Community members are invited to join conservation experts in a day-long exploration of successful ecological recovery efforts on California’s Channel Islands at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s 10th Annual Symposium Celebrating Recovery on the Islands
of the Californias.

The event will take place 10 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Santa Barbara County Education Office, 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road.

Three conservation heroes will be honored; speakers from conservation organizations and agencies will recount programs spanning decades and current activities; and the day will wrap up with a panel discussion with experts about future actions to support the recovery of the Islands’ unique flora and fauna.

Advance registration is required, and admission is $30 for the public, $25 for Botanic Garden members, and $15 for students with a valid ID. Lunch and snacks included.

The event is also available to view online for free. Register at

Stunningly beautiful and home to unique plants and animals found nowhere else in the world, the islands of the Californias faced ecological disaster due to the introduction of nonnative, invasive animals between 150 and 100 years ago.

Populations of sheep, goats, deer, rats, cats, and even ants reached unsustainable levels.

“Fortunately, indomitable conservationists stepped in across the archipelago — from both federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations — to do the near impossible job of removing these invaders,” said Denise Knapp, the Botanic Garden’s director of conservation.

“Against steep logistical, legal, and political headwinds, these conservation heroes stayed firm in their knowledge that the islands couldn’t recover without this crucial action. And they made it happen,” she said.

Three of the many heroes who have led efforts on the Channel Islands are honored with the Garden’s Pritzlaff Conservation Award, which is presented annually to recognize conservation achievements in California and around the world. Each winner gives a keynote address at the beginning of the symposium.

Kate Faulkner, former chief of the Natural Resources Division for Channel Islands National Park (1990-2016), led complex eradication efforts for six invasive animal taxa on three islands, including the removal of black rats on Anacapa Island while protecting the endemic Anacapa subspecies of island deer mouse. 

Peter Schuyler led sheep eradication and cattle removal as Santa Cruz Island Preserve Director for The Nature Conservancy from 1980-89, and achieved goat and pig eradication as director of Ecological Restoration at the Catalina Island Conservancy, 1997-2004. He is also a volunteer for local environmental organizations and philanthropist.

Over 20 years, Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas (GECI) in Baja California has removed 60 populations of invasive mammals of 11 species on 39 Mexican islands. Accepting the award and speaking are general director Federico Alfonso Méndez Sánchez, and Luciana Luna-Mendoza, the director of ecology. 

Speakers Presenting at the Symposium

Experts presenting at the symposium represent a variety of conservation organizations and government agencies including The Nature Conservancy, Catalina Island Conservancy, Channel Islands National Park, U.S. Navy, U.S. Geological Survey, and Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. All speakers also participate in the panel discussion that concludes the symposium.

Kathryn McEachern, research plant ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey at the Channel Islands Field Station. McEachern recounts three decades of work to understand and recover rare plants in the park, and more recent efforts to restore island oaks and ecosystems.

Heather Schneider —  lead rare plant biologist at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. She will address conservation gains achieved over the past four years through a major collaborative project to recover 14 rare plant species on seven of the eight Channel Islands.

John Knapp – senior island scientist for The Nature Conservancy; founder of the Catalina Island Conservancy’s Catalina Habitat Improvement and Restoration Program (CHIRP). He will detail his landscape-level approach to invasive plant eradication on Catalina and Santa Cruz islands, and both ant-eradication and rare plant-recovery efforts on Santa Cruz Island.

Kim O’Connor – conservation program manager for the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet; botany program manager on San Clemente Island. O’Connor recounts San Clemente Island’s natural recovery after the removal of feral goats, and the rare plant recovery and habitat restoration now leading to de-listing of four endangered plants.

Bill Hoyer – Natural Resources Manager on San Nicolas Island for the U.S. Navy. Hoyer will discuss collaborative feral cat removal efforts on San Nicolas Island, subsequent recovery and delisting of the rare island night lizard, and current habitat restoration efforts. 

Scott Morrison – director of Conservation Programs and Science for the California Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. He will describe the recovery of the island fox (fastest mammal delisting in history), reviews habitat recovery following feral animal removal, and addresses the importance of collaborations.