, shadier, riparian communities with an understory dominated by native plant cover?

  • Faculty: Caroline Christian (Environmental Studies and Planning)
  • Partners: SCWA

Vegetation measurements of this project are part of a separate SCWA-SSU contract to Caroline Christian

Copeland Creek exercise project

students working a garden bed to grow native riparian plants

Spring 2013-present: Stewardship and restoration of watercourses requires physical activity to clean up refuse, maintain paths, plant natives, and remove invasive species. At the same time, these activities can potentially improve the health of participants. This project examines the effects of self - paced restoration activities on heart rate and metabolism.

  • Faculty: Bulent Sokmen (Kinesiology)
  • Partners: City of Rohnert Park, Center for Environmental Inquiry, SSU Garden Classroom