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Santa Barbara Botanic Garden seeks 100 volunteers for ecosystem recovery efforts from fires

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The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is looking for 100 local volunteers to serve as Community Scientists for the ecosystem recovery efforts at the Thomas and Whittier Fires’ burn scars.

The “Mapping, Assessment and Planning for Recovery and Resiliency in Fire-Damaged Watersheds in the Thomas Fire and Whittier Fire Recovery Zones” project put together by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Conservation Biology Institute will help experts determine the baseline for vegetation recovery in the Thomas and Whittier burn scars.

This is where the Community Scientists come in.

The Botanic Garden said these Community Scientists would inventory and map invasive species and habitat conditions throughout the Los Padres National Forest.

The scientists would use a special app to log photos and data while hiking the national forest's trails unguided. This information will be used to help land managers form recovery and restoration plans for the burn scars.

California wildfires are becoming bigger more common. Santa Barbara and Ventura counties have been hit hard by three of the state’s 15 largest recorded fires in the last 20 years. One of these was the Thomas Fire, the largest fire on local record and second largest in California history.

“While natural recovery of landscapes that have experienced fire will occur over time in most places, intervening to accelerate this process in select areas can reduce downstream sediment and nutrient loading, accelerate wildlife habitat recovery, and avoid impacts from invasive plant species,” said Dr. Denise Knapp, Director of Conservation of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

Such intervention, however, requires specific knowledge about what is still missing from the ground conditions. The researchers will gather some of this information from the data collected by the Community Science volunteers.

“We’re hoping to produce a repeatable, scalable methodology for assessing fire-damaged watersheds which can be used to systematically prioritize management actions,” said Steve Windhager, Executive Director for the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

The “Mapping, Assessment and Planning for Recovery and Resiliency in Fire-Damaged Watersheds in the Thomas Fire and Whittier Fire Recovery Zones” project is funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Prop 1).

If you are interested in volunteering as a Community Scientist and hike the Los Padres National Forest trails for research, you can sign up on the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden's fire recovery page here.

The Garden said that two brief trainings will be held to train Community Scientists before they hit the trails.

The trainings will be held on:

  • February 15 and 22 in Santa Barbara.
  • February 16 and 23 in Oxnard.
  • To Be Determined in Ojai

You can register for these trainings on the website above.

Fire / Santa Barbara- S County

Jessica Brest

Jessica Brest is a digital journalist and assignment editor at KEYT | KCOY | KKFX.