One of the best remaining examples of a coastal-strand environment in Southern California, the Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve protects a wide variety of shoreline and estuarine habitats. Largely undisturbed coastal dunes support a rich assemblage of dune vegetation, while older and more stable backdunes are covered with southern coastal scrub habitat. In the heart of the reserve, Devereux Slough is a seasonally flooded tidal lagoon that dries out in the summer to form salt flats and hypersaline ponds and channels. A variety of intertidal habitats occur along the sandy beach and the large rocky reef at the point. Thousands of migratory birds visit throughout the year. Located adjacent to the Santa Barbara campus, the reserve provides a unique and accessible research and teaching resource. Many university courses, including botany, ecology, biodiversity field methods, natural history, marine biology, invertebrate zoology, and environmental studies.
Several ongoing restoration projects aim to improve the biological functioning of the reserve. Over the past seven years, Coal Oil Point Reserve has restored more than 20 acres of wetland margins, vernal pools, coastal sage scrub, dunes, and beach habitat. These areas are now self-sustaining and rich in native wildlife. Native plants are propagated on site in the reserve's native plant nursery. Plants are grown primarily from seeds collected on the reserve to ensure the preservation of the genetic stock adapted to the area. Reserve restoration projects offer opportunities for undergraduate internships every quarter. Regular wetland workdays are open to the public.
UCSB and USGS scientists monitor listed and rare species such as the snowy plover, the globose dune beetle, and the wandering skipper.
Self-guided Walking Tour
Visitors can tour the perimeter of the reserve and an internal interpretive trail a two page guide.
- USGS earthquake monitoring: COPR has one of 200 antennae used by USGS geologists to study earth movement.
- Surfgrass restoration in intertidal zone: Ongoing project includes studies of surfgrass epiphytes and reproduction.
- Human impacts on the snowy plover: This USGS study seeks to understand impacts on this threatened shorebird and provide conservation guidelines.
Special Research of National Significance
- PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans): Large-scale marine science research program that focuses on understanding the nearshore ecosystems of the U.S. West Coast and involves collaborating scientists from four universities. At Coal Oil Point, PISCO researchers use a remote sensing antenna to monitor rocky intertidal and ocean currents.
Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve website
Santa Barbara County, on UC Santa Barbara's West Campus, overlooking the Santa Barbara Channel.
Small lab on site; housing, labs, research support available at adjacent UCSB
Extensive monthly climate records; some records of lagoon temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen; plant and animal lists; historic/current aerial photos; published management plans for plants, animals, and hydrology; natural-resource geographic information system (GIS); comprehensive catalog of research on UC Santa Barbara wetlands under development.
Reserve director and research scientist on site; faculty manager and NRS office on Santa Barbara campus.
69 hectares (170 acres)
0 to 12 m (0 to 40 ft.)
36-53 cm (14-21 in.) per year
January minimum: 6 ºC (42 ºF)
August maximum: 24 ºC (75 ºF)