Students from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara are traveling to Antelope Valley this weekend to tour local habitats and join the Antelope Valley Conservancy and Southern California Edison to launch a yearlong watershed study of the area.

Commissioned by the Antelope Valley Conservancy and funded by a grant from Southern California Edison, the “Antelope-Fremont Watershed Assessment” will evaluate the watershed and its habitats, located in northern Los Angeles County and southern Kern County.

The project seeks to identify and prioritize opportunities for preservation in an area that has experienced rapid growth as a bedroom community of Los   Angeles. Stakeholders in the area include residents, water providers concerned about watershed health, government agencies responsible for land-use planning, and a regional community concerned about water and habitat issues.

Each student in the Bren School’s Master of Environmental Science and Management program is required to work with class colleagues on a yearlong group project that serves as the master’s thesis and seeks a solution to a real-world environmental problem for a real-world client.

Bren students Lucas Bare, Tessa Bernhardt, Toby Chu, Melissa Gomez, Christopher Noddings and Milena Viljoen will work on the project with adviser Dr. Lee Hannah. A senior research fellow in climate-change biology with Conservation International, Hannah specializes in conservation planning and methods of corridor design, particularly in the context of global-warming scenarios.

During the weekend trip, the group is touring various locations in the valley in preparation for commencing their work, to be completed in April 2009.

“We’re honored to be selected by the Bren School and funded by Edison International for this important project,” Antelope Valley Conservancy President Wendy Reed said. “It will not only inform our preservation of functioning habitats, but also allow an ecosystematic planning approach to influence the community’s design, amenities and economy for future generations.”

The Antelope-Fremont Watershed Assessment is being funded by a Corporate Giving Grant from Edison International. The study will evaluate watershed and habitat resources for Antelope Valley Conservancy, a nonprofit corporation that works to preserve watershed and habitat resources, wildlife corridors and the regional trails system. AFWAP is designated a high-priority project in the Antelope Valley Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

James Badham is a representative for the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara.