USGS plant ecologist Dr. Kathryn McEachern was recently featured in an article and accompanying video by Inside Science, an independent nonprofit news service. The article focuses on the history and ecology of the California Channel Islands and discusses McEachern’s research on Santa Rosa Island’s cloud forests. McEachern’s work examines how island plants use fog and how restoration techniques affect fog and erosion. "Fog really matters to these plants," McEachern told Inside News. The cloud forests once depended on shrubs, which collected water from fog and sheltered oak and pine seedlings. Ranching drove the loss of these upland shrubs, and with the shrubs, the cloud forests themselves. McEachern is testing ways to bring the moisture the fog can supply back into the ecosystem and restore the cloud forests.
A video embedded in the article highlights McEachern’s collaboration with California State University, a program where K-12 teachers assist with ecological fieldwork on the Channel Islands. The teachers get firsthand experience doing research, enabling them to bring what they learn about the research process into the classroom. These teachers are then well-positioned to integrate research activities into the curriculum and help their young students understand what scientists do. “This has totally changed the way I teach,” says one teacher interviewed in the video.
USGS research programs like McEachern’s provide science that informs land management and conservation, while the associated teacher outreach invests in the next generation of American scientists.