Mentor and lab: Gage Dayton with The UCSC Natural Reserves, Santa Cruz Mountains Reserve

The Santa Cruz Mountains Reserve (SCMR) is a new collaboration between UC Santa Cruz’s Natural Reserve System and regional partners in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Much of the land SCMR operates on has been severely burned in during the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire. Now, around 3 years after the fire, many questions remain about the lasting impacts of large-scale megafires on the health and regeneration of our forests and waterways. In 2023, large scale fuel treatments as well as forest and stream restoration projects are planned to take place in order to reduce future wildfire severity and restore the functionality of impacted ecosystems. These regional management efforts provide an opportunity to monitor and assess the effectiveness and subsequent impacts that future forest and fire management may have on the floral and faunal communities within the Santa Cruz Mountains, and potentially other similar forested regions.

This summer, SCMR will sponsor a CAMINO intern to help answer some of the questions land managers have about the impacts and effectiveness of their forest fuel and restoration practices on upland and downstream habitats within the region. This opportunity will focus on monitoring both instream biodiversity and functionality of watersheds impacted by the CZU fire, as well as upland forest health and regeneration following large scale treatments of forest fuels. Work will require monitoring and sampling of fire impacted streams for aquatic invertebrates, abiotic habitat features, and associated upland plant communities. A majority of the work will take place within remote locations in Santa Cruz Mountains, at partnering lands around 25 to 30 minutes northwest of UCSC’s campus. Previous field experience is not required; however, students applying should be confident in their ability to work in a group or independently in rough terrain and conditions, as well as be prepared to communicate their findings to professionals, land owners, and collaborators interested in their work. This project will be the first year of establishing a long-term monitoring project on our forest’s streams and regeneration following wildfire management, in order to establish a baseline for future CAMINO internship opportunities.