Eco-Alianza and UC Natural Reserve System Enter Formal Partnership

Photo courtesy of UCNRS
Eco-Alianza will visit the Bodega Marine Reserve later this summer.

Eco-Alianza’s founders and supporters couldn’t have been more elated by the “Breaking News” introduced at the top of last month’s Soundings. A five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of California establishes Loreto as an official “Sister Reserve” and names Eco-Alianza as the Mexican entity empowered to shepherd potentially dozens of scientific research projects that are likely to develop from the Sister Reserve relationship.

This hallmark accomplishment is a game-changer that will positively impact Eco-Alianza and Loreto’s natural, cultural, and educational environment for decades to come. In many ways it’s just the beginning, but the signed MoU in itself is the realization of a years-long effort as the initiative made its way through the University of California administration.

For those unfamiliar with the UCNRS, a little background from its website may be helpful in understanding why this new alliance holds such great potential:

“In the late 1950’s, a group of University of California scientists banded together to start a network of natural areas managed specifically for academic use. They were weary of seeing wildlands that had once served as outdoor laboratories get bulldozed for commercial purposes. They needed samples of natural ecosystems where their equipment would remain undisturbed, and they and their students could study plants, observe animals, and measure ecosystems over the long term.

“In January 1965, the Regents of the University of California established the Natural Land and Water Reserves System, as the Natural Reserve System was first known. Seven University-owned sites became the system’s first Reserves. Today the UCNRS consists of 41 Reserves that include more than 750,000 acres across the state. The Reserves are available not only to students, teachers, and researchers from the University of California, but to qualified users in science, art, the humanities, teaching, and other disciplines. No other university-operated network of field sites in the world can match the size, scope, and ecological diversity of the NRS.”

UC’s Natural Reserve System is quite literally “a library of ecosystems” throughout California. Most of the state’s major habitat types are represented, from coastal tidepools to inland deserts, and lush wetlands to redwood forests. The NRS offers outdoor laboratories to field scientists, classrooms without walls for students, and nature’s inspiration to all.

Several years ago, UCNRS leaders recognized that sites beyond the borders of California may also be useful, in fact critical, to help researchers from the University of California and elsewhere tie their scientific studies into a global context. The first international Sister Reserve arrangement, with Gobabeb Research and Training Centre in Namibia, was established in 2017. A number of exchanges between UC and this African desert reserve are already occurring, including a UC Riverside study-abroad course on ecology and herpetology, and research into desert reptile physiology and how much moisture fog contributes to desert plants.

The MoU signed with Eco-Alianza on June 3 establishes Loreto and the Bay of Loreto National Park as the second international Sister Reserve of the UCNRS. This did not happen by accident. In fact, it is the outcome of hundreds of hours of meetings, dozens of communications back and forth, and several visits to Loreto by professors, researchers, and administrators from the University of California, and managers of its Natural Reserve System, including its executive director, Peggy Fiedler.

In its introduction, the MoU alludes to Eco-Alianza’s strong local relationships – key assets that helped give UCNRS managers confidence to partner with Eco-Alianza. The MoU states “Eco-Alianza de Loreto, AC, is an internationally-recognized Mexican NGO actively fostering cooperative research and agreements through its network of partners, including formal, signed working agreements with the Bay of Loreto National Park (PNBL), the Mexican Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) through the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP), the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS), and the Municipality of Loreto.”

From Eco-Alianza’s standpoint, partnering with the UCNRS holds the promise of urgently needed scientific research to provide data critical to conservation management of marine, insular, coastal, and inland environments. The research will help create an international focus on Loreto’s natural wonders and its overwhelming conservation needs, and also will expose Loreto’s youth to terrestrial and marine science and to working scientists. In many cases, faculty researchers from California will partner with Mexican scientists, shining a spotlight on international cooperation (see article below).

Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley Point Reyes Field Station by Allison Kidder
Eco-Alianza will also visit the UC Berkeley Point Reyes Field Station later this summer.

Later this summer, a team of Eco-Alianza staff and board members will visit the UC Davis campus for planning sessions, with visits to the Bodega Marine Reserve (a reserve of the University of California Davis) and Point Reyes Field Station (a partnership between the University of California Berkeley and the National Park Service). Both are part of the UCNRS “library of ecosystems”. Key discussion topics: development of a research field station in Loreto to serve as a home base for researchers, and an examination of the types of research that could most benefit the conservation needs of Loreto.

Please stay tuned as the Sister Reserve initiative begins to take shape.

Local and Regional Leaders Embrace the Sister Reserve’s Potential

It is difficult to overestimate the potential far-reaching impacts of the UCNRS Sister Reserve initiative. We took the liberty of asking some local “stakeholders,” to get their thoughts on this development. Here’s what they’re saying:

Funding Approved for First Research Project Under the Sister Reserve Initiative

Photos courtesy of Richard Jackson
New research will study uplifted marine terraces in PNBL. Carmen Island.

Less than a month after the MoU was signed establishing Loreto as a UCNRS Sister Reserve, 18 months of seed funding was approved by UC-MEXUS for a geological research project within the Bay of Loreto National Park. UC-MEXUS is a bilateral program that funds and encourages collaboration between UC researchers and Mexican university partners.

Professor Nicholas Pinter, one of the project’s principals, explains that “ours is a partnership between UC Davis, UNAM (Hermosillo), UABC (Ensenada), and Williams College (Massachusetts). In particular, one UCD graduate student and one UNAM student will be working in the Bay of Loreto region for an extended period of time.” He explained that the collaborative grant proposal was submitted by five scientists in mid-February, with expectations that the UCNRS Sister Reserve relationship would be culminated.

Photos courtesy of Richard Jackson
New research will study uplifted marine terraces in PNBL. Coronados Island.

Eco-Alianza now is working to help the scientists secure approval for the required permits for research within PNBL. The seed grant will fund initial research, the data from which will be used to seek funding for a related and more extensive long-term project.

The project’s abstract is below:

“Uplifted marine terraces are an important tool for measuring neotectonic deformation, Quaternary sea levels, and other applications. Terraces have been mapped and studied worldwide, including along the Pacific coast of Baja California. To date, only limited terrace research has been done along the central Gulf coast of Baja, and even less work on the offshore islands of Bahía de Loreto, including Islas Carmen, Coronados, and Monserrat. We propose to map, precisely measure, and date these terraces to document paleo-sea level and quantify late Quaternary deformation and fault slip rates in the Loreto Basin. Based on reconnaissance fieldwork in 2018 and previously published studies, we hypothesize that the three closely spaced terraces on Isla Carmen include OIS 5a, 5c, and 5c, which would show uplift significantly more rapid than inferred on the Baja mainland and unusual preservation of sea-level variations through the last interglacial. We will sample and analyze terrace-capping littoral sediments and fossil assemblages on each level to assess paleo-environmental variations through the last interglacial period and back into the Pleistocene. We further hypothesize that Quaternary uplift and deformation in Bahía de Loreto documents the transfer of faulting and tectonic deformation from the Baja mainland into the coastal margin and Gulf of California. This collaboration between UCD and UNAM and UABC is designed to catalyze further research and funded activity, including focused on a new UC Natural Reserve partner arrangement and potential field station in Loreto now being negotiated.”

Save the Date – 12th Anniversary Gala – November 16

Eco-Alianza staff photo

Our 2019 gala will come complete with a beautiful new venue, the spectacular 5th Floor of Hotel La Mision. Panoramic views of the mountains on one side and the sea on the other will remind all of us exactly what we’re working to protect. Tickets will be available in the Fall, but for information on sponsorships or to discuss donating an item or experience for the benefit auction, please contact Mark_Hufford@yahoo.com .