Exploring & Restoring Anacapa Island

Student planting  on Anacapa Island

Slope restoration on Anacapa Island

As part of the Sustainability and  Experiential Learning programs Leland Fulton, Sustainability Director John Wilkinson and 15 life and environmental science students went to the Anacapa Islands during the weekend of November 3 to 5. There they worked with biologists from The California Institute of Environmental Studies (CIES) to plant 1,100 native plants on one of the island’s more sensitive slopes and seabird habitats. Explorations included hikes and snorkeling around a kelp forest.

The Anacapa Islands are part of the Channel Islands National Park, which is separated from the mainland by the Santa Barbara Channel. It is home to a tremendous amount of biodiversity, including many species found nowhere else. The Channel Islands are home to the only breeding colonies of California brown pelicans in California, as well as the largest colonies in southern California of Cassin’s auklet, western gulls, Scripps’s murrelets, and many others. Beneath the water, the kelp forest supports a wide variety of marine life, including Garibaldi fish, moray eel, spiny lobster, rockfish, red abalone, and the sunflower star. The kelp provide a rich three dimensional habitat for species, and generally act as a nursery for young fish. Over one-third of Southern California’s kelp forests are conserved in the Channel Islands.

There are also fourteen plant species on the Channel Islands that are listed as endangered or threatened, including Hoffmann’s rockcress (Arabis hoffmannii) and Island barberry (Berberis pinnata ssp. insularis). Most of these plants are endangered due to a small geographic range, as well as competition from invasive weeds, such as star thistle and sweet fennel.  This project focused specifically on planting native species that would provide habitat for seabirds. Invasive ice plant had previously dominated the slopes, as well as concentrated salts in the soils. Prior to our arrival, it had been physically removed, and site for plantings created by auger. Native plants had been grown to seedlings in a nearby greenhouse. Our responsibility was to plant the seedlings and create berms to hold soil and water in place while the seedling grow to maturity. This was part of a larger randomized study to determine which native plant species would grow best on the Anacapa Island slopes, as well as habitat for seabirds.

In our off hours, we enjoyed a tour of a 1932 lighthouse, beautiful sunsets over Inspiration Point, and incredible camp cooking by Leland Fulton. We are so proud of these adventurous and hardworking students. Thank you, Han Sung ’20 for the great pics.