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Master of Environmental Science and Management: Master's Group Project

Evaluating Regional Conservation Opportunities for the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve

California landscape of rolling hills with green vegetation and blue skies

Group Members: Pol Carbó Mestre, Lauren Harris, Alexandra Martin, Alissa Patterson, Alessandra Puig-Santana, Katherine (Kat) Rosencrance

Faculty Advisors: Kelly Caylor

Client: The Nature Conservancy, Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve




Climate change and anthropogenic stressors such as land development have created an urgent need for conservation action. Located in Southern and Central California, the Gaviota Region provides rich biological, cultural, and economic services which are at risk of collapse from these stressors. Within the Gaviota Region, the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve consists of 24,364 acres of breathtaking grasslands, oak woodlands, and coastal scrub along 8 miles of pristine coastline. The Nature Conservancy, one of the largest non-profit environmental organizations in the world, manages the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve. This preserve serves as a stronghold for biological diversity and resilience, acting to protect species and ecosystems from a range of stressors. Though the existence of this preserve alone is beneficial to the local ecology, The Nature Conservancy strives to create a network of connectivity through a conservation management plan for the entire Gaviota Region. This will reinforce the protections for the preserve by initiating region-wide collaboration and improving the region’s connectivity, an important characteristic for the persistence of many species, communities, and livelihoods, especially as they adapt to a changing world.

The development of a Gaviota Region-wide management plan will require an in-depth look at conservation priorities. Currently, there is no interactive decision-making tool for priority setting that exists for the Gaviota Region. Our objective is to design a preliminary tool to guide conservation decisions, such as the decision to set aside land to prevent development or to protect an important species. This tool will incorporate four main types of information: physical and biological characteristics, cultural and human characteristics, agricultural data, and stakeholder preferences. Stakeholders, such as land owners and residents, hold important opinions on how the land should be managed based on their personal value systems and needs. Conservation actions are most effective when taking these opinions into account, so this tool will analyze the characteristics of the region based on these stated priorities as drawn from interviews with local agencies. This tool will advance the ability of decision makers of the Gaviota Region to make informed and effective decisions regarding region-wide conservation. It will also benefit stakeholders by giving them a voice in priority setting for conservation decisions.

Client Contact: Mark Reynolds 

PhD Mentor: Kaili Brande

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