Exchanging Staff, Exchanging Laughs

The U.S. Navy and The Nature Conservancy joined forces to implement the first ever California Islands Biosecurity Staff Exchange Program, which resulted in the successful deployment of 10 wildlife camera traps on Santa Cruz Island to monitor for invasive mammal introductions.

During the California Islands Biosecurity Workshop in October 2017, the attendees discussed the immense value in starting a staff exchange program that would allow biosecurity managers from the various islands to learn firsthand about the strategies being implemented on other islands by visiting them and participating in ongoing biosecurity projects.

Roland Sosa is a Natural Resource Specialist for the U.S. Navy, and as of October 2017 has been providing biosecurity support for Melissa Booker on San Clemente Island. On February 6, 2018, he had the opportunity to get a closer look into The Nature Conservancy’s biosecurity program during a two-night trip to Santa Cruz Island. The purpose of his trip was to help strengthen the long-term camera monitoring program for The Nature Conservancy’s property on the island, and Roland was eager to apply his camera trapping experience from graduate school and his previous work researching the impact of habitat fragmentation on bobcats.

That Tuesday morning, Roland arrived to the Island Packers dock in Ventura, where he was greeted by Scott Meyler, Preserve Coordinator for Santa Cruz Island, and myself, Biosecurity Manager for the Channel Islands.  The three of us would soon learn we were an unstoppable team. On our way to the island, grey whales breached in the distance and common dolphins surfed alongside the boat, seemingly wishing us luck on our journey to come.

Upon arrival to the island, we began to plan our camera deployment strategy. TNC staff had determined that five cameras should be placed in frequently visited locations by island staff and checked at least monthly. Five additional cameras would be placed in remote areas considered to be likely points of introductions from sea, and checked on at least a quarterly basis.

After we spent nearly an hour to get the first camera set up, it quickly became clear that this project would be more difficult than we had anticipated. Though this initial difficulty could have intimated us, we instead took on the project as a challenge we were determined to overcome. Our tasks became easier and more instinctive with each subsequent camera placement. Before we knew it, the three of us were a well-oiled machine that would pack the essential materials for each setup, scope the area for a spot that may be inviting for invasive animals, and position the camera at just the right height and angle to capture the scene.

Two days and ten cameras later, we had successfully driven, hiked, and climbed to all of the designated locations and completed the deployment. As Roland and I packed up our belongings on Thursday afternoon, we reflected upon the extensive knowledge we had gained in just a couple days. We applied techniques we had learned during a wildlife camera workshop we attended together in October 2017, which was put on by Wildlands Conservation Science and funded by the National Park Service. We also got a deeper understanding of the biosecurity threats and needs on San Clemente Island and Santa Cruz Island, and even learned we had a Hispanic background in common.

Above all, one thing was certain: the first California Islands Biosecurity Staff Exchange Program had been a complete success! As we departed the island and headed for the mainland, we knew we had not only cultivated a blossoming professional relationship, but also a great friendship.

For information on our current camera monitoring protocol, please click here.

Written by Juli Matos, Biosecurity Manager for the Channel Islands

 Juli and Roland closely examining one of the ten remote cameras they set up on Santa Cruz Island.

Juli and Roland closely examining one of the ten remote cameras they set up on Santa Cruz Island.

 Scott and Roland perched on a cliffside as they set up a remote camera on Santa Cruz Island.

Scott and Roland perched on a cliffside as they set up a remote camera on Santa Cruz Island.