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Leading Experts Converge for Inaugural Carrizo Colloquium

The inaugural Carrizo Colloquium took place Nov. 8 at the Oak Glen Pavilion in the SLO Botanical Garden, attracting attendees from all over the state.

Speakers from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, the U.S. Geological Survey, the CSU Stanislaus Endangered Species Recovery Program, the California Native Plant Society, UC Santa Cruz, Point Blue Conservation Science and H.T. Harvey & Associates presented their research on such diverse areas as collaring newborn pronghorn fawns to mapping native vegetation on the Carrizo Plain Monument.

The Colloquium was the brainchild of North County Watch president Sue Harvey, who saw it as a vehicle to create a public forum to discuss research that had been funded using settlement money from the solar plant litigation.

“We started with the researchers looking at pronghorn, giant kangaroo rat and San Joaquin kit fox, some of the species most directly impacted by construction activities,” Harvey said. “The field was then broadened to include other important research on native plants, Tule elk, blunt nosed leopard lizards, and LeConte’s Thrasher.”

Dr. Barry Sinervo from UC Santa Cruz presented his research on the impacts of climate change on localized extinctions of blunt nosed leopard lizards and other reptiles.

Critical to all species are the plants they eat, live under and nest in. Presenter Jennifer Buck-Diaz, a vegetation ecologist and botanist with the California Native Plant Society, talked about the two-year study she has been performing on the Carrizo during which she has identified more than 400 species, establishing a baseline for climate change monitoring.

“The vegetation map will help improve conservation management on the Carrizo,” Buck-Diaz said. “We can do even finer scale mapping if a particular type of vegetation becomes critical for a certain animal species.”

Drawing a bigger picture was David Hacker from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. He spoke about the importance of connectivity of conserved lands via the use of wildlife corridors to help protect the genetic diversity of marginal species.

“There is a risk of the Carrizo becoming an island,” Hacker said. “Isolated populations are less likely to persist.”

The protected areas within the Carrizo National Monument are not enough to safeguard all of the species who live out there.

“For example, only four percent of national monument land is suitable for kit fox habitat,” Hacker said in his bid to shore up and connect the monument with conserved lands in the California Valley area.

Eighty-five representatives from governmental agencies and universities, environmental groups, and private companies were in attendance, along with members of the general public, and provided lively discussion during the general assembly at the conclusion of the Colloquium. Topics ranged from rewilding the desert tortoise population struggling with climate change in the Mojave to the Carrizo Plain to establishing an online repository for all Carrizo research.

One small drama took place when a hummingbird flew in through an open door and trapped itself in the building. After flying in circles for an hour trying to find a way out, the exhausted bird collapsed to the floor, only to be snatched up by one of the biologists. A group resuscitated the hummingbird with agave nectar from the outdoor coffee station and sent it on its way. The bird had chosen its audience wisely for such a mishap.

The Carrizo Colloquium was sponsored by Cal Poly SLO’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, SunPower, North County Watch, E: Monitor LLC, Mid-America Solar, First Solar, H.T. Harvey & Associates and NRG Energy Inc. The Steering Committee for the event was Susan Harvey, Douglas Campbell, Dawn Legg, Nikki Nix, Brian Boroski and Michael Jencks.

More information about the event can be found by clicking here.

— Susan Harvey represents the Carrizo Colloquium.

 
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