The Big Sur Wildlands Project: Preserving California Environments

 Meeting Location     Santa Cruz, CA
 Program Dates         Summer 2018: July 29 - August 12, 2018
 Accommodations    Primarily camping
 Language    English instruction
 Courses    ESCI 437A
 Credits    5 quarter credits or 3.35 semester credits
 Prerequisites    One college level course of ecology or similar
   18 years of age 


   Big Sur Program Costs, Summer 2018
   $  150      Application Fee
   $2100      Program Fee
   $  750      Estimated In-Country Group Fee
   $  400      Estimated Airfare/Visa
   $  200      Estimated Food Money/Personal Spending
   $3600     Total Estimated Cost

  Summer 2018: Program fees due by May 1, 2018




Team members will take part in exciting, on-site ecological investigations of the forested canyons, wilderness back country, and rugged coastal environments that form California’s famed Big Sur wildlands. Our summer field studies will take us across a rich spectrum of dramatic habitats found in Big Sur’s Landels–Hill Big Creek Reserve; 4,000 acres of largely undisturbed wilderness that is home to diverse flora and fauna, ranging from kelp forests and sea otter habitat to high country grasslands hosting birds of prey.

In this living laboratory we will participate in key ecological studies investigating wildlife behavior, pristine streams, and the status of marine mammal populations by conducting hands-on field research techniques, including flora and fauna inventories, behavior monitoring, and habitat sampling. Our field studies will aim at bridging information gaps and furthering Big Sur’s long term ecological sustainability.


With its pristine marine ecosystem, clear streams, wild canyons, and relative absence of human impacts, the Big Creek Reserve remains an area of rare, unspoiled grandeur in an otherwise rapidly developing California coastline. In Big Creek’s tapestry of environments, researchers are beginning to search for answers to key ecological questions. How do animal and plant communities in pristine wildlands develop and change over time? How do protected Big Sur populations compare to those found outside reserve boundaries? How can long term field research help us better manage Big Sur’s irreplaceable natural resources?

Big-Sur-trout-count-presentationThrough participation in hands-on research projects we will learn important sampling protocol and be part of exciting new efforts to address these pressing environmental questions. Field study projects will be selected from research priorities that may include firsthand assessments of sea otter and seal population distributions, ecological mapping and surveys of key stream and intertidal habitats, and on-site studies of Big Creek’s biologically diverse animal and plant communities. These important projects provide unique opportunities to gain an enriched understanding of Big Sur ecology, provide hands on experience in conducting ecological research, and better manage Big Sur’s natural resources into the future.


M.S. in Marine Science, SF State University – Moss Landing, 1991;
M.A. in Science Education, UC Santa Cruz, 2003

Nicole is a senior conservation scientist with the Oceanic Society and a faculty member in the Biology Department at Cabrillo College. Her research interests lie in coral reef ecology, marine conservation and science education. Nicole also works with local communities in the Pacific and Caribbean to develop collaborative reef management plans, including marine protected areas. She teaches university courses in plant biology, marine biology, ecology, and environmental science. She has taught our Big Sur Project since 1997.