New weather station on the way

Thanks to some generous donors and the UC Natural Reserve System, Point Reyes Field Station is installing a weather station! The weather station will be a part of UC Natural Reserve System’s network of weather stations and provide a record of weather-related information at the field station’s location in Olema Valley. During the past year we have worked closely with Point Reyes National Seashore to obtain necessary project permits and approvals (e.g., cultural and historic resources, National Environmental Quality Act, etc.). Now the most exciting part is happening: building the weather station.


The base of the weather station’s 30-foot aluminimum-frame tower will be attached to a metal frame anchored in a concrete base and held in place by three guy wires. Powered by an array of solar panels set up adjacent to the tower, all the environmental sensors and other equipment will be attached to the tower or deployed at ground level nearby. Sensors will include temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, total solar radiation, photosynthetically active radiation, precipitation, barometric pressure, and soil moisture and temperature to half meter depth. We are also installing a Phenocam, which will regularly photograph the vegetation in Olema Valley north of the tower, eventually providing a long-term record of seasonal changes and shifts in vegetation patterns over time. The data from the sensors will be sent via radio to a receiver at the Hagmaier House, then channeled to our satellite internet system, and eventually to the data storage location for the UC NRS weather stations.


Installation of the weather station is occurring in two phases: 1) building the concrete base and the solar array, and 2) installing the tower and the sensors. Of course, each phase includes many steps and lots of coordination!


A few weeks ago we built the concrete base and the solar array. Zac Tuthill, the Assistant Manager of Blue Oak Ranch Reserve, kindly took the lead for the build and Wendy Baxter, the UC Natural Reserve System’s Weather Station Technician, assisted. Before we drove the truck to the site, the Seashore’s roads and trails crew kindly mowed the area for us, giving us a clear place to work and reduce fire hazard. Here’s a view of the freshly mowed spot.

Mowed grassy area where weather station will be located


After determining the most level spot we started digging a hole for the 3 ft x 3 ft x 1 ft concrete base. The soil in the grassland was loamy and quite easy to dig. Zac then made quick work of building the frame for the concrete pour and really got into making sure it was level.

Making sure the wood form for the base is level


Zac then cut steel rebar to fit in a grid inside the concrete frame, adding needed strength to the base. Wendy and Zac then installed two 90 degree PVC pipe conduits for wires to run from the solar array and the rain gauge to the tower. You can see the tops of these conduits in the photo below on the left side of the wood frame, with tape covering the top of each of the pipes to prevent concrete from falling inside. Zac mixed bag after bag of concrete with water from a water tender he towed to the site, pouring each bag of mixed concrete into the frame while Wendy and I spread out the concrete and ensured even coverage.

Mixing the concrete


Wendy and Zac insert the metal frame into the concrete. The frame will eventually support the tower and was carefully aligned due north using a compass.  The wood boards were placed beneath the metal frame to ensure it did not set into the concrete. That way we can adjust the height of the frame and tower later if needed.

Inserting the steel base into the concrete for the 30-foot tower


Once the concrete had cured for about 45 minutes Zac and I signed the concrete to mark the occasion for posterity (“PRFS 2019”).Zac and Allison sign the concrete base



The next day’s tasks was to remove the wood frame around the concrete base and build the solar array that will power all the sensors, the Phenocam, and data transmitter. The solar array rests on a base of pressure-treated 4 in. x 4 in. wood on top of four buried concrete piers with metal straps to hold the wood. After deciding on a level spot near the tower — but not too near so things falling from the tower don’t hit the solar panels — we dug areas to place the concrete piers and leveled, leveled, leveled. Wendy and Zac fine-tuned the alignment of the tracks for the solar array using a compass to make sure it faces south. The array is built so all angles of the solar panel can be adjusted as needed.Aligning the solar array using a compass


Zac and Wendy mount the solar panels onto the tracks on the base. Zac and Wendy attach the solar array to its base


Here’s a view of the completed concrete base and solar array awaiting the tower and sensor gadgetry.  The locking white metal box will placed at the base of the tower and house the two batteries.

Completed solar array and concrete base for 30-foot tower


The 30 foot tower and sensors are on their way to UC Berkeley as I write this. Stay tuned for a report on the installation of the tower in the near future!


Point Reyes Field Station is now the 40th reserve in the UC Natural Reserve System

Point Reyes 40th UC NRS Reserve
We are pleased to announce that Point Reyes Field Station is now the 40th Reserve in University of California’s Natural Reserve System! It is exciting to be a part of this network of living laboratories throughout California and further the missions of UC and the National Park Service through our partnership with Point Reyes National Seashore.

The event made the news in several spots, including UC Berkeley News, The Daily Californian (UC Berkeley’s student newspaper), the San Francisco Chronicle, and UC Natural Reserve System’s news page.

We look forward to hosting researchers and classes far into the future!



Internship opportunities at Point Reyes National Seashore and National Park Service

Here are three entry-level Summer 2019 internship opportunities in the National Park Service.

1. An internship through Mosaics In Science in interpretation and traditional ecological knowledge at Point Reyes National Seashore. 
Student application period opens December 1, 2018 and closes January 20, 2019.
2. An internship offered by the Geological Society of America, nationwide (not for a specific park unit).
Student application period opens December 3, 2018 and closes February 3, 2019.
3. And several internships around the US through Future Park Leaders of Emerging Change, including one in Golden Gate National Recreation Area for developing a shoreline monitoring protocol to inform climate adaptation.
Student application period opens December 7, 2018 and closes January 25, 2019.
In some cases park housing and stipends are provided. See postings for details.

Now accepting Applications for UC Natural Reserve System Field Course (due Feb 5, 2019)

UCNRS Field Course Photo

The UC Natural Reserve System is now accepting applications for its Summer 2019 California Ecology and Conservation course. Please see full announcement below. Added bonus: participants can now have their final research project published in CEC Research, a brand new journal that enables students to cite their work when applying for jobs, graduate school, scholarships, and awards.


We are pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for the Summer 2019 offering of the UC Natural Reserve System field course, California Ecology and ConservationApplications can be found here and are due on February 5, 2019 so please spread the word!
This relatively new program, launched in Fall 2015, has been a tremendous success. Students from across the UC system have gained strong independent scientific research skills while immersed in the training grounds of the UC natural reserves, from Big Sur to the Mojave Desert, from coastal redwoods to California grasslands to high altitude bristlecone pines. Check out this video to get glimpses of what students are calling the most rewarding experience in their undergraduate careers. Here is what some alumni have said about the experience.
“This course has made me fall in love with the process of science!” – UC Davis student
“My research, writing, and public speaking skills have improved and I am certain that this is a result of this class.” – UC Los Angeles student
“This course has given me an in-depth understanding of scientific research that I haven’t gained anywhere else. I have learned more about what a career in this field would look like in the last 50 days than the rest of my undergraduate career.” – UC Santa Cruz student
“I loved getting to spend the summer in some of the most beautiful places in California with a group of amazing people.” – UC Berkeley student
California Ecology and Conservation brings together 27 undergraduates from across the UC system for seven weeks of intensive learning at NRS reserves. Experienced field instructors help undergraduates transform into scientists. Students complete a series of increasingly independent research studies while learning to notice natural patterns, frame questions into feasible research projects, and practice standard field techniques. At the conclusion of each project, students analyze their data and present their findings in oral presentations and written reports. Students hone their research, public speaking, and scientific writing skills with constant practice and feedback. All the while, students gain a working familiarity with California’s diverse ecosystems.
All UC undergraduates who have a 2.5+ GPA, are in good standing with their home campus, and have successfully completed an introductory biology course are eligible to apply.  If students from majors not listed are interested in taking the course, they can petition their departments to receive credits toward their major, minor, and GE requirements.
More information is available on the course website.

Congratulations to us!

From left: Allison Kidder, Manager, Point Reyes Field Station; David Ackerly, Faculty Director, Point Reyes Field Station; Sarah Allen, Science Program Lead, National Parks Service Pacific West Region; Peggy Fiedler, Executive Director, UC Natural Reserve System; Cicely Muldoon, Superintendent, Point Reyes National Seashore; Benjamin Becker, Marine Ecologist and Director of Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center, Point Reyes National Seashore

We recently held an event at Point Reyes Field Station to celebrate the signing of the formal agreement between UC Berkeley and the National Park Service. It was a chance for faculty and staff from UC Berkeley, the UC Natural Reserve System, and Point Reyes National Seashore, as well as many members of the local community, to come together and toast one another on this significant accomplishment. Pictured above are the familiar faces who have worked together over the years to make this field station a reality.

Looking to the future, Point Reyes Field Station is prepared to host more researchers and students, continue partnering with the National Park Service and local organizations, collaborate with the Berkeley Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity, and has its sights set on becoming part of the UC Natural Reserve System. Come visit and say hello!

Hosting a field trip for iDigBio Conference attendees

Photo op near Windy Gap, Tomales Point. (Photo by Allison Kidder)
Part of the group took a moment to pose en route to Windy Gap, Tomales Point. (Photo by Allison Kidder)

This past Wednesday the field station had the pleasure of hosting about a dozen attendees from the iDigBio conference held at UC Berkeley June 4-6, 2018. The conference focused on the use of data from digitized museum collections and gave attendees from around the world an opportunity to share tools, techniques, discoveries, and outcomes in organismal biology and bioinformatics.

Point Reyes Field Station hosted a field trip to Point Reyes National Seashore so attendees could learn more about the field station and its activities, as well as learn about research being conducted within the national park.

The beginning of the Science on a Sphere presentation at Point Reyes National Seashore begins with a beautiful view of the Blue Marble. (Photo by Allison Kidder)
The beginning of the Science on a Sphere presentation at Point Reyes National Seashore begins with a beautiful view of the Blue Marble. (Photo by Allison Kidder)

We started our day with a demonstration of the park’s Science on a Sphere, an educational tool for all ages developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) where real-time data sets are projected onto a striking six-foot diameter globe that hangs from the ceiling. The park’s Chief Scientist, Ben Becker, guided us as we traveled through time by viewing several data sets, including annual migration routes of birds, marine mammals, and sea turtles and captivating views of air traffic patterns around the world (the bursts of 6am flights taking off from airports were pretty cool) and Facebook Friendship connections (and the conspicuous absence of such data from China and Russia). Seeing these datasets presented on the three-dimensional globe gave new meaning to “seeing the big picture” when thinking of global data sets.

Next we headed to the northern part of Point Reyes pensinula, to the historic Pierce Ranch within the Tule Elk Reserve on Tomales Point. The elk did not disappoint, and we spied several separate herds during our time there. The largest herd we saw was the practically ever-present group that spends its time in White Gulch, just east of the trail at aptly-named Windy Gap, a mostly-level one mile walk north of Pierce Ranch. 

The herd of elk (very hard to see in the center of this photo) consisted of male and female adults and a couple of calves, all browsing and lolling about in White Gulch. Tomales Bay is in the distance. (Photo by Allison Kidder)
The herd of elk (very hard to see in the center of this photo) consisted of male and female adults and a couple of calves, all browsing and lolling about in White Gulch. Tomales Bay is in the distance. (Photo by Allison Kidder)

While in the area we had the chance to see the fenced 36 m x 36 m plots from a twenty-year long elk exclosure experiment. Research from this experiment has looked at the effects of Tule elk on plant community composition, ground-dwelling arthropods, and soil characteristics, among other things. The results from one recent study suggest the elk decrease the abundance non-native perennial bunchgrass, Holcus lanatus (velvet brome), mainly in grassland areas but elk did not prevent the spread of the grass to uninvaded areas.

Trailside discussion, Tomales Point trail. (Photo by Allison Kidder)
Trailside discussion, Tomales Point trail. (Photo by Allison Kidder)

Baccharis pilularis was putting on a show, with the two different subspecies and their distinctive architectural morphotypes growing side by side along the trail. The shorter, prostrate subspecies, Baccharis pilularis ssp. pilularis, has small leaves and stems that have green, flexible ends with multiple branching nodes and is restricted to the immediate coast.  The erect morphotype, Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea, with larger leaves and upright, woody stems grows both along the coast as well as inland parts of the state.

The two architectural morphotypes of Baccharis pilularis grow side by side. The erect form (B. p. ssp. consanguinea) common to inland and coastal areas grows behind the prostrate form (B. p. ssp. pilularis). (Photo by Allison Kidder)
The two architectural morphotypes of Baccharis pilularis growing side by side. Here, the erect form (Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea) common to both inland and coastal areas is growing behind the small-leaved prostrate form (Baccharis pilularis ssp. pilularis), which is only found in coastal areas. (Photo by Allison Kidder)

We were also excited to see an active American badger burrow. A California species of special concern, American badger (Taxidea taxus) populations have been increasing in the Seashore in recent years. They are commonly found in grasslands and other areas with soil that provides easy digging and predate on small mammals such as gophers, squirrels, mice, and voles.

Trailside American Badger burrow, with a fenced elk exclosure experimental plot in the far distance (left of center on horizon). (Photo by Allison Kidder)
Trailside American Badger burrow, with a fenced elk exclosure experimental plot in the far distance (left of center on horizon). (Photo by Allison Kidder)















Close up of American Badger burrow on the side of the trail near Pierce Ranch, Point Reyes National Seashore. (Photo by Allison Kidder)
Close up of American Badger burrow on the side of the trail near Pierce Ranch, Point Reyes National Seashore. (Photo by Allison Kidder)

Abbott’s Lagoon was our next stop, giving us a chance to botanize and test our luck trying to glimpse the growing population of river otters in the area (they did not show). On our way to check out the dunes to the west we discussed some of the natural history of the area, including the local dialects of the white-crowned song sparrows singing from the tops of Baccharis pilularis (coyote brush) and Lupinus arboreus (yellow bush lupine). The area’s many habitats — coastal scrub, grassland, sand dunes, freshwater and brackish wetlands — provided a wealth of plants to examine.

Botanizing Abbotts Lagoon, Point Reyes National Seashore. (Photo by Allison Kidder)
Botanizing Abbotts Lagoon, Point Reyes National Seashore. (Photo by Allison Kidder)

The trip to Point Reyes National Seashore was a great way to share the ecology and natural history of this national park and a perfect antidote to demanding conference schedules and long days spent in front of computer screens.


Point Reyes Field Station – a Berkeley-NPS partnership

Greetings! And welcome to the News page for Point Reyes Field Station.

We are incredibly pleased to announce that as of today, May 1, 2018, UC Berkeley and the National park Service signed an agreement to establish the Point Reyes Field Station. This is a significant day for Point Reyes Field Station and definitely an event worthy of being the first news piece on our website. 

Building on over one hundred years of collaboration between University of California Berkeley and the National Park Service, the Point Reyes Field Station extends this history by partnering with Point Reyes National Seashore. With the formalization of the partnership agreement, we are excited to expand our offerings and facilities to promote research, education, and outreach in the Seashore and other parks and open space in the region. We will share developments in this space so stay tuned!