February is here – the month often recognized by the celebration of love on Valentine’s Day. This inspired us to feature some of the latest “love” stories unfolding at NCOS in this month’s newsletter. While it may be the time of year that the birds, bees and other wildlife are thinking about finding and impressing mates, the focus of this story is another type of love: the joy, excitement and appreciation of the restored open space that people of all ages are experiencing at the site. Retirees taking midday strolls and watching birds, UCSB students and other volunteers spending their Saturday mornings planting, and preschoolers exploring and learning about nature are a few examples of how NCOS is being loved by the local community.
Community members walk the mash trail and enjoy birding opportunities at NCOS.
Recently, CCBER has been fortunate to chat with some of the users of the site and hear their perspectives on the restoration project. We’ve received many expressions of love and appreciation, as well as some constructive and important feedback that we’re really taking to heart. There was overwhelming support for the project, and many expressed gratitude for the daily weeding and planting conducted by restoration staff, students and volunteers. Many visitors are amazed at the amount of water that is now present on site, and the myriad of new habitats has been an obvious sign of progress. Birding opportunities have also been a subject of much acclaim, with large and recognizable herons and egrets receiving great attention, as well as the secretive and intriguing Burrowing Owl. Overall, the presence of a natural area that is protected from development has been a welcome change for many in the community.
Every second Saturday of the month, community members and UCSB students volunteer their time and energy to help plant NCOS with native species.
Another way in which people are actively showing their love for the open space is during our second Saturday volunteer days, where community members and UCSB students spend the morning planting native species. These groups always bring with them a vigorous level of energy and refreshing curiosity, usually far exceeding our expectations for the day. Recently, they have been making impressive progress planting native Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) along the edges of the Marsh Trail. If you’re interested in showing some love for NCOS by volunteering, our next planting day is scheduled for Saturday February 9th.
In addition to the recreation and volunteer opportunities, people are gaining affection for NCOS through experience and training in research. For her 8th grade school science project, Margherita has taken on a topic that involves monitoring groundwater levels and salinity through a series of index wells around the site. She has been collecting data on a weekly basis since last summer and is exploring how the groundwater level and salinity change through the seasons. Margherita thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to conduct field research close to home and she plans to continue monitoring the wells in the future.
Local 8th grader, Margherita conducts regular monitoring of groundwater at NCOS as part of her school science project.
Starting this Winter, a new, exciting partnership has bloomed between CCBER and the Orfalea Family Children’s Center (OFCC), a nearby early childhood care center serving the university and local community. With support from the Coastal Fund, CCBER staff and interns have been leading OFCC classrooms on “nature adventures” at the North Campus Open Space, where students explore and learn about the Devereux Slough ecosystem in hopes to foster an understanding and appreciation of the site. This past week, the Turquoise and Red Door classrooms trekked from their campus to the slough, marveling at brightly colored Bush Sunflowers and pleasant California Sagebrush aromas along the way.
Students from the Orfalea Family Children’s Center gather around CCBER intern Jackie Bushée as they prepare to plant an Alkali Heath.
Once there, excitement could hardly be contained as the group was allowed to venture to the water’s edge, tracking raccoons and shorebirds through the clay soils. After having a blast in the mud, the groups then investigated the native plants of the salt marsh community and helped to create habitat by planting a plant of their own. With our plants successfully in the ground and watered, we all celebrated with a song - “My Roots Go Down.” Hopefully, it wasn’t just the plants that put roots down that day at the slough, but each and every one of our young adventurers too.
CCBER staff member Ian Jackson shows OFCC students how to find Pickleweed seeds in the lower salt marsh.
The success of the North Campus Open Space restoration depends on many factors, especially the support, care, and respect of its visitors and community members. Thank you to everyone for showing your love and helping us grow and take care of this special place. Much love to you.