News & Events

  • New insect drawers are here!

    It's an exciting time for the CCBER insect collection! Thanks to a grant awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, we now have 170 new drawers to house our Adrian Wenner historic insect collection. As it has been housed in very old drawers and is relatively inaccessible in its current state, new drawers are key to moving forward in curation and imaging of the collection. Originally used as a teaching collection by Professor Wenner for his general entomology course taught from 1961 to 1993, this collection's diversity (9,000 insects in 21 orders and 246 families) makes it a valuable historical record of insects in endangered coastal California habitats. 




    The arrival of the new drawers is only the beginning of upgrading the historical Wenner insect collection and increasing its usefulness in restoration ecology. After identifying insects to genus and species (when possible), the collection will be imaged and placed in a database where it can be uploaded to the CCBER online collection as well as other online databases such as Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio). Above, one can see the stark difference between the new and old drawers. In addition to the drawers, we recieved several tables for volunteers, interns, and student workers to identify insects on. 



    The preservation and digitization of the Wenner collection will further our ability to include insects in restoration assessments by providing a much needed local historic baseline of insect diversity. As education is an integral part of CCBER's work, upgrading the collection will also include developing an insect curation skills course and providing workshops on insect identification. UCSB students also engage in the collections through the Natural History Collections Club, where over 50 members work with CCBER to improve curation of the collections.

    Thanks for reading about these exciting insect collection developments, and stay tuned for more info! 


  • Kids in Nature had a busy week!

    It was a busy week for our Kids in Nature (KIN) program! The KIN mission is to promote the aspirations of young students by providing quality environmental science education, assisted by our passionate KIN staff (Andy Lanes and Janet Myers) as well as UCSB undergraduates enrolled in the EEMB189/ES191 course. During the Winter quarter, KIN visits both Coal Oil Point Reserve and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, as well as conducting classroom visits and working in the established native plant gardens on the elementary school campuses. This week saw KIN at both locations due to a previous rain cancellation, with everyone enjoying the sun and new environmental knowledge.


    These students from the Peabody Charter School are at Coil Oil Point Reserve learning about the diversity of life present in various coastal habitats. During field trips, students are rotated through stations focusing on different aspects of the environment. Students from left to right above are observing beach hoppers belonging to the Orchestoidea genus, learning about the leaf adaptations of Beach Saltbush (Atriplex leucophylla), and discovering the role of marine algae in the beach environment. Over the entire year, we estimate that each KIN student experiences 100 hours of small group environmental science education. 


    The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden provided these Isla Vista Elementary School fifth graders with a stunning array of California habitats and a very informative morning. Students above are learning about Chumash Ethnobotany, the Redwood Forest, and Lichen. The ethnobotany group learned about the how the Chumash used native plants for everything from art to weaponry and importance of acorns from Oak trees (Quercus spp.) as a food source. In the cooler understory of the Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), EEMB189/ES191 undergraduates educated on the difference between evergreen and deciduous as well as on the importance of protecting this disappearing old-growth ecosystem. Students on the rock are observing the three main types of lichen (foliose, crustose, fruticose) and learning about how this slow growing symbiotic organism is sensitive to air pollution. 



    Thanks for reading, and follow CCBER on Facebook and Instagram for photos and updates!

    Take a look at the CCBER website for more Kids In Nature information:



  • CCBER South Parcel Update!

    One of CCBER's westernmost sites, South Parcel is situated between Coal Oil Point Reserve and Ellwood Mesa. This 68-acre site was initially preserved as natural open space in 2007 to serve as mitigation for the North Campus Faculty Housing Project. The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and UCSB then negotiated a conservation easement in 2010 which called for the land to be restored, and since then CCBER's accomplished teams have been hard at work improving the habitats in this area. 


    Like many CCBER management sites, there are multiple habitat types present in South Parcel. Riparian woodland and freshwater marshes reside next to coastal sage scrub and grasslands, with a unique coastal dune area present as well. These diverse habitats provide vital nesting and hunting grounds for several special status raptor species, including Buteo jamaicensis (Red-tailed hawk) and Elanus leucurus (White-tailed kite).


    As South Parcel is located so far from the CCBER Greenhouse, the shed area contains a shade cloth zone where native plants slated for restorative planting are grown out to a sturdy size. The bright green young plants in the above right photo are purple needlegrass, or Stipa pulchra, the state grass of California. These perennial bunchgrasses are valued for their ability to conserve topsoil and likely composed much of historic grasslands. Amazingly, these diminutive plants can live over 200 years and send roots down twenty feet into the earth. 


    However, not all restorative planting at South Parcel is done using the grown out plants. To restore more grassland faster, a technique called drill seeding is utilized. In drill seeding, specialized planting equipment that deposits seeds in the ground in rows is dragged behind a truck or tractor. Although developed for agriculture, drill seeding can be utilized for restoration purposes if enough native seed is present. As the amount of wild seed collected was not near enough to satisfy these needs, native seeds had to be "bulked out" at offsite facilities run by other companies. Bulking out means that a single generation of native plants are grown solely to harvest seed from. This process can yield over 10 times the seed amount possible with wild collecting and allows for extensive restoration planting. 



    South Parcel hosts a plethora of vernal pool sites in varying stages of ecological restoration. Sites are chosen based off topographical and watershed characteristics, with other factors such as plant composition accounted for as well. Once the site is graded and the depression established, the banks of the pool are planted with native plant species to prevent erosion. The impermeable clay soils keep water from draining, with pools lasting late into the spring if there is adequate winter rain. As you can see, recent storms have filled these vernal pools and left their soils in the perfect condition for planting. 


                                                                      Photo taken by Beau Tindall 

    Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates on CCBER events and management areas!

  • What is eBird data being used for?

    This week's citizen science talk at CCBER featured a presentation from Claire Runge, PhD, about some of the diverse ways in which eBird data is being used. Dr. Runge recived her PhD from the University of Queensland on conserving migratory species and is based here in Santa Barbara at NCEAS. With her wide-spanning conservation work having national and global policy implications, we were lucky enough to hear her passion for both science and birds last night. Thanks again Dr. Runge, very informative talk!


    One of the largest biodiversity data resources in existence, eBird is a citizen science program that provides real-time information about bird abundance and distributions. Jointly coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audobon Society, eBIrd successfully amasses both professional and recreational bird watcher observations into accessible archives stored in a secure facility. The amount of data collected is enormous, with over 9.5 million observations in just May of 2015! This treasure trove of bird data is being used by scientists like Claire Runge to form some very unique conservation programs.


    One such project in California is BirdReturns, which uses eBird data to predict when and where migratory birds will be in the Sacramento Valley so farmers can create pop-up habitats by flooding their rice fields. As the California wetlands that historically supported birds on the Pacific Flyway migration route are now 95% destroyed, these pop-up habitats are crucial for the millions of waterfowl migrating each winter. The graph above right uses data from the 2014 BirdReturns Pilot Project and illustates the increased number of Waterfowl present in BirdReturns habitat as opposed to the control. Funded by The Nature Conservancy and with such partners as the California Rice Commission, BirdReturns combines citizen science data and economic incentives into an innovative and successful conservation project. 

                                  Credit for above graphs (a),(b),(c): Ayesha I.T. Tulloch and Judit K. Szabo, Retrieved from link below

    Another rather surprising application of citizen science data is analyzing the behaviour not of birds, but of the volunteers themselves. Ayesha I.T. Tulloch and Judit K. Szabo coauthored "A behavioural ecology approach to understand volunteer surveying for citizen science datasets", a 2012 article published in Emu-Austral Ornithology. The authors studied volunteer behaviour using bird surveys conducted in south-western Australia in order to understand and correct biases in volunteer's data collection. The volunteers were assessed by what habitat they selected to survey and were catergorized by behavioural types. Site-faithful volunteers tended to survey the same sites, produce high species detection rates, and were often locals, whereas roaming volunteers were often tourists and seemed to seek out special habitats and threatened species. By using citizen science to study human behaviour, future surveys can be designed to achieve better spatial representedness by accounting for volunteer bias.


    Do you want more citizen science info? Come join us for the next talk on Monday February 27th and find out how the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is planning to implement Citizen Science from their director of education, Frederique Lavopierre. Presentations begin at 6pm in Harder South, Room 1013.  

    Do you want to get involved with citizen science and learn about birds? 

    Check out these resources:

    Interested in the full article about citizen science data and volunteer behaviour? Check it out here:

  • Behind the Scenes of FeederWatch!

    Our Monday night Citizen Science presentation this week featured a webinar talk from David Bonter, PhD, who spoke about overcoming the challenges associated with operating a large citizen science project like FeederWatch. Dr. Bonter is the Arthur A. Allen Director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and oversees the scientific and educational portions of FeederWatch. His work will prove invaluable to future citizen science projects and has helped FeederWatch become the proven monitoring tool it is today. Thanks for the presentation Dr. Bonter!


    Project FeederWatch began in the late 1980s after Canada's Long Point Bird Observatory wanted to expand their survey program and partnered with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to do so. The Lab of Ornithology's access to both sophisticated computer systems and thousands of bird enthusiasts nationwide allowed the Long Point Bird Observatory to apply their experience at managing feeder surveys to a much larger area. Today, FeederWatch is still a joint effort between Bird Studies Canada (formerly Long Point Bird Observatory) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and has over 20,000 participants. 


    These 20,000 volunteers for FeederWatch have generated millions of survey checklists at over 50,000 count sites, leading to two books and 26 published scientific papers. As gathering accurate data is the ultimate goal, volunteers are provided with booklets and posters to try to prevent initial errors in identification. Some birds are especially difficult to identify, so the FeederWatch website also has a Tricky Bird IDs page to assist participants. The data FeederWatch requests from volunteers is the largest number of a given species seen in the two count days, and a Tally Sheet is used to keep track of counts throughout. Most data is then submitted through the FeederWatch website, which has a number of built in safeguards to maintain data accuracy. Data entered shows up on a sidebar, so participants can see if they entered any obvious errors. In addition, the final page reports all data back to the citizen scientist so they can do a final quality check. 


    Once a volunteer is satisfied with their entry and clicks submit, a smart filter immediately reviews the entry to see if it matches with geographic and temporally specific parameters set using historic bird data. If the entry is within the normal range for that location, it is stored in the database. If the entry is flagged as being possibly invalid, the volunteer will receive an automatic email asking them if they are sure what they typed in was correct. If so, the entry goes under expert review, and the volunteer is usually asked to provide photo evidence of the unlikely entry. By using this expert review system combined with photo evidence, many birds have been discovered that are far from their normal ranges and are featured on the FeederWatch Rare Bird Report webpage. One of the current problems with this system is that the smart filter only catches obvious errors based on temporal or geographic inconsistencies. Some less obvious errors, like misidentifying a bird as another local species likely seen during that time, may go unnoticed.


    Through a combination of preemptive participant support and behind-the-scenes data analysis, FeederWatch has developed a unique process to facilitate public data collection. From all the points seen on the map, data streams to FeederWatch and is analyzed and used for research. Although the system isn't perfect, continual development will help improve this already successful citizen science project in the years to come. Some of the amazing results of this data collection can be seen in the Winter Bird Highlights published each year by FeederWatch. Thank you for contributions citizen scientists!

    If you're interested in learning more about FeederWatch, check out their website!

    Want to learn more about citizen science? Come to our next discussion on Monday February 6th with Claire Runge from NCEAS about using e-bird data, talks are at 6pm in Harder South, Rm 1013. See you there!

  • Will Citizen Science cure what ails us?

    On Monday evening CCBER had the pleasure of hosting Libby Ellwood, PhD, for the first talk in our Winter 2017 Conservation and Restoration Ecology Seminar series focusing on citizen science. Dr. Ellwood spoke about what citizen science is, how it can benefit scientific projects, and some caveats associated with using citizen science. Dr. Ellwood is employed by Florida State University but is based in Los Angeles, and was gracious enough to drive to UCSB to give this talk. Thank you again!



    The standard definition of citizen science is scientific work that is undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists or scientific institutions. The above cartoon humorizes the idea that something as valuable as science cannot be entrusted to the untrained masses, however a legitimate worry is that citizens do lack formal scientific training. However, citizen science has existed for thousands of years in some form, and has shown its usefulness time and time again. 


    The earliest citizen scientists usually fulfilled scientific objectives as a byproduct of other behaviour, and are thus called Inadvertent Scientists. For example, at the Seiryuden Palace in Kyoto, Japan, the court would hold parties when the ephemeral flowering of the cherry trees was taking place in spring. These events were recorded for thousands of years and offer data that can be used for scientific purposes. The Gentleman Scientist was a more conscious type of citizen scientists, and generally consisted of wealthy men who invesetigated scientific phenemona via their own funding. Both Benjamin Franklin and Charles Darwin can be considered citizen scientists in this sense, so the title is nothing to scoff at!


    A great example of modern citizen science is the oldest project in North America, the Audobon Christmas Bird Count. Started in 1900 by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman as an alternative to the Christmas "Side Hunt", the Audobon Christmas Bird Count has attracted tens of thousands of volunteers who census bird populations on Christmas Day and help guide conservation actions throughout the year. This successful project illustrates the three areas in which the application of citizen science can help cure some common "ailments" of scientists: increasing geographic scope, increasing timeframe, and increasing the number of taxa studied. According to the Audobon website, the climate change work using this bird census data was even cited by the EPA as one of the 26 indicators of climate change in their 2012 report. Great job citizen scientists!


    Another successful citizen science project is WeDigBio, which involves the public in digitizing natural history collections. WeDigBio stands for the Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections, and the four day event features both onsite and online volunteer participation. The digitization of natural history collections and WeDigBio illustrate how technological advances can increase the popularity of citizen science projects, with the outcome being of enormous benefit to researchers worldwide. This is another great application of citizen science in an educational sense as the variety of tasks avilable means that students as young as eleven years old can participate and help science progress. Although citizen science cannot be applied to every project and cure every scientific ailment, it is a tool which is very powerful if used correctly and has already had great success in many areas. 

    Interested in Citizen Science? Check out these resources: http://CitSci.orghttp://CitizenScienceAssociation.org

    Sad you missed this talk? Don't be, there's more! Next talk is a webinar from the creators of FeederWatch at the Cornell Ornithology Lab covering all the behind scenes work supporting this successful citizen science project. 

    Talks are Monday 6pm at the CCBER classroom, Rm 1013 Harder South. Hope to see you there!

  • CCBER Greenhouse Update!

    Nestled in the trees behind UCBS's Storke Field and Lot 38, the CCBER Greenhouse is the native plant factory behind the success of the many restoration sites around campus. The half acre site houses up to 50,000 plants at any given time and has grown over 200 different species of locally collected plants. Local plant collection is the first and perhaps most important step in growing native plants, as the seeds, spores or propagules that are being used for restoration must come from local areas. This ensures that local plant genotypes, some of which have adapted to the area in unique ways, are not hybridized with genotypes from other areas. 



    Local seed is first germinated in the shade house and then transplanted and moved into one of three greenhouses on site. The multitide of seedlings in the greenhouses are identified by markers containing the first two letters of the genus and species. For example, Stipa pulchra, or purple needlegrass, would be abbreviated Stpu. Seen in the bottom right in the above photos, this is California's state grass and is especially important in restoration sites as less than 1% of native grasslands still exist. After about a month, or when sufficient growth is achieved, the young native plants are moved outside and kept under shade cloth until they go to their final destination at one of our restoration sites. As you can see from this process, the CCBER Greenhouse is intricately linked to each restoratation site on campus, collecting seeds and then returning healthy, young native plants ready to provide habitat and other ecological services.


    Making soil is another essential activity at the Greenhouse, and is accomplished with a mixture of 90% professional organic soil with perlite and 10% CCBER compost. The compost is composed of local pulled weeds, local kelp,and horse manure, and can reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit during the warmer months. The soil and compost are thoroughly mixed and sifted to remove twigs and larger peices of horse manure (it's only hay!), and the result is our Greenhouse soil blend. 


    These small fenced areas are home to species of bulbs that were collected at South Parcel. Rabbits and gophers were digging up the bulbs and eating them in the field, limiting their ability to grow, so CCBER is growing them out in these protected areas and later adding them to restoration sites to increase diversity. Species grown here include Dichelostemma capitatum, or blue dicks. Some of these grown out bulbs have already been added to a small protected area in the San Clemente site, increasing the diversity of the Stipa pulchra grassland located there. 


    The above plots contain lucky species which are going to be planted on the restored North Campus Open Space (NCOS), perhaps CCBER's most exciting project to date! The plots are covered with a wire mesh to protect them from raccoons and skunks that will disturb the soil and dig up the plants. Distichlis spicata, or saltgrass, can be seen in the center photo and already grows abundantly at the NCOS. The restoration site at NCOS will also be direct seeded in addition to transplanting.

    Stay tuned for more updates on the NCOS project and thanks for reading about the CCBER Greenhouse!

  • Citizen science cures what ails you... or does it?

    This quarter for the Conservation and Restoration Ecology Seminar we will be focusing on Citizen Science: Assessing when it is appropriate, how to set it up effectively and how data are used from crowd sourced data. Please join us!

    This Monday the 23rd, 6pm, we are pleased to announce that Libby Ellwood (Ph.D) Post-doctoral Fellow at iDigBio, Florida State University will be speaking.
    Monday the 30th - Webinar from the creators of FeederWatch at Cornell Ornithology Lab covers all the behind scenes work used to support this successful Citizen Science Project.
    February 6th - Claire Runge from NCEAS will discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with using e-bird data
    Talks are Monday evenings 6pm at the CCBER Classroom, Rm 1013 Harder South.

  • Research Internships at CCBER for Winter and Spring 2017

    The Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) is seeking student interns for research projects in arthropod diversity, ecological restoration, and field note data curation with Google Fusion Tables. The internships are supported by the Coastal Fund. Each potential project is described below. We are interested in students who are able to work on the projects for the winter and spring quarters in 2017. To apply, send an email to Ryan Clark ( with the following:

    1. the project(s) you are applying for and why (if applying for more than one project, please list the projects in order of preference);
    2. a description of your background and interests, including any relevant experience; and
    3. contact information for at least one reference.

    Applications should be submitted by Thursday, January 12.


    Arthropod Diversity

    The student will work with entomologist and CCBER Director Katja Seltmann and her team on a project quantifying and identifiying arthropod diversity at several campus locations. 6 hours a week is expected for the internship and you will be trained in insect research methods, insect preparation and collecting, arthropod diversity, and identification. No prior experience with arthropods is necessary. Accuracy, strong attention to detail, and interest in insects (particularly the small ones) is important for this project.


    Soil Suitability for Restoration OR Native Plant Propagation Data Analysis

    Option 1: CCBER is seeking a student intern for two quarters to work on a research project investigating soil suitability for native plant restoration. The intern will work with CCBER staff in developing the research project, collecting and analyzing samples, and presenting results. A commitment of 6 hours per week is expected. No experience is required, however it is important to have keen interests in getting your hands dirty with soils and in basic ecology.

    Option 2: CCBER is seeking a student intern for two quarters to work on a research project investigating factors affecting native plant propagation. The intern will work with CCBER staff in developing the research project, analyzing data, and presenting results. A commitment of 6 hours per week is expected. No experience is required, but it is important to have a keen interest in data management, analysis and interpretation, as well as good organization, attention to detail, and communication skills.


    Field Note OR Breeding Bird Record Curation using Google Fusion Tables

    Google Fusion Table (GFT) is an online data visualization application with an impressive capability to generate maps from raw data.  CCBER is offering one of two intern opportunities to map museum resources. The prospective intern may choose Opportunity 1 or 2.

    Opportunity 1.   The student will work with Mark Holmgren, retired Vertebrate Collections Manager at CCBER, to curate approximately 3000 sets of field notes into a geographically-based retrieval system using GFT.  6 hours a week is expected for the internship and you will be trained in use of GFT, handling of field notes, preparation of data to be uploaded to GFT, and maintenance of the online database. Accuracy, strong attention to detail, and interest in databases are important attributes for performance in this internship.

    Opportunity 2.   The student will work with Mark Holmgren, retired Vertebrate Collections Manager at CCBER, to extract breeding bird records from a variety of sources provided. Records will be entered into Excel for eventual uploading to the GFT.  The GFT can be viewed at using computer, tablet, or smart phone.  6 hours a week is expected for the internship and you will be trained in use of GFT, assigning GPS coordinates to records, and how to gather breeding bird information. Accuracy, attention to detail, and interest in birds are important attributes for performance in this internship.

  • UCSB Herbaria on the Consortium of North American Lichen Herbaria


    We are happy to announce that all of the UCSB Herbarium lichen specimens are now available online through the Consortium of North American Lichen Herbaria. This project, sponsored by the Coastal Fund, resulted in images and specimen records for 367 specimens and a total of 174 different taxa. Of these specimens, 196 are from Santa Barbara, and 125 are from the Channel Islands. The work for this project was done by a dedicated group of UCSB undergraduate students that help manage the UCSB Natural History Collection and gain valuable specimen based research experience in the process.

    Lichens are composite organisms made up of an algae and a fungus. They are especially important in their ability to absorb and retain everything in the air, including pollutants. For this reason, lichens are very sensitive to air pollution and cannot survive in excessively polluted areas. Ecologists have developed formulas to assess the air pollution of an area by analyzing biological responses of lichens (e.g. presence of certain lichens indicates good air quality). Also, it is possible to determine the level of air pollution of a specific area by extracting the toxic compounds retained in lichen tissues.
    The CCBER lichen collection includes about 700 identified specimens representing about 500 species, donated by Dr. Shirley Tucker (CCBER lichen curator and world renowned lichen expert). The collection contains specimens commonly encountered in the Santa Barbara area, including the UCSB campus, Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands, and Santa Ynez. A few additional specimens from other parts of California, other states, and overseas adds diversity in the form of taxa not represented in the local collection. The oldest specimens date back to the 1950s, thus representing a 60+ year-old-record of the air quality in the Santa Barbara region.


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