Nearly 20 years of research by scientists, including members of the California State University, Stanislaus Department of Biological Sciences, was featured in the recent opening of the new San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex Visitor Center and headquarters near Los Banos.
Research by the San Joaquin Valley Endangered Species Recovery Program and CSU Stanislaus faculty members is incorporated into interactive displays throughout the 1,500-square-foot exhibit hall, which was funded with $7.2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The displays feature a variety of native plants and animals ranging in size from small reptiles to the majestic tule elk. Some species, including the riparian brush rabbit, riparian woodrat, San Joaquin kit fox, Fresno kangaroo rat, blunt-nosed leopard lizard and horned lizard, are rare, threatened or endangered.
“The Visitor Center adds a whole new dimension to the education of students and the public about valley ecosystems and the preservation of our natural heritage,” said CSU Stanislaus professor of biology and director of the ESRP, Patrick Kelly. “In collaborative ventures like our ongoing partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, everyone benefits — the public, students, and of course the species themselves.”
Students of all ages will be able to visit the center on field trips, and university-level research will continue to be conducted throughout the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which consists of nearly 45,000 acres of wetlands, grasslands and riparian habitats, as well as over 90,000 acres of private lands that have conservation easements for the protection and benefit of wildlife.
“People are often surprised to learn about the immense size of the refuge, and the learning opportunities it provides,” said CSU Stanislaus biology professor Stuart Wooley. “Hundreds of undergraduate students will visit the refuges during the academic year, and half a dozen graduate students have completed all of their field work there.”
Established in July 1992, and administered through CSU Stanislaus as a cooperative program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation, the ERSP conducts research on a variety of sensitive plant and animal species in the San Joaquin Valley, Mojave Desert, and Channel Islands. ESRP researchers also assist government agencies in developing and implementing conservation and recovery plans.
The research represented in the displays is the result of many years of work by ESRP researchers, including Patrick Kelly, Brian Cypher, Scott Philips, Dan Williams and many other current and past ESRP staff biologists within the College of Natural Science’s Department of Biological Sciences. These include Ann Kohlhaas, Marina Gerson, Matt Cover, Stuart Wooley, and many others.