Channel Islands Field Station

Science Center Objects

Eight islands make up the California Islands archipelago in the United States, extending from Point Conception to the U.S. border with Mexico. The archipelago extends even farther south off the coastline of Baja Sur, Mexico, adding another 10 islands to the chain. WERC’s Channel Islands Field Station is the site of key research on endangered plants, invasive species, and conservation projects on the California Islands, particularly within Channel Islands National Park, as well as in the coastal dunes of three Great Lakes National Lakeshores.

Photo of a rare flower found on the Channel Islands

Rare flower found on the Channel Islands. (Credit: Eddie Raburn, Brooks Institute. Public domain.)

The Southern California Bight and its offshore islands are a unique natural resource with many sensitive and endemic plants and animals. Similarly, the coastal dunes of the Great Lakes are home to unique species and ecological processes found nowhere else. Both of these areas are expanding urban centers for the nation. The resulting elimination and degradation of coastal habitats have created a need for scientifically guided management.  

WERC’s Channel Islands Field Station has cooperative agreements with the National Park Service in Ventura, California and in the Great Lakes Region to facilitate research collaboration between among USGS scientists and park biologists. Channel Islands National Park provides access to the habitats of several many rare and endemic plant species suffering from the impacts of exotic weeds and feral animals, while the Great Lakes Parks provide the backdrop for conservation of unusual sand dune communities.

Lead Channel Islands Field Station scientist Kathryn McEachern analyzes data collected within the Channel Islands National Park and on other California Islands, and assists with the park's extensive resource monitoring program. She conducts research on the ecology and conservation biology of sensitive plants and animals and unique vegetation at the Channel Islands and conducts long-term demographic research on the Great Lakes dune endemic Pitcher’s thistle. In doing so, she supports information needs of the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other state, and federal and conservation organization clients such as the Department of Defense, National Marine Sanctuary, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy. Some examples of ongoing research in plant ecology include rare plant demography, effects of grazing by feral animals on native plant communities, restoration ecology, and the distribution of invasive exotic weeds, and effects of fog and shoreline processes on ecosystem recovery.