Education & Research

Science Research

Student Researcher:
Becky Niemiec

Becky Niemiec

"Growing up in the midst of smoggy LA playing soccer and going to the beach, I never would have thought that I would spend part of my high school years tracking coyotes. However, when I was informed in 9th grade that residents near my high school were complaining about coyotes eating house cats, and when Science Coordinator Ann Dalkey from the Conservancy offered anyone interested from my science class a position with her on a science project, I figured I'd give science a try.

"I ended up working on my Conservancy project for the next three years, an experience that not only told taught me how to distinguish between coyote and domestic dog tracks in the dirt, but also helped me become comfortable writing scientific papers and giving talks to a room full of distinguished scientists. I worked with Ann Dalkey and created a database of community coyote sightings, followed local biologists to learn how to identify coyote scat and tracks, found the trails and areas most frequented by coyotes in Palos Verdes, analyzed scat for bird, rodent, and cat remains, and set up a game camera to catch coyotes on film. By the end of my three years of working on the project, I felt that I had helped address a community problem through the collection and presentation of invaluable data. I had come to the understanding that science was fundamental in addressing many of the problems present in today's world. This realization inspired me to attend Dartmouth College as part of Ecology and Environmental Studies program, in which I have participated in research on sea ice, tundra, and climate change. Thanks to Conservancy, I now approach my life with a passion to help communities live sustainably and with a greater understanding of the way in which their actions affect the natural systems around them."

We are dedicated to providing accurate scientific information on our programs and activities. We conduct and sponsor research that helps us improve our conservation efforts while extending learning opportunities within our community.

 Research Program

The goals of the Conservancy's science program are to increase the scientific knowledge base of the Palos Verdes Peninsula through collaborative research. Our scientific program focuses on understanding the basic ecosystem functions that define the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Research is conducted both by Conservancy staff and through partnerships with universities, colleges and local agencies.

Research projects inform restoration, conservation, education, and stewardship programs and address the interface between the natural and urban environments. The Conservancy's research program was developed to involve collaborative researchers with the overall goal of increasing the scientific knowledge of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

To assist in this program, a Science Advisory Panel, with more than 30 members of professional and academic researchers, provide the depth of knowledge required for our investigations. We engage volunteers to help gather the baseline data necessary to adequately assess the natural state of our preserves. Our scientific program also reaches out to high school, community college, and university students to conduct independent and facilitated research on lands managed by the Conservancy. Some of the research projects taking place on the preserves include studies on microclimates, wildfire effects on wildlife, and coyote and fox populations. The Research Program began in 2006 through a generous grant from Alcoa Foundation.

We manage the following long-term research projects:

  • Citizen Science Wildlife Tracking – Volunteers will attend four training sessions and then conduct weekly tracking surveys November through March.
  • Microclimate on the Preserves – High school students assess habitat temperature and humidity trends for different plant species.
  • Wild Animal Surveys – High school and college students track coyote and fox use of the preserves.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I become involved in the research?
A. High school students, university students, and community members can apply to conduct research using the appropriate application:
Word docHigh School Research Application [Word doc: 253KB]
Word docUniversity Undergraduate/Graduate/Researcher Application [Word doc: 257KB]
Word docCommunity Research Application [Word doc: 255KB]

Q. What happens to all the data the Conservancy collects?
A. Our monitoring and research data are archived in a database that is available on request. People interested in obtaining data can start the process by filling out this application form.

Word docData Request Form [Word doc: 270KB]
pdfCurrent listing of Science Advisory Panel members [PDF: 69KB]

 Publications and Research

2012-2013 Posters: