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Common Dolphin

The Havasi Wilderness Foundation began partnering with California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) and the National Park Service in August 2012 with the goal of creating opportunities for university students to conduct research studies on Santa Rose Island.

Santa Rosa Island is the second largest of the Channel Islands. It is made up of 53,051 acres–15 miles long and 10 miles wide. It offers many unique research opportunities. The oldest human remains in North America known as the Arlington Springs Man were discovered on this island. It is more than 13,000 years old.  Remains of the Pygmy Mammoth, a Pleistocene species, have also been discovered on the island. Presently, Santa Rosa Island is home to the critically endangered Island Fox, spotted skunk, and munchkin dudleya (one of six plant species found only on this island).

Mexican Gold Poppy

The Director of the Havasi Wilderness Foundation, Sándor Havasi, recently visited the island at the invitation of CSUCI for an update on the research station. On the boat trip over three species of whales were spotted. On arrival at the island, Dr. Cause Hanna, the Santa Rosa Island Station Manager took him to see an existing bunkhouse that has been repaired and remodeled and a laboratory facility with field equipment that was been added. The island features Chumash and ranching history, Torrey pines, snowy plover, Lobo Canyon, sand dunes, and beaches.

Ookow (Dichelostemma Congestum)

This year CSUCI began to emphasize experiential and service learning within and across disciplines. Part of the university’s mission is to encourage a broad sharing of interdisciplinary knowledge. On Santa Rosa Island, students have hands-on and real-world field experiences integrating physical and biological research:

  • During a marine debris project, students studied ways to reduce waste and waste toxicity by gathering and studying items that washed up on the island’s shoreline.

  • Students visited prehistoric sites and participated in experimental archeology. More than 100 found artifacts were analyzed and students were able to engage in discussions with invited professional archeologists.

  • Biological sketches completed by students will be used in future outreach to museums, zoos, and institutions.

  • A study of the endangered Torrey Pines population was launched in an effort to determine the rate and degree of population recovery after the removal of non-native ungulates. Additional ecological studies were made of soils and vegetation to facilitate restoration.


This summer, classes will be offered and a faculty writing retreat is planned in addition to a summer research institute. Environmental science and archeology field schools will visit Santa Rosa to do studies. It is also anticipated that K through 12 students will be able to take advantage of this program in the future.

Future collaborations could include:

  • An analysis of water quality and a study of the impact of streams on the island’s landscape

  • Monitoring of intertidal and sandy beaches

  • Monitoring and surveying archeological sites

  • Studying pollination ecology

Whale’s tail

We are very proud to be a part of this educational project and from time to time will give you updates in our blogs. We are hoping to be able to interview a student who has visited and studied on the island. For further details, visit the CSUCI website at www.csuci.edu/sri.

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