The following are the final reports prepared by IoES students for the 2008-2009 Practicum.
Student(s): Julia Shiplacoff
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.
Student(s): 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.
Student(s): 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.
Student(s): 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.