Starr Ranch Field Ecology Programs
Field ecology is a branch of biology that focuses on the outdoor study of the relationships among animals, plants, and their environment. Our innovative education programs were created in 2001 by Research & Education Director, Dr. Sandy DeSimone. We have had great success using the facts and tools of ecological science to inspire a love of nature. Staff are biologists with graduate degrees and their research is integrated into our education programs. Minimum group size 6, maximum 150; ages 7 - adult. Most programs can be adjusted for any age and group. Public and home school students, scouts, families, religious groups, adults, and Audubon chapters visit the Ranch to have the unique experience of being the only group on 4000-acre Starr Ranch during their programs. Our oak-lined canyons, scrub-covered hills, and historic Ranch buildings offer an exceptional opportunity to experience "old California." See our current programs and fees in Starr Ranch Field Ecology Programs Brochure. Watch our website home page and local newspapers for regularly scheduled programs or you can arrange for your choice of "Ecology Programs" or nature walks for groups of six or more on any day or evening we have available. Contact Sandy at 949-858-0309 or for information and reservations.
Current offerings are organized into five major program areas:
Ecology Programs (ages 7 - adult)
Starr Ranch biologists have created a series of "Ecology Programs," 1 - 2 hour simulations of wildlife research. Programs such as "Evening Screech-Owl Survey," "Cougars, Bobcats, and Coyotes," and "Hawk Research" offer groups of all ages an opportunity to experience nature hands-on as wildlife biologists. For brief descriptions of our current Ecology Programs, see Ecology Programs Overview. Experience the scientific process at beautiful 4000-acre Starr Ranch during half day, full day, or overnight programs. Overnight groups camp for one or more nights while participating in day and evening Ecology Programs and nature walks. Scouts camp at the Ranch to fulfill badge requirements; home schoolers and high school groups set up their tents surrounded by oaks and sage-covered hills to have fun studying large mammals, creek insects, hawks, and more. Take advantage of our flexible scheduling and work with the education director (949-858-0309) to build day, evening, or overnight programs for your group.
Adults participate in field research through classes and camps and as volunteers with ongoing scientific studies of wildlife and habitats. Week-end wildlife research camps for adults offer participants relaxation in the peace and beauty of the Ranch with no other groups around. They become wildlife biologists for a few days as our own scientists involve them in studies on songbirds, hawks, large mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians, and more.
Volunteer research assistants, trained by our biologists, help us with long-term projects. Currently staff biologists use volunteer assistants with these studies:
- Effects of Coastal Sage Scrub Restoration on Wildlife (small mammals and songbirds)
- Monitoring Over wintering Survival (MoSI)
- Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS)
- Stream Bioassessment
Watch Audubon chapter newsletters, local newspapers, the Friends of Starr Ranch newsletter, and our website for upcoming volunteer research opportunities and adult classes and camps.
Starr Ranch Junior Biologists (ages 8 - 16)
During our summer camps and spring programs, kids ages 8 - 16 join the Starr Ranch scientific team to experience how biologists study wild animals and their habitats. The spring program runs for four consecutive Saturdays or school days (for home schoolers) and focuses on a specific wildlife research project. SRJB Spring kids have located and mapped hawk nests and learned about the wildlife of oak woodlands through the live trap and release of small mammals, birds, invertebrates, and reptiles and amphibians. During summer camps, kids discover how much fun wildlife research can be as we gradually take them through the scientific process during three progressive week-long sessions. SRJB I kids explore native ecosystems and have fun with some of the techniques scientists use to study wildlife. In SRJB II, children participate in simulations of ecological research on animals and habitats as they identify simple research questions, learn techniques for answering questions, and collect data. SRJB III is an advanced program offered for older children ages 10 - 13, who camp at the Ranch and do a week long study of the animals and ecosystems introduced in SRJB II. Advanced Junior Biologists have examined creek macroinvertebrates and water chemistry, the relationship of weeds and wildlife, and animals of different habitats active during the day and night. At night, biologists show kids how to use a black light to search for scorpions or the call playback method to survey for owls. A summer camp-out also kicks off junior internships for ages 14 - 16, mentored by Ranch biologists, with focus on independent field research projects. Our junior interns are currently monitoring Western Screech-Owls in Bell Canyon and small mammals in restoration sites. Watch for SRJB publicity on the home page of our website, our Friends newsletter, and local newspapers.
We invite families to experience the excitement of wildlife biology in the beautiful surroundings of our canyons and hills. Biannual "Family Nature Workshops" on Saturdays are offered free for families who come to the Ranch to participate in workshops that include a sampling of our Ecology Programs, nature walks, and programs by guest biologists. During week-end family camps, kids and parents have fun together doing outdoor research with our biologists during day and evening programs. Aside from regularly scheduled programs, family groups of six or more can call Sandy at 949-858-0309 to arrange a daytime or overnight experience. Watch for publicity on fall and spring Family Nature Workshops and Family Wildlife Research Camps on our website home page, in local newspapers, and in Audubon chapter newsletters.
Avian research at the Ranch is integrated into education programs that stimulate an interest in birds and conservation of bird habitat. SRBO runs several songbird monitoring studies, assisted by volunteers trained by our ornithologist, that contribute to Starr Ranch land management and national conservation projects. Our ornithologist trains volunteer bird banders for songbird monitoring projects during intensive week-long camps. Other camps that focus on birds have included point count surveys, hawk banding and nest surveys, use of radio telemetry to study hawks, and evening owl call playback surveys.