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UC Santa Barbara Burns a Piece of Lagoon Island to Clear Area for Wildflowers

A piece of the UC Santa Barbara Lagoon Island has gone down in flames to clear an area that will pop up with wildflowers in the Spring.

Smoke and flames could be seen both on and off the campus from the mid day fire conducted with the oversight of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The UCSB Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration has been working with fire in this area since 2007. The flames wipe out all the bad grasses, weeds, and invasive species along with their seeds.

The area has become a living lab according to Lisa Stratton the Director of Ecosystem Management (CCBER) “It really gives people hands on experience,” she said. It also provides “tons of research projects students can participate in.”

Scott Tomkinson is the Lagoon Steward. He says in the past burns, “we went from 100 percent non native cover to 100 percent native. That was pretty successful.”
To make sure the fires burn as hot as possible, the research staff collects dry brush from sites near the campus for weeks, and piles it on the lagoon site. The hotter the burn the most successful the project will be. That’s because none of the past invasive grasses or seeds either in the soil or the ground “duff” (old twigs and leaves ) will remain.

Ahead Tomkinson, a former student, plans to bring in the native look at the current site too. “I’ve got about 15 million seeds. If we get some rain it will be a good wild flower show.”

The recent burns have been a half to a third of an acre of land. Under the right conditions the fires can be finished in one day and monitored until the site goes cold.

The area is open to the public and is often used for hiking and running by students and staff. It has connecting trails between Campus Point and the campus housing next to Isla Visa.

For more information on the department and its work go to

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