2019 Director's Report - CCBER Continues to Grow!

The Vernon and Mary Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) fulfills the UC Santa Barbara mission of research, education, and public service through stewardship and restoration of campus lands, preservation and management of natural history collections, and through learning experiences and programs that offer unique opportunities for students of all ages. CCBER had another landmark year advancing research mentorship, education and biodiversity conservation. Here are just a few highlights.

The North Campus Open Space project continues to transform our community. This project restores 125 acres of diverse wetland and upland habitat including salt marsh, coastal sage scrub, vernal pools and grassland, doubling the capacity of Devereux Slough. The scale of this restoration project is immense, with our staff collecting 500 gallons of seeds from 125 native species, and more than 250,000 plants were planted in the project. NCOS employs more than 60 UCSB students, who receive hands on job training experience in restoration and ecosystem services. More than 15 local, state and federal agencies and organizations have supported this project. This has truly been a campus wide effort, with support and encouragement from the Office of the Chancellor and throughout UCSB. CCBER continues to play a principal role in the planning and fundraising preparation for the NCOS project, in collaboration with many campus partners, including the financial administrators at the Earth Research Institute and the North Campus Open Space Science Advisory Committee, which is composed of faculty from ERI, EEMB, Earth Science and the Bren School; Facilities Management Design and Construction Services, and the Offices of Research, and Budget and Planning.

The Cheadle Center’s Director of Ecosystem Management, Dr. Lisa Stratton, has raised over a million dollars for the North Campus Open Space endowment, with 5 of the 12 naming opportunities taken. The endowment ensures that NCOS will remain a resource for education and research at UC Santa Barbara, and be a flagship of ecological restoration in California. A great way to keep in touch with the progress, become involved, and learn about all of our partners is though the newsletter, NCOS News.

The Kids in Nature program served over 850 area school children this year thanks to the continued support of the Office of Research, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, Executive Vice Chancellor’s office, the Mosher Foundation, Office of Academic Preparation (Faculty Outreach Grants), Department of Environmental Studies and the Coastal Fund. The CCBER Kids in Nature (KIN) program promotes the aspirations and achievements of young students in local underserved schools by providing quality environmental science education. KIN staff and UCSB students work closely with children and their teachers to provide an in-depth educational experience. The UCSB students assisting with KIN are enrolled in an undergraduate course offered through the Environmental Studies department.

CCBER completed the second year of a new workshop series designed to provide hands-on experience with the taxonomy and identification of California's unique biota. Previous workshops have focused on the ecology of soil biocrust, identification and ecology of native bees, and marine algae from the Santa Barbara coastal area. This year we added workshops in grasses, data programming, additional seaweeds, and manzanitas. The workshops are designed to provide personalized instruction and intensive training for a variety of interested people, ranging from beginning naturalists to professional biologists and consultants. Workshops are opened to the public. Join our email list at (https://www.ccber.ucsb.edu) if you are interested in learning more.

One of our central roles on campus is to provide curation and research support through the UCSB Natural History Collections. Collections are libraries of preserved organisms and information about the creatures and their lives. Our collections contain many legacy artifacts from UCSB history, including plants collected by Dr. Vernon Cheadle, Chancellor of UC Santa Barbara between 1962 – 1977. Our oldest specimens are both algae and insects and they date back to the late 1800s. We continue to grow as leaders in collection-based research nationally and internationally, while providing expertise and opportunities for UCSB students and faculty. The collections continue to expand as research through staff whose interests are in botanical sciences and entomology, and our valuable Associates and Curators. (https://www.ccber.ucsb.edu/people). Since 2016, 54 peer reviewed publications were either authored by CCBER collection staff or cited specimens from our collection (digital or actual), and between 2018-2019 we exchanged 10,375 actual specimens with institutions across the United States. These are clear indication of use and value of our collections and we are excited for the increased visibility.

Dr. Susan Mazer (Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology) and Dr. Katja Seltmann (CCBER) at UCSB received National Science Foundation funding to digitize UCSB’s preserved plant collection, providing detailed images of flowering plants and the timing of their flowering – all to be publicly available for climate change research.  This resource is part of a California-wide collaboration to provide on-line images and ecological data representing >900,000 wild plants collected since the 19th century, enabling unprecedented research to detect the effects of climate change on flowering time in the wild.  The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.8 million for this project, called Capturing California’s Flowers, in which 22 California herbaria are participating.

The project will produce nearly 1 million digital images of the plant specimens preserved in herbaria, which are carefully curated collections of irreplaceable plant specimens housed at universities and public museums.  Each image is associated with a record of when and where the plant specimen was collected, all of which enable researchers to detect not only how current climatic conditions influence the seasonal timing of flowering, but also how flowering time has changed over the past two centuries.  One of the project’s most important goals is to facilitate novel research to forecast plant responses to upcoming climate change. In addition, project collaborators are designing new software that will facilitate research with these specimens by investigators anywhere in the world, and are educating and guiding undergraduates and on-line volunteers to participate in their own research projects.

A Director’s Council was established in 2014 with the goal of supporting, promoting, and guiding CCBER, and to serve as connection between the CCBER and the community at large. The Council continues to meet on a regular basis. Many members of the Director’s Council have made generous gifts to CCBER’s operations including the support for the Shirley Tucker Curator of Biodiversity Collections and Botanical Research position, workshops, Kids in Nature, North Campus Open Space bridges, visitor plaza and overlooks, and our endowment campaigns. We added several new members to the Council this year and we are grateful to continue to grow. Many thanks to Ed and Sue Birch, Bill and Mary Cheadle, Joseph Cheadle, James Markham, Suzanne and Duncan Mellichamp, Greg and Dale Stamos, Larry Friesen, Jennifer Thorsch and Shirly Tucker. With fond memories, CCBER greatly appreciates founding Director's Council member Carl Lindros (1935-2019).

We are thankful for the benefit of collaborative efforts through the North Campus Open Space Scientific Advisory Committee, the Director’s Council, CCBER Advisory Committee, Earth Research Institute and our natural history collection Curators and CCBER Research Affiliates.  Both the Executive Vice Chancellor’s office and Office of Research have generously supported CCBER programs.  Over the course of the next year, we look forward to continuing these great programs, to fostering unique research experiences for students, and to continuing our stewardship of campus lands.