Landscape & Biodiversity

Los Angeles is Where Urban Meets Wild

Located near the Santa Monica Mountains in a garden-like setting, UCLA is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Professor Wayne Dollase created an online database of the more than 550 plant species on the UCLA campus. You can help track campus biodiversity through the iNaturalist app and website, and view other observations through the UCLA Campus Biodiversity.

In 2015, a team of students in the Sustainability Action Research program conducted bird and insect surveys and identified 37 species of birds. UCLA is a living laboratory for biodiversity research and teaching with students, faculty and staff collaborating on campus. The Shaffer Lab is studying reptiles and amphibians on campus and Tom Gillespie‘s classes conduct research on an area of campus known as Sage Hill. These projects and others contribute to the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, a university-wide research project that will develop a plan for the LA region to reach 100% sustainability in energy and water by 2050 while enhancing biodiversity.

Stone Canyon Restoration Project

UCLA students, staff, and faculty have partnered with The Bay Foundation and thousands of volunteers to help restore the ecosystem of the only natural creek on campus. Serving as a “living laboratory”, this area teaches students how to restore natural habitats by removing invasive species and allowing natives to thrive.

The once mighty Stone Canyon Creek was formerly a dominant feature of the UCLA campus. But over the years, as the campus expanded, the creek was routed underground and now only this small segment runs behind the Anderson School of Management. Volunteers continue to eliminate invasive vegetation, replant the area with native vegetation, and restore the ecosystem. The newly established vegetation removes pollutants from the water and serves as habitat to birds and other wildlife on campus.

A living museum at UCLA – the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

On the south of campus, the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden (MEMBG) is a living museum, having special collections designed to assist the undergraduate teaching mission at UCLA and to augment the capability for research on campus. MEMBG serves as a long-term repository for unusual plants, a refugium for biodiversity. This facility offers its educational content to the campus community, residents of Los Angeles, and visitors from around the world to enhance learning about plants and promote greater appreciation for relevance of plants to society.

The Hummingbird Whisperer

Not far from the botanical garden, near the Court of Sciences is an area between Franz Hall and Geology fondly called “Hummingbird Alley”. UCLA assistant researcher Melanie Barboni is known widely on campus and now across the nation as the “hummingbird whisperer”. She began feeding hummingbirds from her office and the population grew to a colony of 200 plus birds. Other hotspots for hummingbirds include the Sculpture Garden, and the patio at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Natural Spaces Off Campus

Off campus, the UCLA Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve forms one of 39 ecological reserves operated by the University of California Natural Reserve System (NRS), and is the only reserve managed by UCLA .The NRS network of reserves spread across all parts of California provides venues for world-class research and education in the environmental sciences, and is a unique resource unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

Also in the Santa Monica Mountains, the La Kretz Field Station is a unique, collaborative project between the UCLA La Kretz Center and the National Park Service. The location is ideal for facilitating students and visitors alike to work on collaborative conservation projects in the Santa Monica Mountains and across Southern California. The Field Station provides a natural bridge between our more laboratory-based activities on the UCLA campus and collaborative ecological work in the field. The La Kretz Center for Conservation Science helps preserve California’s biodiversity and ecosystems through research, education and public programs. They supply the scientific research needed to inform management actions to protect and restore California’s fragile biodiversity resources.

In the Owens Valley, UCLA Manages the White Mountains Research Center, which consists of four research stations located along a 10,000-foot elevational gradient. Owens Valley Station, located in the town of Bishop, lies within the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada to the west and the Basin and Range biogeographical province to the east. Surrounded by semiarid scrubland and riparian woodland, it provides a base for year-round research in the region. Roughly 6,000 feet higher and 1.5 hours of driving time away are the log walls of Crooked Creek Station, sited amidst montane woodland and sagebrush hills. Nearby grow two groves of bristlecone pine that include the oldest trees in the world. Higher still are Barcroft Station, surrounded by alpine fellfield and sporadic permafrost above treeline, and Summit Station, subject to extreme solar radiation and fierce winds.