Santa Barbara Coastal LTER

Santa Barbara Coastal LTER site

 Program/project name: Interpreting Historical and Ecological Connections in Coastal Landscapes: The West Campus Project


Brief description of program/project development and components or hopes:  We are currently investigating the human and ecological history of a coastal site within the Santa Barbara Coastal (SBC) Long-Term Ecological Research program in southern California using archival research, collaboration between scientists and historians, oral history interviews and image analysis. Our project seeks to use the coastal landscape as a narrative to develop a deeper more integrated ecological and cultural history of the site. One applied goal of our study is to help inform planned and ongoing habitat restoration projects within SBC.  Our results have also motivated preservation interest for iconic historical elements, primarily buildings, of the site’s landscape. Based on the work we have completed with an interdisciplinary team of students, faculty and colleagues, we are collecting essays for a multi-authored book.  Our work is being consulted for a new restoration project on the site and we are participating in the planning process.  The site is also part of a multi-campus project headed by Peter Alagona (UC-Santa Barbara) to assess the history of the University of California Natural Reserve System (


Hopes: Art and photography that interpret and portray the open spaces, landscapes, cultural elements and vistas are often done at the site and there is high potential for more focused artist involvement both from the university and the greater Santa Barbara community –e.g. the Oak Group who focus on local landscapes and several local artists who paint and/or lead art classes on the landscape using the West Campus as the setting. We are looking for ways to bring this together in the form of a website or exhibit, or both. We are beginning discussions on developing an Isla Vista Art Walk in conjunction with local artists that will highlight art at the site. We’d also like to find funding to encourage further work and art on the site.


Relationship with core science, education, cultural programs at the site:

Motivated by increasing concern about the impacts of human activities on coastal watersheds and nearshore marine environments SBC is using long-term studies of linkages among terrestrial, intertidal, nearshore, and oceanic habitats to investigate the relative importance of land and ocean processes in structuring giant kelp forests.  Our efforts are adding to the stories of human and land use history of SBC watersheds and coastlines and enhancing understanding of coastal dynamics


System for sharing and archiving outcomes:

Book chapters, papers and the aforementioned book are anticipated outcomes. Archiving of outcomes and project “data” are under development- the diversity of outcomes and materials make it challenging to generalize an approach.  Two recent, relevant publications are:


Guerrini, Anita. 2009. The Trouble with Plovers, in: “New Visions of Nature: Complexity and Authenticity”, eds. J. Keulartz, M. Drenthen, and J. D. Proctor. Springer. 75-89


Guerrini, Anita, and Jenifer E. Dugan. 2010. Informing Ecological Restoration in a Coastal Environment. in “Restoration and History”, ed. Marcus Hall. Routledge. 131-142


Website:  Under development as part of the SBC LTER research project pages


Funding: This study was previously funded by an NEH collaborative programs grant (2003-07) as well as other local funding. SBC LTER has provided logistical support.


Impediments:  Funding & time – this is not the primary research for the participants.


Future goals:  Learn more about how to integrate humanities in long term ecological research programs. Find a publisher, write our book (Stories from a Slough), disseminate results and seek support to develop complementary projects and art activities on the site 


Contact person(s):  Anita Guerrini (, Jenny Dugan ( )


Date:  2 May 2011

Snowy Plover at SBC LTER