Environmental Science Senior Practicum students present outcomes of their research projects
Results of the the senior capstone project of the Environmental Science major.
The Environmental Science Practicum is a capstone experience in which seniors in the Environmental Science B.S. degree program work together in small teams, under supervision of an instructor, on an environmental problem representing a real life, multi-disciplinary, forward looking issue. Students perform original data collection and analysis, and the projects are defined and conducted in collaboration with an off-campus client such as a public agency, business or non-governmental organization. Along with the research experience, students gain valuable professional development training and the knowledge that they are helping to create a more sustainable future for Southern California.
- Lifecycle Analysis Comparison of a Battery Electric Vehicle and a Conventional Gasoline Vehicle.
- Do Socioeconomic Factors Affect the Volume and Composition of Catch Basin Debris?
- Eco-Certification Programs for Hotels in California: Determining Consumer Preferences for Green Hotels.
- Fecal indicator bacteria concentrations after rainfall events: Evaluating the 72-hour rain advisory period.
- Beyond The Kelp: Examining Fish Diversity and Economic Value of a Southern California Artificial Reef Mitigation Project.
- Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments for Terrestrial and Freshwater Vertebrates in the Mediterranean Coast Network of National Parks.
- Potential Extent of Vineyard Development in the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area.
- Vegetation Change in Rancho Sierra Vista, Santa Monica Mountains.
- Evaluating the Use of Plastic Shelters and Steel Cages To Improve Coast Live Oak Growth and Survival in Topanga Canyon and White Oak Farm of Malibu Creek.
- Large Mammal Movement in the Eastern Santa Monica Mountains.
- Vineyards in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
- Wildlife Use of the Los Piñetos Underpass, Santa Clarita, California
- Retrofitting Commercial Real Estate: Current Trends and Challenges in Increasing Building Energy Efficiency
- To Certify or Not to Certify: A Dive into the Tannic Underbelly of the Organic Wine Industry
- Addition of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi to Seeds at Alta Vicente in Palos Verdes Peninsula
- Southern California surf zone water quality: Fecal indicator bacteria and harmful algal bloom cells at the Santa Monica Pier and Malibu Surfrider Beach
- Effect of Urban Runoff on Water Quality Indicators in Ballona Creek, CA
- Measuring Carbon Efficiency
- The Impact of External Variables on Management Practices in Protected Areas: An Analysis
- Current and Historical Distribution of Vegetation Communities at Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
- Crow Density and Anthropogenic Subsidies Near the Venice, California Least Tern Colony
- Measuring the Ecological Status of Restoration Treatments of Coastal Sage Scrub (Cheeseboro Canyon) Using Biotic Proxies
- Edaphic Properties of Stable, Shrinking and Expanding Coastal Sage Scrub Boundaries (1990-2009) in Cheeseboro Canyon, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
- Examining Marine Debris Along Los Angeles County Beaches: A qualitative and quanitative analysis
- Marine Debris in Topanga Canyon
- Residential Use of Chemical Rodent Control from Bel-Air To the Hollywood Hills
- Rodent Control Methods and their Implications for Urban Carnivores in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles County, California, USA
- Evaluating the Characteristics of Dissolved Organic Matter and its Interactions with Hydrophobic Organic Contaminants in Natural and Treated Waters
- Quantifying the Effects of the Mountain Pine Beetle on Melt Morphology and Timing in the Colorado River Basin, USA
- The Role of Zooplankton Grazers in Harmful Algal Blooms in the Santa Monica Bay, CA
- Growth of a rhizophytic and a non-rhizophytic Halimeda species in response to water column and sediment enrichment
- Contribution of Diatoms to Carbon Export in Coastal Oceans
- Corporate Climate Stewardship – does it pay to think green? A pre- and post- Copenhagen analysis
- Decreased Water and Increased Yields in the Westlands Water District
- Habitat Edges in the Baldwin Hills: Effects on Bird Distribution and California Coastal Sage Scrub
- Sustainable Practices in the California Wine Industry: Analyzing the Motivations of Winemakers and Grape Growers
- Source and Dispersion of Odors in the Baldwin Hills and Its Effect on the Surrounding Communities
- Avian Diversity and Song Variation in Kibale National Park's Logged and Unlogged Compartments
- The Impact of Hydromulch on Native and Non-native Species in a Post-Fire Recovery Period within Los Angeles’ Griffith Park
- The Effects of Hydromulch and Fire Intensity on Post-Fire Chaparral: A Griffith Park Case Study
- Effects of Hydromulch on Post-Fire Seed Germination
- Fire-Induced Water-Repellent Soil Layers in Non-Hydromulched Areas of Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California
Robert Freidin, Diane Schreck, Brooke Scruggs, Elise Shulman, Alissa Swauger, Allison Tashnek
Advisors: Travis Longcore and Erin Boydston
Client: Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority
Corridors between fragmented habitats are critical to the maintenance of certain wildlife populations, especially those of larger, terrestrial mammalian carnivores. Commercial development is being considered in the small wedge of land between Sierra Highway and State Route (SR) 14. The Los Piñetos underpass is currently a corridor under SR 14 that provides a connection between Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) and City of Santa Clarita protected land and this site. Beyond this wedge is a habitat connection to the Los Padres National Forest, which makes the Los Piñetos underpass the most likely connection between two regionally significant blocks of protected habitat. To document wildlife use of this underpass, we installed ten remotely triggered cameras, in stages, over two months around this area. We installed seven cameras near and under the underpass, and three cameras as controls up to 1 km from the underpass, in protected lands. Following 429 trap-nights, our photographs showed use of the area by coyote (Canis latrans), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), bobcat (Lynx rufus), striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), Audubon’s cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii), California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), and American badger (Taxidea taxus). The cameras along the road also captured human and vehicle activity, which we found to statistically differ temporally from that of the wildlife. We also produced data on species accumulation over time, relative activity of coyotes, and directionality of underpass use. Geographically, we found that animals traveling southeast via the underpass are veering toward an area of proposed development, and that the corridor location suggested by project proponents may not be in the area where animals are traveling, although further research on the proposed development parcel is warranted.
Retrofitting Commercial Real Estate: Current Trends and Challenges in Increasing Building Energy Efficiency
Adam Benson, Edgar Vargas, James Bunts, Justin Ong, Kelsey Hammond, Lindsey Reeves, Mack Chaplin, and Peter Duan
Advisor: Paul Bunje
Client: CB Richard Ellis
The U.S. has invested billions of dollars to simultaneously improve its energy independence, create jobs, and reduce environmental impacts. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 alone, over 27 billion dollars were allocated to improving energy efficiency and renewable energy research and investment. While supply-side technologies receive the most press, energy consumption reducing technologies can also yield many of the same benefits. Currently, commercial real estate buildings constitute 18% of all U.S. energy consumption and have potential for significant reductions through cost-effective energy retrofits. Due to the complexities of the industry, however, these retrofits are not being installed. Our research is focused on identifying these complexities and establishing a better understanding of commercial building retrofits. Building owners and tenants have primarily stayed away from energy efficiency upgrades to their buildings because of perceived high upfront costs and uncertain returns. To analyze this line of thinking, we examine 129 commercial building retrofit reports to explore financial trends and returns. In addition, we surveyed organizations that perform energy efficiency retrofits to gain better perspective about the market and the drivers that relate to it. For conformity, our research focuses on insulation, lighting, HVAC, and solar retrofit projects. Our findings help build a foundation for understanding the current state of commercial building retrofits. The retrofit report data suggests that lighting is the least expensive retrofit while HVAC is the most expensive to install per square foot. Despite this, our surveys indicate that most organizations are primarily interested in HVAC commercial building upgrades. Both the retrofit report analysis and survey results suggest that decision makers expect a payback period between three and five years.
Hayley Moller, Geoff Wright, Danny Suits, Jon Gim, John Lee, and David Wolk
Advisor: Magali Delmas
Client: California Certified Organic Farmers
The present study aims to evaluate the quantitative quality of organic or biodynamic (eco-certified) as compared to traditional wines in California, in order to provide information to consumers, growers, and certifying bodies in the state’s wine industry. Data collection from three wine rating websites resulted in the creation of a comprehensive database of almost 70,000 wines, with details for each bottle relating to the age, type, and location of the wine. Our results show that overall the adoption of certification does not have a negative impact on wine quality as measured by wine ratings for specific groups of wines. The adoption has a positive effect of rating for wines under $40, wines from the Napa region, and wines under $40 from the Napa region. These findings hold implications for addressing the consumer information asymmetry, growers’ decisions to certify, and the marketing claims of the certifying bodies themselves.
E Ahn, J Chiang, C Chui, M Varner, S Vaughn, and S Wittenberg
Advisor: Travis Brooks
Client: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy
Coastal sage scrub (CSS) is a habitat characterized by drought-resistant shrubs found in Mediterranean-type coastal climates such as Southern California. Many of these habitats are threatened due to increased urban development, historic grazing and extensive farming, and thus the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (PVPLC) has begun to make efforts to repopulate the native species communities. Studies have shown that Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) displays positive effect to native species by extending the root surface, hence increasing the uptake of limiting resources, especially phosphorus and water. This prediction was tested by an experimental addition of AMF to the seed mix of a CSS restoration site located in Alta Vicente, Palos Verdes Peninsula. Limited field germination of the native seed mix occurred in the first spring, following a winter of above average rainfall and events of lower than average temperatures. Subsequent growing seasons may result in higher native germination, at which time the effect of AMF addition can be re-assessed. The application of AMF did not have an effect on non-native plants, except for sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), a non-native annual herb. Sow thistle abundance and cover were lower (p<0.05, n=20) with the addition of AMF.
Southern California surf zone water quality: Fecal indicator bacteria and harmful algal bloom cells at the Santa Monica Pier and Malibu Surfrider Beach
Tristan J. Acob, Taylor Cochran, Soo Yeun Park, Samuele L. Schoenberg, Samantha Tang, and Shannon Walker
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Shipe
Client: Heal The Bay
Surf zone water quality is directly related to human health and that of the coastal ecosystem. Fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and harmful algal bloom (HAB) cells are microbiological indicators of water quality that periodically occur in the surf zone of southern California waters. Negative impacts of high FIB and HAB concentrations include contaminated waters and marine life, ecosystem disruptions, beach closures, and human illnesses. Previous research has addressed parameters that increase FIB and HAB concentrations independently, yet none have examined if FIB and HAB are directly related. Our main study objective asks if a correlation exists between FIB and HAB, and how ecological/environmental conditions (onshore vs. offshore, salinity, total suspended solids, temperature, and precipitation) may affect their growth. We collected water Monday through Thursday from Santa Monica Pier (SM) and Tuesday and Thursday at Malibu Surfrider Beach (MS) onshore and 100m offshore for 7 weeks. FIB concentrations were higher at MS onshore, whereas there was no onshore vs. offshore difference at SM. HAB abundances were higher offshore than onshore at both MS and SM. Onshore salinity and total suspended solids concentrations were lower at MS than at SM. Moreover, there was no significant relationship between FIB and HAB concentrations. Variability in FIB and HAB concentrations may best be explained by site differences and precipitous weather events.
Uma Bhandaram, Andrew Guerra, Brooke Robertson, Heather Slattery, Kailey Tran
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Shipe
Client: Heal The Bay
Urban runoff has the potential to dramatically affect water quality in high-density coastal urban regions. In this study, we define water quality as a function of trash, fecal indicator bacteria (FIB), and harmful algal bloom (HAB) concentrations. Thus far, no studies have investigated the effects of runoff on all three of these water quality indicators. This study fills that gap by comparing water quality in dry and wet weather at the mouth of Ballona Creek in Marina Del Rey, California. Additionally, we examine the mechanism through which urban runoff affects water quality by measurements of total suspended solids (TSS), nitrate concentrations, salinity, and temperature. All samples and measurements were gathered at three sites at the creek-ocean interface twice weekly from February to April 2011. We observed a significant correlation between FIB and wet weather (r = 0.88), HAB and wet weather (r = 0.89) but not between trash and precipitation. TSS, salinity, and nitrate concentrations were related to abundances of FIB and HAB; nitrate from runoff or upwelling seem to support HAB whereas TSS and FIB likely enter coastal waters in runoff. Our study shows that rainfall has a negative effect on the health of Ballona Creek waters, where FIB will accumulate and persist within the creek for days after a rain event. There is not a consistent spatial pattern in all variables amongst the three sites; the furthest upstream site was more influenced by runoff whereas the further downstream sites were influenced by upwelled waters. Understanding the factors that affect coastal water quality are crucial as this has economic, ecological, and health implications for other similar geographic areas.
Thomas Britt, Mitchell Howard, Andrew Hwang, Yohsuke Kobayashi, Jennifer Lu, Carly Lyons, Akhtar Masood, and Jae Suh
Advisor: Chien-Ming Chen
Client: Climate Earth
There is currently no standardized system of comparing production companies on their business and environmental practices. In an effort to fill this gap, this research project creates a standard called the eco-efficiency frontier on which to compare company’s progress towards creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste – in other words, being eco-efficient. We examine ten food manufacturing companies over the time span of three years to gauge their level of efficiency in comparison to each other. We then examine other financial information from all the companies to draw potential relationships between company operation processes and eco-efficiency scores. Our project yields interesting results and suggests that beverage companies may be more eco-efficient than other types of food manufacturing companies. Our eco-efficiency model has the potential to be applied to many different industries using different financial variables and can bring to light many interesting relationships and information that can be used to help all companies reach eco-efficiency.
Naomi Elliott, Anni Gill, Amanda Grossi, Daniel Hogan, Ben Kertman, David Molmen, Shannon Skelton, and Charlotte Stanley
Advisor: Kristen Cruise
Client: Conservation International
Our research focuses on the important question, how do cultural, economic and environmental factors influence conservation efforts? The threats to our ecosystems has lead to large amounts of biodiversity loss, exemplifying the importance of effective management plans to restore biological systems. Conservation International (CI) provided our group with data sets regarding management attributes and protected area site descriptions. Our research team compiled a list of 12 quantitative external factors that might describe relationships with the scores of our management attributes. Our data team used statistical analysis (two-tailed t-test) to compare the trends of the scores for each management attribute with quantitative external factor trends. Our goal was to provide CI with the management attributes and types of protected areas they should prioritize in order to make the most informed investment. Conservation sites that lay within areas that propagate the most influential external factors (Number of Endemic Species, GNI, and Percentage Urbanized) should be of upmost focus. Furthermore, the management attributes related to plans, land and boundary issues, and biodiversity targets, should receive increased attention as they are highly related to the external factors. There are also trends that suggest that funds may not be currently distributed in a manner consistent with CI?s stated strategies.
Current and Historical Distribution of Vegetation Communities at Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Ross Bernet, Morgan Fahlman, Kevin Kawakami, Charles Le, Jessica Savio, and Karly Wagner
Advisor: Travis Brooks
Client: National Parks Service
Vegetation boundaries change naturally over time, but native vegetation communities are especially at risk following the introduction of exotic species and changes in land use patterns from human urbanization. This study is aimed at understanding the historical trends in the distribution of native and non-native vegetation communities in the Santa Monica Mountains, including Coastal Sage Scrub (CSS), native perennial grassland, non-native annual grassland, oak woodland and riparian, within the protected area of Paramount Ranch. By using two approaches – historical photo analysis and vegetation mapping – we assessed which communities have undergone an increase, decrease, or remained stable in their area coverage through the past few decades. We observed that the vegetation has largely remained stable overall, with the exception of a few areas. Additionally, the study added detail to previous vegetation map efforts by providing further classification of the grassland areas into native and non-native communities.
Online only material: http://jsavio.bol.ucla.edu/NPS/obliques/slider.php
Margarita Armendariz, Allison Davison, Alessandro Maganuco, and Aaron Whitby
Advisor: Travis Longcore
Client: Los Angeles Audubon
Crow predation on California Least Tern colonies is a well-documented activity and decreases tern breeding success. In an effort to learn more about these generalist predators and their increases in urban environments, we investigated their spatial distribution around the Least Tern colony in Venice, California. In order to accomplish this we surveyed crows and food subsidies within a semicircle area of 5.52 square kilometers around the colony in the 2 months leading up to the 2011 tern nesting season. We mapped these location data with ArcGIS and used land use data to determine correlations between food subsidies and crow density. An increase in food subsidies, especially around developed parks, correlated with an increase in crow sightings. We also observed more crows on weekends than weekdays. The data conclusively showed that crows are found within all land use types; because of this, landscape management will likely not have a significant impact on deterring crow distribution from the Venice Least Tern Colony. While this research is novel in that it is the first crow survey done around this colony, further research is needed to determine seasonal variation and larger scale patterns in crow density before any conclusive recommendations can be made to enhance Tern nest viability.
Measuring the Ecological Status of Restoration Treatments of Coastal Sage Scrub (Cheeseboro Canyon) Using Biotic Proxies
Victoria Crandall, Karan Gupta, Kevin Huang, Angeline Kong, Allen Lee, Stephanie Macias, Phillip C. Wong.
Advisor: Dr. Travis Longcore
Client: National Park Service
Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been disturbed, degraded, or biologically invaded. The ultimate goal is to reestablish a community that will foster both short-term resistance and long-term resilience to future threats. Several papers have suggested ways of measuring ecosystem health but the primary consensus has involved a multi-dimensional approach. This study aims at applying a similar multi-dimensional approach to experimentally restored coastal sage scrub plots located in Cheeseboro Canyon, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. We examined biological proxies, including vegetation diversity, arthropod diversity, and seed bank diversity, to compare to reference coastal sage scrub habitat. In congruence with past studies, our findings suggest that the restored habitats have higher vegetation diversity and seed bank diversity when compared to adjacent disturbed native annual grassland and similar, but lower diversity compared with reference coastal sage scrub habitat. Responding to this difference in vegetation diversity and structure, arthropod diversity is lower in restored plots compared to reference plots, and is represented by a greater abundance of scavengers and a lower abundance of herbivores.
Edaphic Properties of Stable, Shrinking and Expanding Coastal Sage Scrub Boundaries (1990-2009) in Cheeseboro Canyon, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Monica Pacheco, Erin Mulberg, Suza Khy, Maggie Olsen, Andrew J. Price, Prodipto Roy, Eduardo Jimenez
Advisor: R. Travis Brooks
Clients: National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
The coastal sage scrub (CSS) vegetation of southern California is an ecologically important habitat that is threatened due to losses from urban development and type-conversion in adjacent wilderness by historic land use practices and decreased fire return intervals. Many areasthat have been historically grazed and subject to frequent burning have been replaced by a dominant non-native annual grass cover (NAG). Together CSS and NAG occur in vegetation mosaics in the landscape, including in Cheeeseboro Canyon, part of the Santa Monica National Recreation Area managed by the National Park Service. Although fire history has been documented to be an important consumer pressure on CSS communities, a prior photointerpretation study in Cheeseboro Canyon found that from the early 1920s to 2003, parameters of fire history did not directly correlate with the gain or loss of CSS cover (Eckhardt 2006). CSS-NAG boundaries may be responding to other environmental factors, including edaphic factors related to soil moisture availability. It is known CSS and NAG have differing soil hydrologic patterns, NAG being dryer that CSS due to plant water utilization (Davis 1985). Therefore, we posited that edaphic boundary conditions between CSS and NAG may be correlated with the relative stability of CSS-NAG boundaries. Over a 19-year period (1990-2009) we did not find that the relative stability of individual CSS boundaries (stable, expanding or shrinking) correlated with parameters of fire history; however, we found from a stratified random sample of the edaphic properties across these boundaries that soil texture was almost always different between the CSS and NAG sites. For differences between boundary stability types, we only found a significant difference between CSS and NAG across expanding boundaries at a depth of 0-20 cm (p<0.001). We interpret this finding to indicate that while soil texture alone may not consistently explain the trajectory of expanding or shrinking boundaries, the observation that soil texture was different across these vegetation boundaries suggests that it may be interacting with another unmeasured environmental factor, which is ecologically important in determining whether a particular site would promote or suppress CSS colonization. Future research and restoration projects should consider edaphic factors in attempting to understand the long-term stability of CSS communities in the landscape.
Examining Marine Debris Along Los Angeles County Beaches: A qualitative and quanitative analysis
Alisan Amrhein, Hui Yan Terri Chan, Jonathan Chang, Gabe Kiritz, Jaimie Lee, Karestine Nga, Sean O’Connor, Jaynel Santos
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Shipe
Client: Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board
This study evaluated qualitatively and quantitatively the patterns of marine debris distribution found on the following four L.A. County Beaches: Malibu-Surfrider Beach, Venice Beach, Dockweiler State Beach, and Redondo Beach. Evaluations were characterized according to beach topography, land use characteristics, type of debris, and original use of debris found at each focus area. Each study area represented a diverse set of features that we predicted might effect the amount and type of debris collected. The intent for choosing each study area lies in the set of features identified: gentle sloping foreshores, minimal vegetation, similar beach composition, recreational sites and diverse land usage in surrounding areas. Debris was collected, classified, and analyzed during the period between February 20, 2010 and April 11, 2010. Quadrants, 4x4m in size, were randomly sampled and the number of quadrants vary with beach size. All debris, over the size of 5mm, found in these quadrants were taken to the laboratory for further examination and classification. The highest debris load was noted on Dockweiler State Beach, and the amounts were generally correlated with precipitation. Plastics were found in abundance on all beaches, however, many pieces were degraded suggesting that they had originated in upstream waterways for a significant amount of time before accumulating onto the beaches. The original use of most debris items was associated with food and beverage. After careful analysis, proper correlations and recommendations were drafted to assist the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board in the creation and implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load Regulation (TMDL) for beaches in Southern California.
Marine Debris in Topanga Canyon
Nora Hakkakzadeh, Daniela Hamann-Nazaroff, Mohammed Raouf Iqbal, Mike Kelly, Rita Wong, Miriam Urena, Hannah Wilchar, Jenny Kim
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Shipe
Client: Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board
Marine debris is a global problem that affects water quality, degrades beaches, and poses health problems to humans and aquatic organisms. The majority of marine debris is from land based sources due to human activities, such as littering and illegal dumping. Under the U.S. Clean Water Act, states must determine Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, to calculate the maximum amount of pollutants that impaired waters can assimilate in order to meet water quality standards. The Clean Water Act Section 303(d) List of Water Quality Limited Segments for California includes Topanga Beach and Topanga Canyon Creek, but there have been no TMDL determined for either location. This paper aims to fill in the gap of information about the state of marine debris accumulation in the Topanga Canyon watershed in order to aid the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) in establishing a TMDL for the area. Our research consisted of collecting, quantifying, and categorizing anthropogenic debris in the upper creek, middle creek, mouth, and beach of the Topanga Canyon watershed according to the standard Rapid Trash Assessment (RTA) guidelines, and analyzing the debris by amount, weight, and type. In general, the coastal zones had a greater abundance of small pieces of debris whereas the creek zones had larger debris at a lower abundance. Plastic was found to be a persistent problem in all four regions, and Styrofoam was especially prevalent in the mouth and beach zones. Our research guided us towards several suggestions for the LARWQCB on how the problem of marine debris in the Topanga Canyon watershed can be managed and mitigated.
Residential Use of Chemical Rodent Control from Bel-Air To the Hollywood Hills
Monica Bartos, Stephanie Falzone, Kaitlin Kelly-Reif, Cassandra Vasquez, Jennifer Ward
Advisor: Dr. Travis Longcore
Client: National Park Service
Exposure pathways of non-target species, specifically urban carnivores, to secondary anticoagulant rodenticides were identified in southern California between Bel-Air and the Hollywood hills. Habitat loss and fragmentation characterizes much of the landscape in our study site, causing carnivore home ranges to overlap with development bordering open spaces. Studies in this area have shown that urban carnivores are being exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides, and are reaching harmful biological endpoints including death and increased susceptibility to parasitic diseases. Little is known however about the pathways through which urban carnivores are coming into contact with these chemicals. To identify exposure pathways, we surveyed homeowners regarding their use of rodenticides if any, their knowledge about the effect of these chemicals on wildlife, and demographic information. We found that homeowners are applying second-generation compounds inside and outside their homes, as well as finding dead rodents inside and outside their homes. The Environmental Protection Agency has regulations that would ban the practices currently being used by homeowners in our study area. These new restrictions are not yet in effect, but when they are should substantially decrease the exposure of urban carnivores to anticoagulant rodenticides.
Rodent Control Methods and their Implications for Urban Carnivores in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Sylvie Dao, Dale Douk, Eric Gumerlock, Stephanie Hoekstra, David Mori, Chay Tang, Sarah Young
Advisor: Dr. Travis Longcore
Client: National Park Service
Non-target urban carnivore species are vulnerable to second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide exposure from neighboring, developed areas. To investigate the mechanisms of transmission from residential users to wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles County, California, we distributed surveys that assessed resident’s knowledge on the environmental effects of rodenticides and inquired about chemical application methods by homeowners and pest control operatives. We distributed over 1,200 fliers to households directing the respondent to a web-based survey and two homeowners associations emailed the same invitation to their members. We had 55 responses to the survey, 40 of which were in our specified study area. Results showed anticoaguant rodenticide chemicals being used outdoors, dead rodents being found outdoors, homeowners as the primary applicators, and gap in public awareness. Although the sample size was small, we were able to establish that improper rodenticide application does occur in neighborhoods that border habitats occupied by native carnivores, thereby illustrating the potential transmission pathway for rodenticides to these wildlife species.
Evaluating the Characteristics of Dissolved Organic Matter and its Interactions with Hydrophobic Organic Contaminants in Natural and Treated Waters
Advisor: Dr. I.H. (Mel) Suffet
Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is a complex mixture of compounds found ubiquitously in natural waters. Sources of DOM include degraded biological materials in soil that is carried to water, as well as agricultural and urban runoffs. Previous research has shown that DOM can associate with hydrophobic organic compounds (HOCs) to lower the hazards of HOCs in the environment. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a class of HOCs that can enter aquatic systems through industrial discharges and non-point source runoff. Due to its hydrophobicity, free PAHs can cross the non-polar gill membranes of fish and accumulate in the fatty tissues of aquatic organisms. However, when a free PAH binds to DOM, it forms a complex that is too large to be absorbed by aquatic organisms. This PAH-DOM interaction (PAHfree + DOM ↔ PAHbound-DOM) can be defined by a DOM-water partition coefficient, KDOM. The KDOM depends upon the nature of the DOM, as certain properties of DOM may favor PAH-DOM interaction. Using perylene as a non-toxic marker of HOC, this study will evaluate the composition, polarity, size, and other characteristics of DOM that may influence its association with HOCs in natural waters and during water treatment. By understanding the changes in DOM characteristics at different stages of water treatment, we can also provide information that is essential for optimizing the treatment process for the removal of DOM and hazardous, free PAHs.
Quantifying the Effects of the Mountain Pine Beetle on Melt Morphology and Timing in the Colorado River Basin, USA
Danielle O. Perrot
Noah P. Molotch, University of Colorado at Boulder: Geography | INSTAAR
Dr. Gregory S. Okin, University of California, Los Angeles: Geography
The mountain pine beetle epidemic in the Colorado River Basin has resulted in widespread tree mortality in lodgepole pine stands across the Colorado Plateau. Due to the complex interactions between vegetation and snow, it is likely that changing vegetation structure will impact water yield, as snow represents the dominant input of water into these semi-arid mountain ecosystems. We hypothesize that the affected stands will experience a change in sub-canopy hydrolometeorological fluxes and surface albedo, thus influencing snowmelt rates. The result of these impacts on the basin scale hydrology is largely unknown given the complexity of these micro-scale interactions. We developed a mechanistic approach to resolve the spatio-temporal evolution of snowmelt and snowpack characteristics at the micro-scale (i.e. < 10 cm) for stages of beetle-related tree mortality using distributed hydrologic instrument clusters, hyperspectral snowpack characterization techniques, a distributed snowpack model (SNTHERM), and hemispherical photography. Our modeling results exhibit melt rates 1.1 and 3.4 times that of rates in unaffected stands for affected stands in intermediate and advanced stages of mortality, respectively. With the aid of remotely sensed snow and vegetation information, these results will provide the basis for larger scale simulations of the hydrologic impacts of beetle infestation across the Colorado River Basin.
The Role of Zooplankton Grazers in Harmful Algal Blooms in the Santa Monica Bay, CA
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Shipe
Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) are a growing global and local problem; toxins as well as decay of high cell abundances can be deleterious to birds, mammals, and even humans. Zooplankton are consumers of phytoplankton; most have feeding preferences and thus may contribute to the preferential growth of certain taxa. In this study, we hypothesize that zooplankton will graze preferentially on non-toxic species, allowing toxic species to bloom. Weekly abundances of zooplankton were determined at the Santa Monica pier near the SCCOOS monitoring station using a vertical net tow through the first meter of sea water. During the period of sampling we observed two periods of zooplankton abundance, a bloom of non harmful diatoms, and a bloom of harmful dinoflagellates. During the study, it is likely that environmental factors, such as water temperature and salinity, exert a greater control on HAB taxa abundance than zooplankton. The complicated relationship between zooplankton and harmful algae are important to understand as we try to predict the timing and composition of HABs.
Growth of a rhizophytic and a non-rhizophytic Halimeda species in response to water column and sediment enrichment
Riley Clagett, Natalie Ma, & Casey Sheridan
Advisor: Dr. Peggy Fong
Anthropogenic nutrient input is an ever increasing problem in tropical coastal marine ecosystems. Long term nutrient enrichment of the water column leads to enrichment of benthic sediment, which could in turn affect the algal community. In our study we investigated the effect of water column nutrient enrichment and sediment nutrient enrichment on the rhizophytic algal species Halimeda incrassata and the non-rhizophytic species Halimeda opuntia. We initially proposed that sediment enrichment would lead to greater growth in H. incrassata than H. opuntia, while water column enrichment would lead to greater growth in H. opuntia than in H. incrassata. A field experiment was performed in Cook’s Bay in Moorea, French Polynesia, where both Halimeda species were exposed to no enrichment, sediment enrichment, water enrichment, or sediment and water enrichment and growth was measured by segments. A corresponding microcosm experiment with the same nutrient treatments was also done, but with each algal species either alone or with the other species to determine effect of competition on growth. We found that sediment had a negative effect on H. incrassata in both experiments, resulting in reduced growth compared to unenriched algae. In the field experiment, sediment enrichment had a positive effect on H. opuntia’s growth, but only when water enrichment was not present. In the lab experiment, however, sediment enrichment had a negative effect on H. opuntia’s growth. Overall, our results indicate that many of our sediment and sediment/water enriched samples may have become overloaded with nutrients, which resulted in death of the algae. This provides evidence that sediment of Cook’s Bay is already high in nutrients, and may be undergoing a community shift as a result continuous anthropogenic nutrient influx.
Contribution of Diatoms to Carbon Export in Coastal Oceans
Sarah E. A. Diringer
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Shipe
Single celled marine primary producers provide a sink for excess CO2 in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels and changes in land use. However, it is unclear how effectively they can sequester carbon to depth, especially in coastal regions. Diatom (class Bacilliariophyceae) blooms represent an increase in ocean surface biomass during upwelling and increased nutrient events, and are the dominant primary producers in coastal upwelling regions such as the western US coastline. However, the ability of diatoms to sequester carbon by settling out of the water column or by contributing to biomass in higher trophic levels is highly debated. Many suggest that bacterial decomposition of diatoms accounts for a large amount of carbon release before settling, significantly reducing carbon sequestration (Boyd et al. 2004). This study examines the portion of coastal biomass, as indicated by biogenic silica, which sinks below 250 meters, and evaluates three major hypotheses regarding export of organic material by diatoms to the deep ocean. Contribution of Diatoms to Carbon Export in Coastal Oceans.
Corporate Climate Stewardship – does it pay to think green? A pre- and post- Copenhagen analysis
Advisor: Prof. Matthew Kahn
Most profit-driven managers would like to believe that it is not their responsibility to be environmentally conscious. Yet several researches have documented that on several occasions, environmentally intelligent choices by management have helped firms secure market confidence in times of regulatory uncertainty. These ‘it pays to be green’ scenarios, though infrequent, require management to address public and scientific concern prior to it becoming a material issue. This forward-thinking judgment and initial action should be seen as an investment for the long-term well-being of the company rather than an untimely deadweight costs. Climate change and climate risks are an intimate threat to both the world and financial markets, and very shortly these risks will materialize to investors and in turn, management decisions around climate change will be tested. Using CDP data of firm’s carbon reporting, I tested the effect of the Copenhagen Conference on stock price. This research discovers that non-disclosing firms were significantly less favored than reporting firms during the period that China and India signed on to the accord.
Decreased Water and Increased Yields in the Westlands Water District
Advisor: Dr. S. Trimble
Less water availability to farmers has resulted in a pursuit for new irrigation technologies and water management. My senior capstone utilized remote sensing techniques to analyze spatial, spectral, and temporal domains of water reduction in the Westlands Water District, as well as examined a case study of one farmer’s success in sustaining agricultural production in spite of restricted water availability. This project compared crop yields of conservation irrigation to conventional farming to determine if a comparable or superior yield is possible with decreased water distribution through more sustainable management decisions. Results implied that an average of 25-50% less water was required by a center pivot machine using Low-Elevation Spray Application (LESA), and produced 122% more tomatoes compared to the California average for conventionally irrigated tomatoes. These field data collections were coupled with remote sensing technology to monitor the Westlands Water District during the periods of June, July, and August of 1999 through 2009 using Landsat 4-5 Thematic Mapper+ and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery. It was found that trends in fallowed land were found to be increasing, most likely in response to the trend of reduced water supply in the Westlands Water District. A definite increase in fallowed land and reduced “greenness” (cultivation) can be associated with concurrent policies to reduce water allocations. This capstone examined benefits and limitations of irrigation efficiency through sustainable irrigation strategies, as well as applied a remote sensing approach of observing water resource reductions in an agricultural region of California’s Central Valley.
Habitat Edges in the Baldwin Hills: Effects on Bird Distribution and California Coastal Sage Scrub
Anna Bugayong, Joshua Lazarus, Shahir Masri, Christine Nguyen, Lucas Salazar, and Adam Taheri.
Advisor: Dr. Travis Longcore
California Coastal sage scrub is a rare type of habitat which supports diverse plants and animals and, consequently, is of critical importance with regard to conservation. Our study looks at degraded coastal sage scrub habitat along native/non-native vegetation interfaces, or edges, in the Baldwin Hills; an area which has future plans for both habitat restoration as well as recreational development. By surveying birds abundance over a 2 week span, we were able to develop an understanding as to how the prevalence of native bird species varies between different types of habitat, including both degraded and non-degraded forms of coastal scrub, in the Baldwin Hills. In addition, our study seeks to determine how plant structure and composition changes with proximity to habitat edges. Using 49 marked points in a one-hectare grid, we calculated the height index of vegetation in order to understand the complexity of the habitat. Also, we analyzed 2 transects of vegetation; one at a degraded (or gradual) edge and one at an abrupt (or non-degraded) edge. The results of our overall study suggest that native birds prefer coastal sage scrub vegetation over non-native habitat in spite of the native habitat being somewhat degraded. In addition, the data shows that an exceptionally low number of birds can be utilize invasive tree species. Finally, our research reveals that the density of coastal sage scrub is independent of the type of edge bordering the native habitat; a finding which has significant implications as it relates to buffers zones as a method for preserving native habitat.
Sustainable Practices in the California Wine Industry: Analyzing the Motivations of Winemakers and Grape Growers
Yousef Anvery, Sachin Goel, Shilpa Hareesh, John Hogan, Antonio Menchaca, Roxana Ramirez
Advisor: Prof. Magali Delmas
This research project seeks to better understand the motivations and barriers for pursuing sustainable practices and certifications in the California wine industry. Despite the existence of many certification programs, the rate of adoption of these programs is low. We collected through an online survey that was distributed to nearly 2,000 contacts within the California wine industry. The survey was designed to explore correlations between business characteristics (size, diversity, ownership, etc.) and the ability to maintain sustainable certifications. The results of our survey showed that the top motivations for pursuing sustainable certifications included environmental sustainability, improvement of grape quality, future business viability, and soil quality. The top barriers to obtaining certifications included little financial benefit, unfamiliarity with sustainable practices, and limited market demand. The results showed that vineyard owners who intend to pass down their business to family members are more likely to adopt sustainable certification. Other hypotheses examined the correlation between certifications and a business size, age, location, and diversity of product offerings. A significant question was drawn from a common theme shared by many comments left at the end of the survey: What if certification is not the answer? A majority of respondents claimed to be Not certified, but use sustainable practices. With the lack of financial benefit, cost, and low consumer demand steering most wineries and vineyards away from certification, it appears that the marketplace is not favoring certified products and therefore not improving a business bottom line. Although certifying wine products is currently the best system in place for giving vineyards and wineries credit for their sustainable practices, it appears to be imperfect. We hope that our findings better inform and even inspire the wineries and vineyards that are considering, beginning, or expanding their implementation of sustainable practices.
Nuisance Odors in the Baldwin Hills
Geoffrey Clifford, Bryan Moy, Andrea Siu, Jennifer Webb and Victoria Zalameda
Advisor: Teaching Associate Travis Brooks with Dr. Travis Longcore and Prof. Magali Delmas
The Baldwin Hills, located in Los Angeles, California, represents a prime example of the intersection of conflicting land uses. Within close proximity to numerous businesses, highways, municipal buildings, and an oil field, the communities within and surrounding the Baldwin Hills are prone to a number of environmental hazards. Because of the large minority populations and low-income populations in these areas, there are also concerns about environmental justice, requiring attention to identify the hazards and to make efforts to mitigate them. Members of the community are concerned about the potential impact to their health from these hazards, including the impact of nuisance odors. However, in part due to the topography of the area, local wind patterns and the intermittent and unpredictable nature of the emission of nuisance odors, it has often been difficult to locate the source. In order to provide a better understanding of the prominence and frequency of nuisance odors in the community, this project will conduct surveys of residents and spokespersons from local sensitive receptors, review complaint records previously filed with the local air quality agency, and speak with leaders in the community that have expert or special knowledge about nuisance odor issues. We identified areas that have been historically impacted by nuisance odors in the past have been identified, and measured local wind patterns in these areas. We compared the relationship between areas impacted by nuisance odors and local wind patters will be compared in a geographic information system (GIS) to summarize the demographics of the impacted areas and identify potential upwind sources of the odors. Wind surveys showed light winds in the morning and greater windspeeds in the afternoon. The results can help describe the baseline conditions for nuisance odors in the Baldwin Hills and to identify specific areas that should be considered for long term air quality monitoring and to identify areas to focus efforts to mitigate future nuisance odor releases.
Avian Diversity and Song Variation in Kibale National Park's Logged and Unlogged Compartments
Advisor: Dr. Debra Shier
Species monitoring research has arisen to assess the dynamic changes in species abundance and diversity that have resulted from deforestation. Areas of Kibale National Park, Uganda underwent selective logging up until December, 1969, and have since been regenerating. This study coupled vegetation sampling with mist-netting and birdcall recordings in two forest habitats— selectively logged (secondary) and unlogged (primary)- to assess the relationship between forest regeneration and bird communities, focusing also on several species. Analyses of canopy height, cover and the largest tree diameters at breast height revealed no difference in vegetation between the secondary and primary forests, suggesting that the secondary forest has regenerated significantly in the last 39 years. Species diversity quantification across the areas also showed no significant difference, however, the analysis of dawn chorus recordings using Raven 1.3 indicated that peak frequency, bandwidth and call duration did differ significantly between the two habitats, intraspecifically.
Advisor: Hartmut Walter
The Impact of Hydromulch on Native and Non-native Species in a Post-Fire Recovery Period within Los Angeles’ Griffith Park
Bailey Blosser and Joelle Jahng
Non-native plant growth after a fire is often a common characteristic associated with a fire-adapted plant community. The relationship between native and non-native plant growth after a fire and the application of erosion-control measures such as hydromulch is not well understood. In this paper, we explore the relationship between diversity, richness, and abundant growth rates in an urban wilderness park setting of native and non-native California chaparral. In the spring of 2008, we studied Los Angeles’ largest urban park, Griffith Park, that experienced an 800-acre fire in May of 2007 and an application of hydromulch to 500 acres of the park. We used the Shannon diversity index and the Student t test to find diversity levels and to measure variation among samples in order to determine if there is a relationship between native and non-native species diversity, richness, and growth rates and the application of hydromulch. We found that plots with no or partial application of hydromulch had slightly higher indices of diversity and richness than plots without hydromulch. No relationship was apparent between hydromulch application and non-native growth dominating over native growth, however there was an overall higher frequency of non-native plant counts, specifically Brassica nigra (Black Mustard) and Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace) over native species plant counts regardless of hydromulch coverage.
Stephanie Debats, Deidre Pilotte, and Rashmi Sahai
Question: Does hydromulch as a post-fire erosion mitigation treatment affect vegetation recovery in a chaparral ecosystem?
Location: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California.
Methods: Vegetation sample transect plots were marked at two separate locations within the park, one to which hydromulch was applied, and one to which it was not. At the two locations, we selected one transect plot each of high and low burn severity, and species and number of individuals were sampled. The heights and widths of several indicator species were also sampled. Paired t-tests were used to test our hypothesis.
Results: Species diversity was found to statistically insignificant when comparing hydromulched to non-hydromulched areas. Plant density was found to be statistically significant with greater plant density found in non-hydromulched area. Plant growth, in terms of height and width, was found to have no conclusive trends or differences between hydromulched and non-hydromulched areas.
Conclusions: While species diversity was not statistically significant, the p-value was very close to being significant, signifying that a larger sample might have yielded a statistically significant result. The species diversity seemed to converge over time, as the number of herbaceous annuals reduced in the low fire intensity/non-hydromulched transect. The statistically significant higher plant density in non-hydromulched area signifies that hydromulch acts as a physical barrier, impeding vegetation recovery. Therefore, policymakers should be aware that hydromulch will reduce initial plant density. The plant growth data was inconclusive, because a random sampling of individuals does not account for individual growing conditions and varying germination times.
Caroline Evans, Angel Kwok, and Sarah Maquindang
One of Southern California’s latest fires occurred on May 8, 2007 at Griffith Park, the largest municipal park in the United States located in Los Angeles. In order to increase slope stability and protect homes, the city aerially applied hydromulch to over half of the burned area. However, the effectiveness of hydromulch as a slope stabilizer and its potential effects on post-fire vegetation are not well known. We used two experiments, one in the field and one in plant containers, to determine whether or not hydromulch had any significant negative effects on post-fire chaparral vegetation recovery. In the field experiment, there were no significant differences in plant density between our study areas with hydromulch compared to areas without hydromulch. The second seeding experiment showed growth underneath the hydromulch, from which can be concluded that enough sunlight is available underneath hydromulch to support plant growth. Thus, the insignificant differences between vegetation growth and density in hydomulched and non-hydromulched for both experiments indicated that the application of hydromulch might not be as detrimental towards vegetation germination as previously hypothesized.
Fire-Induced Water-Repellent Soil Layers in Non-Hydromulched Areas of Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California
David Kunugi and Aya Satoh
Questions: Have water-repellent soil layers discouraged pioneer species from successfully revegetating Griffith Park? How do the levels of water repellency vary among minimally burned, partially burned, and severely burned sites?
Location: United States, California, Los Angeles, Griffith Park (Latitude: 34.125°; Longitude: 118.302°)
Methods: Sites were classified as severely burned, partially burned, and minimally burned, based on both present and remnant plant matter found on location. GPS coordinates of all sites were recorded, and the water-drop test was performed on soil surface and five centimeters below ground. Three different levels of water repellency (hydrophilic, hydrophobic, and strongly hydrophobic) were determined based on how long it took for each drop of water to absorb into the soil.
Results: Ten sites were selected to be studied over a period of two months. Categorizing hydrophobic properties of soil with their respective burn severity level remained challenging, as there was variance within the timed results. Mode analysis was performed to clean up the nominal data, and a strong correlation was observed between minimally burned locales and their hydrophilic tendency.
Conclusion: The duration of time required for each drop of water to absorb into a soil profile can be used as an indicator of a soil’s water repellency level. Minimally burned sites demonstrate superior vegetative rebounds following a fire and tend to consist of more hydrophilic soils compared to partially burned and severely burned sites.
Port-Related Diesel Truck Traffic and Environmental Justice Implications
Dorothy Kieu Le
Advisor: Dr. Arthur Winer
This study examines the environmental justice implications of port-related diesel truck traffic for the Long Beach/Wilmington Port Area. We directly measured heavy duty diesel truck (HDDT) traffic by videotaping all vehicles at 11 key intersections in the port adjacent communities of Wilmington and Long Beach. We reduced, classified, and binned data according to traffic direction, vehicle type and class. We overlaid 2000 Census data and a Geographic Information System (GIS) to create maps of HDDT traffic, ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES). The traffic data generally reflect two peaks in truck traffic, in the midmorning and mid-afternoon. Over 600 HDDT per hour were observed at key intersections. These high HDDT volumes are located in areas with up to 80-90% Latino/Hispanic residents, including neighborhoods with over 40% of residents living below the federal poverty line, respectively. The results raise concerns regarding potential exposure of this largely minority, low SES community to multiple environmental hazards in this port-adjacent area. Short-term policy recommendations include information sharing and public participation. Long-term policy recommendations should be based on the Clean Air Action Plan for the Ports, including the retrofit or replacement of the 16,000 highly polluting HDDT presently operating at these ports.
Published: Monday, March 16, 2009