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NEWSLETTER

OCH

Third Quarter 2021 (Jul - Sept)

NEWS

Quarterly News

Environmental News

Abalone: History of Suffering,
Hope for the Future

By Gina Thompson

At first glance, these snail-like bottom dwellers don’t strike you as much. But their unassuming shells hold a secret brilliance, and the creatures inside share a fascinating, yet tragic, history.

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Green abalone next to a sea anemone in the low intertidal. Photo Credit: Michaela Coats

Abalone are large gastropods that have round, oval-shaped shells with two or three spirals, the last creating an ear-like shape,giving them the nickname “ear-shell”. Outside, the shells are a plain reddish-brown or black depending on the species, while the insides are beautifully iridescent, ranging from silvery white mother of pearl to a shiny green-blue. Using what is called a muscular foot, the mollusks move along rocks searching for the different types of algae they eat. The muscular foot also allows them to firmly attach to surfaces, preventing themselves from being disturbed by predators or wave action. As the animal grows it develops open holes along the edge of its shell eventually having three to nine, depending on the species. These holes are used for respiration, sanitation, and reproduction. They reproduce through broadcast spawning in which they release their eggs and sperm into the water. However, this method of reproduction becomes less successful when the animals are few and far between, which sadly is now the case for California’s abalone.

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In California, we have seven species of abalone: red, pink, green, black, white, pinto, and flat. These interesting creatures, once abundant off the California coast, have endured decades of threats including overfishing, disease, and environmental changes that have caused their populations to plummet. Because of their beautiful shells and value to cuisine, abalone has been a part of the Californian culture for centuries. They were fished, traded, and eaten by indigenous tribes, colonizing Spaniards, and 19th century Chinese and Japanese immigrants. As the 20th century brought developments to scuba diving, abalone’s popularity peaked. Both sport and commercial fishing throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s dealt a hefty blow to the mollusks’ population. According to NOAA, white abalone catch dropped from “roughly 143,000 pounds per year to just 5,000 pounds per year in less than a decade”. Then, the 80s and 90s brought severe El Niños that caused waters to warm and nutrients to decrease. This harmed the Southern California kelp beds and in turn abalone that depend on the kelp for food. The abalone’s next adversity came in the form of disease. Withering foot syndrome or withering syndrome (WS) was first identified in the 1980s and has two major mechanisms that lead to abalone mortality First, it inhibits the production of an abalone’s digestive enzymes, which leads to starvation. Secondly, it atrophies, or shrivels, their muscular foot, until they are unable to latch onto rocks, which leads to predation. This cruel disease decimated abalone populations in the 80s and 90s, specifically the black abalone. 

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An endangered black abalone. Photo Credit: Michaela Coats

Besides their social, cultural, and economic importance, abalone also play an important role in keeping the highly diverse kelp forest habitat healthy. By clearing some areas of kelp, it allows different species to establish and encourages kelp diversity. This in turn boosts diversity of the countless species depending on the kelp for food and shelter. In addition, they are the main competitor of sea urchins who also feed on kelp. Unfortunately, due to lack of predation and competition, the urchin population has been rising out of control, eating through the kelp and creating urchin barrens. If the abalone populations were at normal levels, they would play a part in controlling the destruction of the urchins. Unfortunately, this is not the case.


Due to their history studded with struggles that caused population decline, protections have been placed on California's abalone. Seeing the impact humans were causing, the commercial black abalone fishery was closed in 1993, followed by green, pink, and white in 1996, and finally in 1997 came the end of all commercial fishing of abalone. The only fishery remaining to this day is the recreational fishery for red abalone north of San Francisco Bay. However, after sea urchin booms and kelp collapse caused a number of red abalone to die of starvation, this last fishery was closed in 2017, effective until 2026. In addition to restrictions on fishing, two of California’s abalone species, white and black, have been federally listed as endangered in 2001 and 2009, respectively. Sadly, fishery closures and ESA listings might have come too late, as abalone populations have not shown signs of recovery. It has become clear that because of all they have been through, abalone will not be able to recover on their own.

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Historical abundance of black abalone in Laguna Beach (1930s).
Photo courtesy of Nancy Caruso

Despite the abalone’s long string of misfortune, conservationists have not given up on this special shellfish. There are several efforts to reverse the impact humans have caused and restore abalone populations to the shores of California. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife adopted the Abalone Recovery and Management Plan in 2005. In addition, White and black abalone each have specific recovery plans through the ESA which were published in 2008 and 2020, respectively. The main strategies of all of these plans are captive breeding and outplanting to increase population. This is no easy task: breeding in labs requires just the right chemical cues to trigger the abalone’s broadcast spawning and once the abalone have been outplanted there is a low chance of survival. Despite these difficulties, there have been recent successes in abalone conservation. In 2019, 3,000 captive-bred, endangered white abalone were released into the wild, half near San Diego and half near LA. After years of working to spawn them in labs and practicing releases with red abalone, this was the first time white abalone, the most imperiled species, were released into the wild. NOAA, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Paua Marine Research Group who collaborated on this hope that some of these abalone will survive and breed to help revive the population. Locally, Get Inspired Inc has had success breeding and releasing green abalone in OC.

Abalone are unique and interesting animals that have ecological, cultural, and economic value. It is our responsibility to protect this vulnerable species and undo what decades of human caused threats have done. Hopefully, with our help, abalone can be restored to their prominence in California, perform their duties in the ecosystem, and return to the level of cultural and economic importance they once held.

Species Spotlight

Vaquita

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Vaquita, the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Photo Credit: Puerto Vallarta | Daily News

By Christina Robinson

The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is part of the porpoise family and is the most endangered of the world's marine mammals. They are gray in color and one of the smallest members of the dolphin, whale, and porpoise family, measuring to be about 5 feet long. They have a rounded head with no beak (versus bottlenose dolphins) and have black patches around their eyes and lips. Vaquita feed on fish, cephalopods like squid and octopuses, and crustaceans such as shrimp. They can live to be 21 years old and reach sexual maturity between 3 and 6 years old. They ONLY live in the northern part of the Gulf of California, an area rich in fish and shrimp, where gillnets are often used and are what entangles vaquitas, often leading to them drowning. 

 

The first precise estimate of vaquita abundance was a Mexican-American survey conducted in 1997 that looked at the entire geographic range of where vaquita inhabit and estimated there were 567 individuals. From early acoustic studies in 1997-2008 it was indicated that the species was declining. Another international survey was conducted in 2015 using visual and acoustic surveys that estimated the population was around 59. In May of 2015, there was an emergency gillnet ban (entanglements are the ONLY known threat to the vaquita) and one model indicated that the population decreased 80% between 2011 and 2015. The 2016 Acoustic Monitoring Program estimated that there were approximately 30 vaquita and that the species is in imminent danger of extinction. In 2019, a report from the Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) estimated the vaquita population to be 10 or less individuals.

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A totoaba was captured in 1992, with a vaquita as bycatch in Sonora, Mexico.
Photo Credit: NOAA Fisheries

The totoaba, Totoaba macdonaldi (also endemic to the Gulf of CA), fishery has been the most critical in regards to vaquita by-catch from mid 1930-1975 when the fishery was officially closed because of severe overfishing (totoaba are on the Mexican Endangered Species list, on the U.S. Endangered Species list, and is listed by the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered). Since totoaba and vaquita are similar in size, gillnets set for totoaba pose the highest threat for vaquita. Despite the fishery closure, illegal fishing for totoaba has increased due to the meat, but also the fish being prized for its swim bladder, which is exported to China for a soup ingredient believed to have medicinal value. These are dried and smuggled out of Mexico and sometimes the U.S. too. Fishermen can receive up to $8,500 (higher value on the black market) for each kilogram of swim bladder (equal to 6 months income or more for legal fishing activities). Frozen shrimp consumed locally or exported to the United States can come from the Gulf of California and is listed to Avoid on the Seafood Watch website

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A vaquita cruising through the waters. Photo Credit: Thomas A Jefferson

Over the years it has been thought that the vaquita had other threats, such as habitat alteration from reduced flow of the Colorado River, pollution, and reduced fitness from inbreeding. However, vaquitas examined after dying in fishing nets appeared to be feeding normally (not emaciated and no malnutrition), pollutant loads in tissues of bycatch animals were low, and researchers were able to complete a genome sequence and found that the vaquita has survived for 250,000 years at this low level of genetic diversity. So, they will not face an "extinction spiral" where inbreeding leads to a lethal amount of genetic mutations (as seen in previous wolves and panther populations in the U.S.), as the cause of the low diversity is consistent with a naturally rare species. Scientists have also looked at vaquitas recovered from gillnets that were young and had no apparent health issues to indicate inbreeding depression. NOAA Fisheries and its partners have examined the former potential threats to vaquitas, which have all been dismissed. The Mexican government permanently banned gillnet fishing in 2017, but it's extremely hard to enforce. In 2015, the Mexican government began subsidizing local fishermen to halt activities and let the population recover, however payment ended in 2018 forcing many people to resort to illegal fishing to make ends meet. The Chinese government has also increased their involvement with enforcement on the demand side, leading to the totoaba swim bladder trade to plummet in 2018 (though sources say it's still easy to buy). If we can prevent vaquita entanglements, we can prevent this species from going extinct. 

 

You can help by learning about bycatch and avoiding eating seafood that uses gillnets in the Gulf of California & by reporting a violation by calling the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964 to report a federal marine resource violation (hotline is available 24/7 to anyone in the United States).

Ingenious Indigenous:
Inca Environmentalism

By Morgan Martin

It is common for societies to treasure the land that sustains them; a deep respect for the Earth is what made many civilizations successful. Hawaiians limited fishing to prevent depleting the aquatic population, Californian tribes like the Yurok people practiced controlled burns for forest fire prevention, and modern tribal leaders of the Amazon rainforest protest corporations destroying their land. The effort of creating community guidelines in accordance with natural processes is key to a stable society.

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Ceramics and tapestry from the Inca and ancestry societies.
Photo Credits: Pedro Rodrigues | Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombiano

Archaeological findings have revealed the Inca to be the oldest civilization with known laws on conservation and species protection. Like most indigenous civilizations, the Inca Empire recognized the importance of natural resources. For example, they wisely collected bird guano (excrement) to fertilize the Empire’s agricultural lands. However, their appreciation went beyond social expectations because the Inca protected the birds and their coastal habitat through legislation too. They were determined to protect the ecosystem from malicious or avaricious individuals, and committed time and resources to do so.

 

The South American west coast is one of the most arid deserts on the planet. This dry ecosystem demands farmers use irrigation and fertilization techniques to yield a successful crop. The Inca Empire covered modern Peru, Bolivia, and Chile during the 15th century CE and needed to sustain food production for 8-10 million citizens. The South American coastline isn’t ideal for agriculture: rocky coasts, arid hills and valleys, and steep Andean mountains. So, human designed terracing, irrigating, and fertilizing were vital to the Inca’s success.

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Peruvian booby (left), Peruvian pelican (middle), and Guanay cormorant (right).

Photo Credits: Marcelo Flores

Archaeologists pieced together a sophisticated penal code prohibiting hunting, trespassing, or bothering certain birds under penalty of death. The Inca recognized the guano they produced was essential to food security and had no qualms about protecting this resource. These birds were the Guanay Cormorant (Leucocarbo bougainvillii), Peruvian Pelican (Pelecanus thagus) and Peruvian Booby (Sula variegata). These valuable birds live along the rocky coastline and the offshore Chincha Islands. In order to control availability and protection of the Guanay Cormorant, Peruvian Pelican and Peruvian Booby the Inca Empire levied specific regulations for guano collection. Regional and royal leaders organized a distribution network to transport guano to farmers thousands of miles away. Incan highways facilitated smooth transportation to every ecosystem in the empire, even steep mountain cities like Machu Picchu. The Inca Empire was diverse in ecosystems and cultures, so implementing clear laws was essential to maintaining control. 


During the Spanish invasion of the Inca Empire, warfare and chickenpox wiped out entire towns. Without people to save and preserve items of value, most quipu’s (knotted communication) and other administrative objects were destroyed. Therefore, no explicit descriptions of these conservation laws exist. However, recovered Spanish notebooks detail guano collection which corroborates with ceramic Incan art celebrating the coastal birds.


The Inca were wise to reinforce environmental appreciation with legislation. Modern countries with large and diverse communities would do well to emulate the Inca and other indigenous cultures in this way (without the death penalty). Even a comparatively small space like California is heavily dependent on ecosystems like the coastal wetlands. But. many surviving regions are at risk due to construction or pollution. This habitat is crucial for water filtration, flood control, and coastline erosion control; all crucial for maintaining California’s shipping, fishing, and tourism economies. The Inca educated themselves about their environment in order to use it sustainably, and this detailed understanding is what makes the most effective legislation. In order to preserve and strengthen natural spaces it is essential the government plays a strong role in protecting them.


By implementing a penal code to protect coastal birds and their home the Inca successfully fueled the Empire’s food production to sustain growth and quality of life. Their legislation allowed Guanay Cormorant, Peruvian Pelican and Peruvian Booby populations to thrive, creating a symbiotic relationship between humans and birds. The Inca displayed masterful leadership over their massive empire, and modern countries like the USA would benefit by emulating them. The Inca’s bird protection program is currently the earliest known environmental conservation in human history. Glory to the guano!


Special thanks to researchers Pedro Rodrigues and Joana Micael for their brilliant research, Marcelo Flores for his bird photographs, and Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombiano for their ceramic photographs.

INTERNS

During the summer, we welcomed several new interns to our team: Danna Mehtar (CSUF), Gaby, Sierra Dey (Saddleback), and Wendy Berube. Interns that have wrapped up their internship are Gina Thompson (Irvine High), Kevin Bartelheim (CSULB), Crystal Ryan (UCI), and James Nguyen Tran. Thank you for all of your hard work!

What's New

ONGOING RESTORATION PROJECTS

Restoration at the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy is held on every third Saturday of the month. At the Upper Newport Back Bay, restoration is held on every second Saturday of the month with a monthly Wednesday monitoring of the riparian and salt marsh habitat. OCH is looking for committed restoration volunteers, especially for the Upper Newport Bay location. Interested? Contact volunteer@ochabitats.org.

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FAREWELL MICHAELA COATS

OC Habitats bids farewell to one of our first employees, Michaela Coats. She interned with us in 2020 and became part of our paid staff in 2021. She recently graduated with her masters from UCI and has found a full time position with one of our partners, OC Coastkeepers. We will miss her as one of our staff but will retain her as a volunteer and know she will do great things in her career! We at OCH are so thankful for the time we had with her and the contributions she has made to our organization over the last year!

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OCH COFFEE & CONVERSATION (C&C)

OC Habitats began hosting monthly live streams on Google Meet or Zoom during the pandemic in an effort to connect and engage with the public. These events are typically hosted Saturday morning where we go over many different topics regarding our organization, environmentalism, and sustainability. Check out our previous live streams and join our email list to know when the next live stream is scheduled!

HIKING PROGRAM

OCH currently has the goal of doing at least one hike per month at different locations. One of our hikes include a 2.5-mile MPA hike along Little Corona del Mar beach to learn about the habitat and the different species living therein. We are always developing and expanding out hiking program to include new nature hikes, such as hikes along the Santiago Oaks Regional Park Trail and the Dripping Cave Trail, where you can learn about the various species living in the area and how to leave no trace. If you’re interested in joining us on our hikes, space is limited, so register through EventBrite!

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FUNDRAISING

On September 1st, 2021, OC Habitats and six other nonprofits came together with a goal to raise $75,000 to protect and preserve Orange County’s ecosystems. During this 24-hour event, OC Habitats was able to raise $2,132! Together, all seven nonprofits ended up raising a total of $144,502 for the Protect & Preserve Giving Day! A special thank you to our matching donor, John C Griswold Family Foundation, who matched all donations up to a total of $5,000. Thank you everyone for helping OC Habitats raise money to help sustain the ecosystems of Orange County, this would not be possible without you all!

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

October 2021

  • October 9th, 8 - 11:30 AM: Dripping Caves Nature Hike

  • October 9th, 8 - 11 AM: UNB Restoration

  • October 16th, 9 - 12 PM: HBWC Restoration

  • October 27th, 8 - 10 AM: UNB Monitoring

  • October 30th, 10 - 11 AM: C&C - Spiders

  • October 31st: Halloween

 

November 2021

  • November 2nd: Election Day

  • November 6th, 8 - 10:30 AM: Nature Hike

  • November 7th: Daylight Saving Time Ends

  • November 13th, 8 - 11 AM: UNB Restoration

  • November 20th, 9 - 12 PM: HBWC Restoration

  • November 24th, 8 - 10 AM: UNB Monitoring

  • November 25th: Thanksgiving

  • C&C - TBD

December 2021

  • December 4th, 10 - 11 AM: C&C - Topic TBD

  • December 4th, 1:30 - 4:30 PM: MPA Hike

  • December 11th, 8 - 11 AM: UNB Restoration

  • December 18th, 9 - 12 PM: HBWC Restoration

  • December 18th, 1:30 - 4:30 PM: MPA Hike

  • December 22nd, 8 - 10 AM: UNB Monitoring

  • December 24th: Christmas Eve

  • December 25th: Christmas

  • December 31st: New Year’s Eve

 

*Please check our website or your email for updated event information.

For new and upcoming events, join our mailing list.

Mountain Lions in California

By Kim Yumul

Mountain lions (also known as cougar, panther, and puma) are an important part of many natural habitats here in California. These elusive mammals can be found in any ecosystem that provides enough resources for them and for their prey to survive and thrive  (One Health Institute, 2020). Cougars are considered as a keystone species and an apex predator; they have a great influence on the overall health of the ecosystem where they are located. For example, mountain lions help regulate deer and other mammal populations, helping to ensure that these animals do not become overpopulated. Uncontrolled population of these animals can negatively change the ecosystem by decreasing its biodiversity (Gilbert et al., 2017). Mountain lion populations are not doing well in Orange County due three major threats: (1) genetic isolation due to habitat loss and fragmentation; (2) cougar-vehicle collisions; and (3) depredation permits (One Health Institute, 2020). 

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Major Threats to Mountain Lions in California


Habitat loss and fragmentation threaten genetic diversity:

Habitat loss and fragmentation due to rapid urban development has led to the increasing lack of genetic diversity within mountain lion populations. Research on the cougar population in the Eastern Peninsular Range and the Santa Ana Mountains shows that freeways (e.g., Interstate 15 or I-15) and human development have greatly isolated one population from the other (Gustafson et al, 2018). This is an important issue because mountain lions need a large home range of 113 km2 to 485 km2 for migration and dispersal—with males needing a larger home range than females (Chartier-Grable, 1997). It is crucial for young mountain lions to find a home range that is far enough from those to whom they are closely related (e.g., mother, father, and siblings) to prevent inbreeding. 

Signs of inbreeding include physical deformities, such as a kinked tail—which has been observed in the cougar population in the Santa Ana Mountains (Ernest et al., 2014). Inbreeding is a huge concern, especially for a smaller population, because it makes the population more vulnerable to diseases—which can ultimately lead to the species’ extirpation if there is low genetic diversity within the population. 

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Photos of kinked tails found in two mountain lions, F95 (A) and M96 (B), from the Santa Ana Mountains. Photos from Ernest et al., 2014

Cougar-vehicle collisions: 

In the Santa Ana Mountains, cougars looking for a home range sometimes need to cross the 8-10 lane I-15 freeway to reach the Eastern Peninsular Range (Gustafson et al., 2018). Mountain lions try to cross major highways “to maintain their large territory, or to discover a new home” (One Health Institute, 2020). Dispersal and migration of young mountain lions are crucial in ensuring that they don’t end up mating with their parents or siblings. Dispersal by crossing a major highway is a dangerous endeavor for mountain lions due to the high risk of them getting hit by a car. Vehicle collision, along with habitat loss and fragmentation and depredation permits, is a leading cause of mortality among mountain lions (Ernest et al., 2014). 

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Map of mountain lion range in Orange County. Created by Orange County Outdoors from Google My Maps

Depredation permits:

Mountain lions are opportunistic hunters; they prey on unprotected livestock and/or domestic pets. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has been issuing depredation permits since 1973 (J. Dellinger, personal communication, March 16, 2021). If a mountain lion kills livestock or a domestic pet, the owner can request a depredation permit from CDFW that allows them to kill the mountain lion. According to Dr. Dellinger of CDFW, they are currently developing their depredation policy. Since 2019, CDFW has been implementing non-lethal measures when releasing depredation permits.

 

Conservation Efforts

Several organizations, such as Caltrans, The Nature Conservancy, UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, and the engineering department of Cal Poly Pomona, are currently working on building a new crossing or improving existing habitat corridors so that mountain lions, and other migrating animals, can safely cross over I-15 (One Health Institute, 2019). According to Dr. Winston Vickers of UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, Caltrans and The Nature Conservancy are helping with creating a new habitat corridor along I-15 south of Temecula and upgrading Temecula Creek Bridge, which is an existing natural habitat corridor that connects the cougar population between the Santa Ana Mountains and the Eastern Peninsular Range (Raine, 2019). UC Davis is collaborating with faculty and students from the engineering department of Cal Poly Pomona to design new habitat corridors along I-15. There is also a plan to build a vegetative habitat corridor across the 101 freeway to help the cougar population in the Santa Monica Mountains. This proposed wildlife corridor would span the 101 freeway and Agoura Road in Agoura Hills, California.

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Interstate 15 freeway intersects the Santa Ana Mountains.

Photo Credits: Marilynn Young | The Nature Conservancy.

Researchers estimate that the cougar population in the Santa Ana Mountains and Santa Monica Mountains may be extirpated in the next 50 years due to the decline in genetic diversity within each population (Kerlin, 2019). Therefore, the construction of these habitat crossings is crucial to the conservation of the cougar population in these areas. Individuals living in mountain lion country can help by educating themselves about the plight of mountain lions, driving more safely, protecting their livestock and pets, and avoiding attracting animals that are preyed upon by cougars. As a community, our collective effort is vital to the conservation of mountain lions in Orange County.

OCH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEWS 2021

We will be continuing to post spotlight interviews with our interns, volunteers, and staff. These interviews highlight the variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences from our volunteers, and we embrace them all. Check out our videos to see how the OCH culture is diverse and welcoming.

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OCH Habitat Video Series
Join the OCH Crew!
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OCH is looking for people who want to share their talents and time to improve their local environment and habitats.  We have many opportunities to get involved and some are listed below.

 

  • Volunteer:

    • Become a Habitat Monitor

    • Join our Habitat Education Team

    • Help with Administrative Tasks

    • Help with Outreach and Marketing

    • Become a Nature Hike Guide

    • Work on OCH's Social Media Outreach

    • Help with ongoing Restoration Projects

    • Work with our Grant Writing Team to secure funding for our organization, programs, and projects.

    • Click Volunteer above for application.

  • Internships​:

    • College Level Students earn credit through CSUF, CSULB, Saddleback, UCI, and more

    • Gain experience in the conservation field, a grassroots nonprofit, business administration, public speaking, education, and more.

    • Become a film or art intern for OCH.

    • Click Internships above for application.

  • Join our Board:

    • We are always looking for people to help us reach our goals and mission. ​Submit your resume, references and cover letter to och@ochabitats.org

We look forward to hearing from you!

COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY 2021
Coastal Clean Up Day

Thank you everyone who came out to California Coastal Clean-Up Day 2021! This event was one of OC Habitats' most successful events of the year in keeping our habitats clean and healthy. Over 100 participants showed up and came together to remove about 700 pounds of trash and plastic pollution from the Huntington Beach Wetlands!

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Volunteers of the Month

July 2021

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Danny Rivas has been with OC Habitats for approximately three years. He came on right after graduating with his bachelor’s in biology and was looking for some field experience to jump-start his career. Danny, although fairly quiet, has made a big impact on OC Habitats by learning how to be a monitor right out of the gates and soon became a reliable monitor and monitor trainer. Because of the experience he gained at OC Habitats, he was able to secure a biological monitoring position in Los Angeles and has been doing this work for the last 2 years. Despite working long hours, Danny continues to contribute to OC Habitats by monitoring monthly and being willing to help others learn how to do the same. Danny is a valued member of our organization and we hope he continues to be a part for years to come.

August 2021

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Michelle Lee joined OC Habitats in 2019 as a freshman from a local Irvine high school. She came wanting to gain experience and volunteer hours in the environmental and habitat conservation fields. She started off strong by helping write some blog articles and sharing her amazing drawings with us. She became interested in nature when she was a small child and was introduced to birds in her backyard. She watched Hooded Orioles grow up in a nest, Spotted Towhees hopping under low bushes, and California Quails trotting along.  She couldn’t get enough and wanted to learn more about birds, how everything going on in the world is affecting them, and how she could help them. Her artistic talent showed up as soon as she could hold a pencil and her parents enrolled her in art classes when she was in 4th grade and she has continued to take it ever since. She draws in several mediums, including pencil, paint and digital, and has been able to draw a variety of species for OC Habitats articles and presentations with fabulous detail and color. She has been working almost entirely remote for OCH since she began due to the pandemic and has increased her involvement with us in 2021 by participating in a couple of our Coffee & Conservation events, doing research and presentations, writing articles, and is currently developing a new series of artwork for OCH that will be used in our marketing materials. This young woman shows great potential and is taking a heavy academic load in high school setting her sights on ornithology and environmental law so that she can help the environment through legal protections and policies.  We hope to have her for as long as we can as we see a blossoming advocate and steward of our precious environment.

September 2021

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Melody Aminian has been with OC Habitats since December 2020. She first started volunteering at the ICAN Project at the Fullerton Arboretum, which opened up her eyes to the local ecosystems around her and has empowered her to get involved in her local community. Since then, she has found OC Habitats and has used her background in graphic design and professional communications to contribute great ideas to our social media team. She has also started attending restoration events and has helped tremendously in her efforts to help other volunteers and restore the habitats. We are very grateful to have such a creative and enthusiastic person on our team and we value the support Melody provided us during the pandemic when we needed her. We look forward to working with her and developing her love for the environment!

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We have several habitat video series projects in the works that discusses the specific habitats and the species living therein. We are hoping for the publication of several of them by the end of 2021. There is also an in-depth look into the tide pool habitat that explores the successes and struggles that various tide pool animals experience in the microhabitats of each zonation. Keep your eyes open for a notification about these videos about our habitats of Orange County.

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Volunteers of the Year

2017

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Tom Gee

2018

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Bianca Borja

2019

2020

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Crystal Ryan & Trevor Stocking
Ross Griswold