Archive by Author

The 9th Annual SAGE Student Research Conference

On May 6, 2017 we attended the 9th Annual SAGE Student Research Conference at California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, California. We were greeted by Dan Wakelee, Provost and also listened to the keynote speaker, Bruce Eric Kaplan also known as BEK. He is a writer and executive producer for HBO’s Girls and was one of the writers for the TV show “Seinfeld.” We met six research students who our foundation’s funds assisted in their studies on Santa Rosa Island.

Each student’s research produced informative and interesting results of great value to our environment. We shall give you a brief peek into what these students presented as follows:

Aspen Coty gave two poster presentations entitled “No Evidence of Marine Protected Areas Influence on Fish Distribution at Santa Rosa Island National Park” and “Santa Rosa Island Lagoons Baseline Monitoring: A Tidally Influenced Highly Seasonal System”

Jamie Masukawa gave a poster presentation entitled “Long-Term Monitoring (1929-2012) of Erosion and Plant Succession on Santa Rosa, California”

Madeleine Pascal gave a poster presentation entitled “Estimating the Recreational Value of Channel Islands National Park Using Travel Cost Methods.”

Karen Ramirez gave a poster presentation along with Blake Gillespie and Colleen Delaney entitled “Reaffirming Native Nutritional Knowledge: Dichelostemma Capitatum and the Linked Occurrence of Management”

Amanda Shepherd gave a poster presentation entitled “No Evidence of Marine Protected Areas Influence on Fish Distribution of Santa Rosa Island National Park.”

Andrew “Andy” Spyrka gave a poster presentation entitled “Marine Debris Increases in the Santa Barbara Channel Beaches Over the Last Thirty Years.”

Each student was awarded a Havasi Wilderness Foundation Scientific Study Participant medal. Congratulations to all the recipients and we wish you continued success in your future educational endeavors.


Channel Islands Students on the Front Line: Documenting, Understanding and Explaining the Refugio Beach Oil Spill from Day 11


President Richard Rush

Our foundation was invited as a President Circle’s member to be among the first guests to see the newest building (Sierra Hall) on campus at California State University Channel Islands (CI). During the visit on August 13, 2015, we took a tour of many laboratories and high tech rooms that are available for students to use beginning this semester. It is a beautiful facility with the latest in safety features should a fire occur.

A reception was held when we first arrived and they served beverages, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and scrumptious desserts. After socializing a bit, we went to one of the classrooms and received a welcome by President Richard R. Rush. He then introduced the speaker for the evening Associate Professor Sean Anderson.


Dr. Anderson giving a presentation

Dr. Anderson is Associate Professor of Environmental Science & Resource Management at CI. He spoke about when he first heard about the Refugio Beach oil spill. He began to gather his research team of CI students and met them at the beach that was affected by the oil spill. He explained how they monitored and documented the condition of the Refugio Beach area since the May 19th oil spill this year. This proved to be a very interesting and informative topic. Many of the students were present at this event. They told how valuable this experience was to them because they were now able to put actual practice procedures to work and obtain data and samples that proved to be useful to the public. We also learned about previous oil spills going back as far as 1910. He refreshed our memories about the 1969 Santa Barbara and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spills. Dr. Anderson showed how the clean up was accomplished and how the sandy beaches were affected as well as the marine life. He said this spill was due to the onshore Plains-All American Pipeline leaking up to 101,000 U.S. gallons (2,400 barrels). The spill filled a gully and then flowed through a highway drainage culvert, with about 21,000 U.S. gallons (500 barrels) of crude oil reaching the ocean. The Refugio Beach oil spill had an ecological impact on the birds, sand crabs, and grunion eggs. The student team did a survey over 33 beaches to show how they were affected and to what degree each one was impacted. On June 8, 2015, it was reported that 44% of the oil spill was cleaned. Refugio State Beach was reopened July 17, 2015.

Dedication of Sierra Hall will take place on the CI campus on Tuesday, September 15 at 10 a.m. We left this event feeling it was time well spent in learning more about how such accidents can impact our ecosystem.


Guests visiting a new laboratory room






How to Conserve Water in Your Garden



Although the California drought has required our continued effort to conserve water, there’s no reason you can’t conserve water and grow a beautiful garden as well. It could also translate to savings in your water bill.

Growing the right plants can provide a water-efficient landscape that saves up to 10,000 gallons a year and reduce annual water bills by $30 to $70 dollars. Since native plants have been able to adjust to a region’s annual rainfall, they require little watering. Drought-tolerant plants like lavender and jade, also require little watering and can help to conserve water.

Mulching around plants is a good way to reduce water loss while also adding nutrients to the soil and reducing the likelihood of weeds. By placing around 2-4 inches of mulch – which could take the form of compost, bark chips or pine needles – you can slow the evaporation of moisture and reduce the need for watering.

Garden paths made of porous material can help any rainwater seep into the ground to nourish roots rather than run off to the street. Gravel, pebbles, non-mortared concrete pavers and spaced bricks are ideal.

Place thirsty plants near the house to take advantage of roof runoff, which can be as much as 600 gallons per hour from a 25-by-40 foot roof during moderate rainfall (and which can be stored in a water barrel). Native plants can be planted further out from the house. Knowing where the sun hits your garden can help determine where to place dry-soil plants, with plants that require more water planted in shady areas.



By watering in the morning rather than during the day, you’ll lose less water to evaporation. Watering at dusk, however, places plants at risk of mildew and fungus.

With lawns typically requiring more than 20,000 gallons of water each year, it might be worth considering getting rid of it or, at least, opting for Bermuda or buffalo grass which requires 20% less water than fescue or bluegrass. Better yet, you might consider drought-resistant grasses like Eco-lawn. Letting grass grow above three inches helps promote water retention in the soil.

Additional tips: Sweep walkways and driveways instead of watering; prevent sprinklers from watering the sidewalk and position them to water the garden; drip irrigation systems are more efficient than overhead watering systems.

Water conservation can be easy, saving time and money while also doing your part to protect our natural resources.






The Importance of Keeping Water Resources Clean

Malibu CreekAs long as humans have walked this planet, water has shaped our lives: growing our crops, generating power and sustaining life. With water resources scarce, it’s never been more important to keep those resources clean; and clean water is essential for hygiene, recreation and hydration.

Oceans – With beaches littered with paper, plastic and cans, we place millions of birds, fish and marine mammals in danger. Sea turtles, for example, eat piece of plastic wrap thinking its jellyfish. People and animals can be hurt by broken glass and made sick by toxic chemicals.

With the problems caused by nutrient enrichment and toxic contaminants, pollution has contributed to beach closures, fish kills and fish advisories that are also impacting our economic and environmental interests. Illnesses caused by contamination of water systems include diarrhea, hepatitis A, meningitis, and ulcers, to name a few.

Freshwater lakes, rivers and streams – Less than 1% of the earth’s water is accessible freshwater, including groundwater and surface water. In the U.S. alone, over 44 billion gallons of clean water are treated and delivered each day from rivers and lakes, with the average American using 80-100 gallons of water a day. With available freshwater being contaminated with sulfuric acid, fertilizer and gasoline, the limited supply continues to dwindle, as the human population of the world increases. Precipitation might clean surfaces of contaminants, but those contaminants then gets carried into rivers, lakes, streams, groundwater and even oceans.

Groundwater – Groundwater supplies between 25% and 40% of our drinking water, feeding water that flows into streams, lakes and reservoirs. Groundwater pollution can be very expensive to clean up, while depleting out supply of drinkable water.

Surface water – Most people in the U.S. get drinking water from surface water, with a third of the population obtaining water from headwater streams. Protection of these headwater streams are also important because they feed into larger systems of surface water.

According to the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), 2 million tons of sewage and other effluent drains into the world’s water, with more people dying from unsafe water than violence and war; and 90% of the 30,000 deaths a week from unsafe water are children under 5. According to UNDESA, eutrophication due to agricultural runoff (pesticides, chemical fertilizer) and the burning of fossil fuels, in addition to sewage and industrial effluents, is the most prevalent water quality problem on Earth. According to the EPA, 40% of all waterways in the U.S. don’t even meet national water quality standards. And the untreated sewage leaking into our waterways can cost upwards of over $50 to clean-up.

The scarcity of a vital resource like clean water, due to over-use, climate and pollution, has increased concerns about water quality and quantity. A greater awareness of the importance of clean water for all plants and animals, with increased demands for food and energy, should help remind us how to better care for our resources for a healthy people and healthy environment.


Yucca: A History of Benefits


Yucca Plant

Yucca is an evergreen plant in the agave family identifiable by its narrow, pointed leaves. The roots, leaves and fruit of yucca plants were historically used by Native Americans for a wide variety of purposes, and still prove useful today.

Soap: By pounding the dry roots of the Yucca plant and whisking them with cold water to create a lather, Native Americans were able to create a soap used to clean hair and clothes.

Rope: Native Americans found a use for the fibrous leaves of the Yucca plant, soaking them in water, separating the fibers and then twisting them together to weave cords that can be used for belts, sandals, fishing nets and baskets.

Food: The Yucca roots have long been a source of carbohydrate rich food for Native American people. The Yucca fruit, with a taste similar to that of a potato, could be baked or even chopped and fried like French fries. Even the leaves, if boiled, and also the flower, if picked at the right time, could also be eaten. Latin American cooking often uses Yucca in stews and soups. Yucca is also one of the ingredients in Shasta root beer, used to give it a thick, foamy head.


Yucca Plant

Medicine: The Yucca fruit have been used by Native Americans for a variety of purposes such as laxatives and the treatment of hair infested with vermin. Native Americans also benefited from Yucca’s anti-inflammatory properties in the treatment of arthritis. Chemicals in the plant make it extremely useful in the treatment of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, stomach and liver disorders, poor circulation and even cancer. The antioxidant properties of the Yucca root also make it helpful in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Applied to the skin, it can be used for sprains, joint pain and sores. Native Americans even used Yucca to treat hair loss and dandruff. Studies have also shown that Yucca extract may have anti-fungal benefits as well as protection against UV induced skin damage.

With such diverse benefits, Yucca has proven nothing short of extraordinary, not just to Native-Americans in the past but to anyone today who values the many health benefits of the natural world.


California Finches: House Finch and Lesser Goldfinch

House Finch

Male House Finch

A native of the western states, the House Finch, can be found all over the United States, thanks to its recent introduction to the east coast. Its twittering song can be heard on the ground or up in trees, frequenting city parks, urban centers and backyards.

This small-bodied finch has a large beak used to crack open seeds. While males are distinctive for their red faces, upper breast and rump, the females are grayish-brown. Females prefer to mate with the reddest male available.

House Finches are very sociable birds that can be seen collecting near feeders. Their native habitats include grasslands, chaparral, oak savannah and open woodland. They primarily feed their nestlings plant food, which is a rare practice when it comes to birds. Then again, House Finches almost exclusively eat plant materials such as seeds and fruits.

Lesser Gold Finch

Lesser Gold Finch

Like the House Finch, the Lesser Goldfinch is a gregarious bird that tends to collect at weedy fields, bird feeders and other feedings sites. They often gather in groups of several hundred at a time, feeding on seeds and grains. They can be seen eating with other seed-eating songbirds.

Lesser Goldfinches are small songbirds, much like the House Finch. Males are bright yellow with a black cap and white patches on the wings. In the West Coast, the males have olive green backs. Females also have olive green backs as well as black wings marked by whitish wing bars. They are at home in open habitats, forest clearings, farmlands, scrublands and weedy fields, but can also be seen in suburban yards looking for seeds. Although they eat seeds mostly from the sunflower family, Lesser Goldfinches also eat fruit. The Lesser Goldfinch uses its bill to pry open seeds.

Interestingly, human expansion has actually benefitted the species, forcing them to expand their range near Los Angeles. One should have little trouble spotting either the House Finch or the Lesser Goldfinch.

The Western Gray Squirrel

Western Grey Squirrel

Western Grey Squirrel

The western gray squirrel is a large tree squirrel native to California, with a preference for oak and pine forests. Although once fairly abundant throughout the west coast, loss of habitat and competition from other species has steadily reduced their populations since the 1920s.

Western gray squirrels can be identified by their bushy tails, silvery gray backs and white fronts. White tips on the gray hairs provide the silvery appearance. Gray squirrels are most active in the early morning, retreating to their nests during warmer times of the day. Their nests, called dreys, are typically located in the top third of larger trees and built using twigs, moss and bark shavings.

Wary of humans, western grey squirrels tend to move from tree to tree. Nonetheless, they still prefer to forage on the ground. Favorite foods include pine nuts, acorns, nuts, berries, green vegetation and even insects. Although non-territorial, gray squirrels do show dominance hierarchy at food locations.In preparation for winter, the western gray squirrel will spend more time gathering and storing food. Although they do not hibernate, western gray squirrels do put on weight and thicken their fur in anticipation of the cold.

Ground Squirrel

Ground Squirrel

Breeding occurs between December and July, with females potentially having two litters per year. Litter sizes range from two to five young, with babies remaining in the nest for six months or more.

Although the introduction of fox squirrels in the 20th century has largely driven the western gray squirrels into the mountains and foothills, a little persistence should make this true California native easy to find.


Deer in Southern California

DeerThe Mule Deer, named for its large ears, makes the mountains and deserts of Southern California its home. Three of the largest local subspecies include the California Mule Deer, the Southern Mule Deer and the Burro Deer, all of which share the same black-tipped tails and forked antlers.

Local deer like the California Mule Deer prefer hilly terrain, taking most of its diet from shrub leaves and grasses. In summer, Mule Deer not only consume leaves but also berries. In winter, they feed on conifers. They tend to forage close to lakes or streams, roaming within a two mile range. Although Mule Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, they may sometimes forage at night in open agricultural areas. Inactivity during the heat of day has helped the deer adapt to warmer Southern California environments.

Rutting (mating) season is in autumn, at which time antlered males compete for mates. Fawns arrive in late spring, remaining with their mothers through the summer and then weaned in autumn. Buck’s shed their antlers in winter, after rutting season, but antlers begin to grow back in the spring, fully formed in time for the next rutting season.

As prey for mountain lions, coyote and even bobcats, Mule Deer play an important role in the Southern California food chain. Run-ins with cars, however, throw off that balance.

DeerAlthough the Mule Deer like the Burro Deer might not be that colorful, its gray-buff color helps blend in with the desert environment, to disguise itself from predators. It’s unique bounding leap, all four feet hitting the ground together, helps reach speeds of 45 mph in a short period of time.

For Mule Deer in the mountains, winter temperatures force migrations from higher elevations to lower ones. For the desert Mule Deer, rainfall patterns may influence migration.

Although Southern California deer have been quick to adjust to the expansion of human communities, populations still decline when habitat destruction is extensive enough.

The Blood Moon

Blood Moon

Blood Moon

You may have heard of the lunar tetrad of 2014-2015, four successive total eclipses, with no partial lunar eclipse in between. The second lunar eclipse of the tetrad occurred on October 7th and 8th of this year, and the third is scheduled to occur on April 4th of 2015. You may have also heard that it was a “blood” moon, because of the red tint the moon displayed during the lunar eclipse.

For the most part, the moon appears yellow because it reflects light from the sun and on occasion, the moon can appear red. One reason for the red tint is because of the billions of high density light particles in the air. When the atmosphere scatters sunlight, it is red light that gets scattered the least.  A second reason for a red moon occurs when the moon is low in the sky, which means light from the moon has to pass through a larger amount of atmosphere. Blue and green light scatter to give off a reddish tint. Incidentally, it is this filtering of the green to violet portion of the light spectrum that gives us our blue sky during the day.

A third reason for the Moon to appear red occurs during a lunar eclipse.  During an eclipse, the moon passes behind the Earth’s shadow and is no longer illuminated  by the Sun. It is at this time that red light, filtered and refracted by Earth’s atmosphere, reaches the moon, turning the eclipsed moon its distinctive color. Depending on the amount of dust in the atmosphere at the time, that distinctive color can range from copper to deep red. If you were to take a look at the Earth from inside its shadow, you would see the entire planet glow red.

Before the Eclipse

Before the Eclipse

It’s not clear that a lunar eclipse has any effect on wildlife, although studies have shown that a full moon may have some effect on animal behavior. Increased moonlight can elevate nocturnal activity for some species and decrease it for others. In Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, moonlight triggers a collective mass-spawning event as corals release sperm and eggs in synchrony. During a full moon, the prolonged visibility of throat feathers permits owls to communicate more extensively, although some owls avoid activity during full moons. Wild dogs and cheetahs also increase their nocturnal activity during full moons, although lions may be less likely to hunt for lack of prey. Doodlebugs dig larger holes to trap prey during full moons, since the increase in light also increases the activity of their prey. Conversely, scorpions tend to be more active during the new moon, to catch prey that prefers darker nights.

Animals tend to adjust their behavior in response to changing light levels, although some behaviors follow more mysterious circadian rhythms controlled by the monthly lunar cycle.  A deer’s reproductive cycle, for example, responds to the phases of the moon, peaking close to the second full moon after the autumnal equinox, also called the “rutting moon.”  Increased light pollution, however, could be disrupting to these animal patterns by overshadowing the moon’s illumination.

For the bulk of the animal kingdom, the cycles of the moon are fairly mundane events.  We, on the other hand, may always find something magical about a moon that, on rare occasions, appears to turn blood red.

Tippi Hedren’s Shambala–Haven for the Big Cats

LionBecause we annually contribute as a member to The Roar Foundation/Shambala Preserve for the big cats, Tippi Hedren, the President and Founder, told us about an upcoming theatrical production of interest. This one-night-only performance was on Saturday, June 7, so we decided to attend “Remembering the Ladies.”

It was a fabulous, knock-your-socks-off show at the Colony Theater in Burbank that starred singer Toni Morrell from Great Britain and her talented husband and Tigrismusical director of the show, David Dial. The show pays loving tribute to the legendary ladies of film, stage, comedy, and music through character impersonations and comedic humor by Toni. Captivating on-screen images were used throughout. The Hitchcock blondes were a segment of the show and tied into that was a film of the big cats by William Dow who is the photographer for the Shambala Preserve. It showed how well these wild animals look because of the care received at Shambala.

TigerAs a surprise, there were many celebrities in the audience, such as Loni Anderson who got up and gave David Dial a big hug. Toni introduced many of the celebs–Shirley Jones and her hubby Marty Ingels, Louis Gossett, Jr., Linda Gray, Kristy McNichol, Ann Jeffreys to name a few. Even the famous hairdresser to the stars, Jose Eber, wearing a cowboy hat attended the show.

What we came away with after experiencing this event is that we got to hold on to the glamour and sentimentality of yesterday that is so difficult in today’s world. We saw and heard what these legendary ladies have left us to remember forever. And last but certainly not least is what Tippi Hedren has contributed by establishing Shambala to help save the wild cats that others have neglected and mistreated.

For more details about the Shambala/The Roar Foundation, go to

Havasi Wilderness Foundation