Saturday, November 23, 2013

CIR to Offer Additional Mainland Educational Tours

CIR to Offer Additional Mainland Educational Tours
CIR will again offer our popular educational tours to fabulous mainland locations in 2014.  Led by Geologist Tanya Atwater, Botanist Steve Junak and birding experts, these trips have become very popular and often sell out early!

White Mountains (July 4—7, 2014)
Tanya Atwater discusses geology with participants on
the 2012 CIR White Mountains tour
Participants on the 2012 CIR White Mountains tour enjoy
music around the campfire
This will be our fifth tour of the fascinating White Mountains of Eastern California. Last summer 25 participants joined us from all over California as we spent four days visiting ancient trees, spectacular vistas and exceptional geology. We stay at the Crooked Creek research station, which is set in a bristlecone and limber pine forest at 10,200 feet in altitude. Station staff cook all of our meals, and we are treated to evening presentations by Tanya Atwater and Santiago Escruceria, our local birding expert. The ancient bristlecone pines are one of the most exotic and interesting features of the White Mountains. These are the oldest trees in the world; one of them has been dated at nearly 5,000 years old! We hike in two of these groves in guided explorations of the trees, wildflowers, birds and other animals that inhabit these high-altitude ecosystems. July is spring time in the high mountains!  Each day we take auto tours and short to medium length hikes to the pines and many great views and wildflower spots.  We also visit Barcroft Station, a unique facility for high-altitude research, and we offer an optional hike up nearby Mount Barcroft, at just over 13,000 feet.  For more information about the CIR White Mountains trip, visit the trip web site:

Top: participants in the CIR Death Valley tour pose for a photo
at Aguereberry Point, a spectacular view point above  Death
Valley.  Bottom: big-horned sheep seen on the 2012 CIR
Death Valley tour.
Death Valley National Park
(March 12 - 16, 2014)

This will be our third tour to the park. The five day adventure begins with a visit to the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest. We then head for camp at the Trona Pinnacles, which has some of the most unusual geological features in the California Deserts. The next day we enjoy many botany and geology stops and a spectacular view of Death Valley from Aguereberry Point. We stay three nights at Furnace Creek in the floor of the valley. We stay in the campground, or participants can stay in their own RVs or in the nearby hotel (at their own cost)  Over the next two days we enjoy a spectacular drive through Titus Canyon, a hike up Mosaic Canyon, and visits to Ubehebe Crater, Dante’s View, Zabriskie Point, Badwater, the Salt Creek pupfish ponds, and various botanical and birding sites.  Even though 2013 was a dry year, we still found some stands of lovely desert wildflowers, so we will be looking for those again!  We even got a close-up look at big-horned sheep near Aguereberry Point!  For more information on the Death Valley trip, visit the trip web site:

Central Coast Natural History Tour (May 31—June 3, 2014)
This will be our third tour of Central Coast natural history sites, with special emphasis on the geological history of California with Dr. Tanya Atwater. This is a travelling, four day camping trip, with the option to stay in hotels. We camp at Morro Bay State Park, Pinnacles National Park, and Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park. 

Point Piedras Blancas Lighthouse on the 2012 CIR
Central Coast Natural History Tour
Our days include explorations of Avila Beach, Morro Rock, Parkfield and the San Andreas fault experiment, Pinnacles and fault offsets through old-town Hollister.  Steve Junak joins us for tours of Point Lobos State Park and other sites on the Big Sur coast.  We also receive a special tour of the Point Piedras Blancas lighthouse.  Both the lighthouse and the surrounding grounds have been beautifully restored.  We then visit the nearby elephant seal rookery.  This is an excellent way to learn about the geological history of California, while visiting spectacular natural history sites along the way.  For more information on the CIR Central Coast Natural History tour, visit the trip web site:


Private Groups, Individuals Support CIR School Programs

Private Groups, Individuals Support CIR School Programs

Since 2004, CIR has taken 2,137 school children on service school trips to the Channel Islands.  These kids were accompanied by 368 adult chaperones, teachers and parents.  The program targets schools in low income areas and provides bus and boat transportation, a pre-trip presentation in the classroom, plus CIR personnel to lead the trips and to lead the volunteer work.   Each trip, serving about 30 kids, costs about $2,500.

Funding for school science curricula shrinks every year, and the expense of outdoor learning means these curricula suffer first.  CIR provides one of the few outdoor experiences allowing students to actively engage in restoration work within natural habitat.  They see the results of their work year after year and their learning endures.  Most of the kids had never been on a boat, or seen marine mammals or even visited a National Park, and they do all of these things on our school trips. 

CIR received support from state and federal agencies for most of our school trips.  Now with tight budgets government funding sources are becoming harder to find.  So, CIR has turned to our corporate partners, individuals and others to support our school program.

The software company Citrix Online recently provided funding to take a class of 30 kids on a trip as did the Men’s Garden Club of Santa Barbara.  We have also received generous donations from individuals for the program.  

Forth Graders from Sheridan Way Elementary School on Anacapa Island

San Marcos Foothills: The Next Phase

San Marcos Foothills: The Next Phase

Since 2011, CIR has been proud to work on several projects at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve, one of the most ecologically significant open spaces in Santa Barbara County.  Located between Goleta and Santa Barbara, the Preserve features hundreds of acres of grasslands, oak woodlands, and permanently flowing creeks.  There are nearly 50 mammals found in the Foothills and 126 bird species.  The Preserve has miles of hiking trails that provide spectacular views of Santa Barbara, Goleta, and the Santa Barbara Channel.

CIR has partnered with the San Marcos Foothills Coalition (SMFC) and other organizations to restore habitat along two creeks at the Preserve and to remove invasive plants along trails.  As we enter the rainy season, we will be calling on our volunteers to help nurture the thousands of native plants we have installed at the restoration sites.  The work locations are easy to get to, kid friendly, and workdays are typically on Saturdays.

Starting in 2014, CIR will be training docents to lead public educational hikes at the Preserve.  The SMFC has helped fund the docent program, and CIR has donated a tremendous amount of staff time to the project.

CIR staff, Robert Kessler and Jared Logan demonstrate planting techniques to youth at the San Marcos Foothills

CIR & volunteers donate to Santa Rosa Island Projects

CIR & volunteers donate to Santa Rosa Island Projects

CIR volunteers remove fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).
Fennel, which has taken over large areas on
Santa Cruz Island, is fortunately not common
on Santa Rosa Island.  It is a priority of the
NPS to keep it from spreading.
Channel Islands Restoration continued working on Santa Rosa Island this year, in a project funded mostly by CIR donors and our volunteers with support from the National Park Service (NPS).   We held four trips in 2013 to remove fencing, plant natives, remove invasives and to work in the native plant nursery.

The fencing had been erected to protect sensitive plants and habitats from browsing and trampling by non-native grazing animals.  Since these animals are no longer on the island, the fencing is now an unnecessary eyesore and a potential hazard to visitors and native animals, so it is now a priority to remove it.  Often located in remote areas difficult to access, the fencing can be a challenge to remove.  Volunteers also removed invasive fennel and iceplant in several island locations and planted island-grown Dudleya (a native succulent) at China Camp on the island’s southwest side.  Although volunteers put in long hours, they also had the opportunity to visit parts of the island that are not easily accessible. 

Although removing the fencing and the restoration work are priorities for the NPS, budgets are tight, so there is no funding to pay for these projects.  Working with NPS Restoration Ecologist Sarah Chaney,
CIR volunteers work in the native plant
nursery on Santa Rosa Island.
CIR developed a program where volunteers paid for a portion ofthe needed funding, CIR paid for the rest, and the NPS provided staff support, on-island transportation and camp sites.  While CIR spent more than $5,000 on the four trips, this project would not have happened without the generous support of volunteers and CIR donors.

Volunteers camped at the NPS campground at Water Canyon, and on one occasion, stayed at the bunkhouse that housed island ranch hands when the island was privately owned.  The bunkhouse is now part of a new research station run by California State University Channel Islands, and CIR is grateful that we received special permission to stay there.
CIR volunteers use special jacks to remove fence posts at East Point.  Volunteers also remove invasive iceplant at East Point.
CIR volunteers plant natives at China Cap on Santa Rosa Island

NPS Restoration Ecologist Sarah Chaney shows volunteers the work location near Carrington Point.  Volunteers removed fencing at the work site, which was located several hundred feet below the pictured location.