Tejon RancH Conservancy eNews August 2017

On the Ranch

The dog days of August—the sultry part of summer when Sirius, the Dog Star (thus the term), rises with the sun, and all we really want to do is find a cool place to nap, to lounge, and to rest our weary souls, like my dogs, and probably your dogs surely do. But of course, we can’t always do what we want and must rise to the challenge of the work we must do, for the Conservancy rarely takes a break. In July, several dozen loyal and new volunteers braced against the heat to join our annual Volunteer Picnic. It’s always nice to see these amazing friends, and also to explain the difference between the Tejon Ranch Conservancy and the Tejon Ranch Company to newcomers, as this is still confusing to most people. The Conservancy is the non-profit steward of 90% of the Tejon Ranch, still owned by the Tejon Ranch Company, a publically traded company (TRC). We are working partners in this endeavor started in 2008 to take care of this amazing land the best that we can, and boy do we rely on volunteers!

How are we meeting the challenges of invasive non-native plants? Creatively, using Tamarisk Beetles, and Laura Pavliscak tells us more about her work with UCSB and TRC to address this growing riparian problem. Learn more about a most familiar sight, the Antelope Ground Squirrel, from Docent and Naturalist Chris Gardner, and a little overview on arthropods…yes, here on Tejon, from Docent Naturalist Paula Harvey (and dedicated eNews editor; she always checks my commas), as well as Part Two of geologist David Miller’s amazing geo-history of Tejon and the Tehachapis.

Of course what good would any of this be if we were not passing it on to the next generation of researchers and thinkers? Chris Fabbro, our Public Access Manager, hopes to resume our work with students from local high schools and colleges using the Ranch as a living laboratory. Your help is vital in building these education programs here at Tejon, a place where very few people visit. Help us keep this resource available to future generations as a donor or member.

Finally, a spectacular video of a mountain lion family on Tejon, from Ben Teton, Conservancy Wildlife Biologist. Mountain Lion habitat is constantly shrinking and we all have read of the plight of these majestic creatures throughout the West, particularly here in Southern California. It’s reassuring to know we have protected 240,000 acres of range, and even more thrilling and rewarding to watch members of a lion family in their natural state, undisturbed, using Conservancy wildlife cameras. Interested in learning more about this modern conservation technology? Join us as a member at an upcoming wildlife camera workshop with Ben and camera technicians.

Thank you for being a reader and supporter, and for your interest in Tejon, a place like few others in the ever populated west, and diminishing wild landscape of California.

See you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

President and CEO

Biocontrol Efforts on Tejon Ranch

By Conservancy Stewardship Manager Laura Pavliscak

Photo: The invasive tamarisk tree dominates the drainage of Lower Tejon Creek.

This summer marked an important first for the Conservancy—using biological control to manage an invasive species of concern on the Tejon Ranch. Biocontrol is the purposeful introduction of a controlling agent like an herbivorous insect on a target pest species. In our case, we introduced a beetle that specializes in defoliating a highly invasive tree species in our creeks. Tamarisk or salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima), is a water-loving shrub or small tree from Asia. In the early 1800’s, several species of tamarisk were planted in the American west as rapidly-growing, heat-tolerant cover for both horticultural purposes and erosion control along river banks. As a plant, it was hugely successful, dramatically expanding into new areas, and outcompeting native species. Today, tamarisk has been shown to dramatically lower the water table, increase fire frequency and soil salinity, and significantly decrease biodiversity of native flora and fauna. It is considered highly invasive in the California Invasive Plant Council’s statewide invasiveness ranking.

Photo: Mature tamarisk trees at Comanche Spring.

Typical management methods for this species involve cutting woody stems and immediately painting the stumps with herbicide. An individual plant can have many dozens of stems, so this method is not only extremely laborious, but also expensive and slow going. Sometimes stumps re-sprout and need to be treated again. For land managers, this means that effectively managing tamarisk is an expensive and time-consuming practice that may limit implementation in landscape-scale infestations.

Photo: Tamarisk saplings (foreground) with mature trees at Comanche Springs.

On Tejon, tamarisk is generally associated with drainages and is found in low densities throughout the Ranch. However, there are two drainages in the San Joaquin Valley where tamarisk dominates the creek-dwelling community, decreasing the quality and availability of habitat for native species. This summer we have embarked on a collaboration with researchers from UC Santa Barbara Riparian Invasion Research Laboratory to release a specialized invertebrate in these infested creeks that specifically targets tamarisk. The tamarisk leaf beetle (Diorhabda carinulata) is a highly vetted herbivorous biocontrol species that has been used to manage tamarisk in watersheds in the American southwest since the early 2000’s. It works by consuming and damaging large amounts of tamarisk leaves, defoliating trees each growing season, and effectively starving the tree to death over several years. Release sites are monitored monthly to determine the effect beetles are having on tamarisk over time, and also how the surrounding vegetation and invertebrate communities change. Although abatement takes place over several years, using this method requires very limited labor and financial investment to make a real difference, which is extremely useful for a small land trust like ours.

Photo: The tamarisk leaf beetle (Diorhabda carinulata).

Beetles were released in mid-June and we just completed our initial round of monitoring. The first step is to get the beetles established so they can reproduce and get started on their prolonged feasting. There have been no dramatic changes in the tamarisk populations so far, but we are excited to see how things might change as time goes on. If all goes well and the beetles establish, we should start to see stress in our tamarisk populations next spring—fingers crossed!

Photo: A bag is used to contain the initial release of beetles in Tejon Creek.

CSU Bakersfield geology students examining conglomerates on Tejon Ranch. Photo by AJ Alvarado.

A River Runs Through It: Ancient Landscapes of Tejon Ranch (Part Two)

By California State University Bakersfield Lecturer of Geology David Miller

With support from the Conservancy and Ranch staff and the CSU Bakersfield Environmental Education Partnerships Impacting Colleges & Careers (E2PIC2) internship program, we have continued our work looking at fluvial conglomerates on the Ranch. We discovered that the exotic quartzite-rich conglomerates of Tejon Ranch with their distinctive Death Valley-like boulders are restricted to certain strata and formations. Other conglomerates on the Ranch contain exotic volcanic rocks. These rocks are also unknown from the San Joaquin, but some can be found in the northern and central Mojave. Other kinds of volcanic rock found in the conglomerates have no known source. A third type of conglomerate found on the Ranch does contain locally-derived boulders of Tehachapi Mountain schist. Deposits of this conglomerate record the birth of the Tehachapi Mountains when uplift, erosion, and changing gradients first delivered boulders of the characteristically dark colored schists of the Tehachapis to local river systems. We have used these three distinctive conglomerate compositions to map the paleochannels of ancient rivers that flowed across Tejon Ranch between 40 and 5 million years ago.

Boulders of exotic quartzite in the Tecuya Formation.

When these conglomerates were deposited, the mountains we see today did not exist. Rivers sourced in the northern Mojave, eastern Sierra and beyond, flowed into the ocean between Comanche Point and the Grapevine. At times ocean waves reworked the river gravels. Other times large deltas filled the Tejon Embayment. Locally-derived conglomerates with sources in the present day Tehachapi Mountains are not common until the early Miocene about 20 million years ago. These locally derived conglomerates were accompanied by explosive volcanism, faulting, and drainage disruption. At this time, the Tehachapi Mountains began rising. The rising mountains cut off the headwaters of the ancient river systems in a process called beheading. New streams began cutting across the old drainage system in a process called drainage derangement, capturing the watersheds of adjoining streams in a process called stream piracy. Today, the volcanoes are gone, but beheading, derangement, and stream piracy continue.

With the help of Conservancy staff we are creating a database of conglomerates and mapping the distribution of different conglomerate types on the Ranch. We are doing this for several reasons. Underlying rock types are an important factor in soil development, slope stability, basin hydrology, and the distribution of hydrocarbon and mineral resources. They give us insight into climates, landscapes, and river systems of the past. More speculatively, the rapidly changing landscape with a patchwork of exotic rock types may have contributed to the development of the remarkable biodiversity found on the Ranch.

Photo by Mike White.

Our research group has developed lab techniques and statistical tests to correlate and identify exotic conglomerates in other localities. We have started to correlate the exotic conglomerates at Tejon Ranch with other exposures in California. The exotic conglomerates of Tejon Ranch may once have been a part of a sediment dispersal system that flowed from Death Valley to Big Sur in the late Cretaceous and early Cenozoic and provided sediment for the agricultural valleys, hydrocarbon reservoirs, and groundwater reservoirs throughout southern and central California.

It takes a lot of energy to move boulders. Especially when you’re moving them back to the lab and cracking them open to find out what stories they tell. If you listen closely, they will tell you stories of vanished landscapes, climates, and ecosystems. And sometimes the stories they tell will surprise you.

The Conservancy has facilitated over 50 research projects in our short history with local, national and international academic partners.

The California Naturalist Series

By Paula Harvey, California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent


Arthropods are the largest and most successful group of animals. This includes arachnids, crustaceans, insects, millipedes, and centipedes. Arthropods make up over 80 percent of all living and fossil organisms. While there are over one million known species, many remain undocumented or undiscovered, bringing the estimate probably into the tens of millions!

Anatomy and Life Cycle

The basic body structure of all arthropods is similar. They have an exoskeleton (an external skeleton that supports and protects the animal’s body) made mostly of a carbohydrate called “chitin.” Because the exoskeleton does not grow, it is molted frequently.

Arthropods have segmented bodies. The number of segments varies and some are fused to form specialized body regions known as “tagmata”; the head, thorax, and abdomen. Their jointed appendages (“arthropod” means “jointed feet”) are not only legs, but form other structures such as mouth parts, antennae, reproductive organs, and wings.

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) You can easily see the three body parts, head, thorax and abdomen and the jointed antennae and legs.

Many arthropods have well-developed sense organs. Most have compound eyes and may also have a number of simpler eyes called “ocelli,” which mostly detect the direction from which light comes. Some insects have well-developed ears. Many species have the ability to detect chemicals, especially pheromones emitted by females and picked up by males.

Respiratory systems vary widely. Many small species have no respiratory system. The surface area of their bodies allows enough diffusion through the surface to supply oxygen. Crustacea usually have gills. Many arachnids have book lungs that look like the pages of a folded book and are filled with hemolymph, equivalent to blood, and are found on the underside of the abdomen. Insects and some arachnids have tracheae, tubes that deliver air directly to individual cells. They are linked to external openings called “spiracles,” which allow oxygen to enter the body. Arthropods have a hemocoel, or open body cavity, in which hemolymph flows without blood vessels, bathing the tissues and organs.

Insects pass through different developmental stages. Hemimetabolous insects, like dragonflies, are born resembling adults, although they may lack wings and are sexually immature. Holometabolous insects, such as butterflies, have a distinct larval stage that is completely different from the adult in its morphology, diet, and habitat. The larval form usually undergoes several molts, and then enters a pupal stage where metamorphosis occurs, after which the animal emerges in its adult form.

Hemimetabolous, dragonfly nymph.
Dragonfly adult.

Beneficial Animals

Arthropods are essential to the human food supply. In some cultures, they are eaten directly. More importantly, arthropods are the sole food source for other animals, which are integral members of the food chain that ultimately supports humans. They are vital as pollinators. In some cases, one particular insect is essential to the pollination of a particular plant. For example, Joshua trees rely on the female pronuba moth (Tegeticula) for pollination. No other animal visiting the blooms transfers the pollen from one flower to another.

Tegeticula. Photo by Sherwin Carlquist

Some insects control other insects and/or plants. For example, the tamarisk beetle (Diorhabda carinulata) has recently been introduced to eat and kill invasive tamarisk on the ranch.

Tamarisk Beetle

Burrowing insects aerate or create channels through which water seeps and flows. Some aid in decomposition. Insects are essential components of the environment, where they perform many important functions.

Fun Facts:

• Most crustaceans are marine animals, but one group lives on land: Isopoda, commonly known as pillbugs or roly-polies.

Isopoda or pillbug

• Insect legs and wings are located on the thorax, not the abdomen, which only carries reproductive organs.

• The lightest insects weigh less than 25 micrograms (millionths of a gram). The heaviest of all living arthropods is the American lobster, topping out at over 20 kg (44 pounds).

California harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex californicus).

• 80-90% of all arthropod deaths occur during molting as they are in danger of being trapped in the old cuticle or being attacked by predators.

• Coleoptera (beetles) are the dominant form of life on Earth, as one of every five living species is a beetle.

• Scorpions are ovoviparous. Their eggs hatch inside the mother and emerge live, carried on the back of the mother as they develop.

• More fun facts can be found at https://terrific-top10.com/2014/08/04/top-10-largest-insect-orders/

Research update

By Senior Ecologist, C. Ellery Mayence

In the month of August conditions on Tejon Ranch, even at the higher elevations, fall into the ‘dog days of summer’ category. In other words, the days are hot, with temperatures often reaching triple digits. Despite the heat-related challenges, there continues to be a dedicated group of researchers taking advantage of the early sunrises and abundant daylight. CSU Bakersfield continues to be well represented via the efforts of Brandon Pratt (Plant Ecology) and David Miller (Geology) who are assisted by a diverse team of graduate students and summer interns.

UC Santa Barbara will also have a greater than normal presence on Tejon this month, with one field study being decommissioned and another being initiated. Frank Davis’ team is deconstructing and removing equipment associated with a complex climate change/seed germination trial, whilst students and Conservancy interns from the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara will be using Tejon Ranch to assess various scientific applications of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. The use of drones for conservation and land management activities has increased exponentially in recent years and the conservancy is keen to evaluate their potential to enhance the work that we do.

Though not technically research, perhaps the most significant science-related activity on the Ranch in August is this year’s Jepson Herbarium workshop. Organized by Neal Kramer (Kramer Botanical), Nick Jensen (Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden), and Maynard Moe (CSU Bakersfield), and hosted by the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, the workshop will be a three-day botanical foray targeting anything and everything botanical. For the sake of brevity, I have highlighted only a small number of research or science-related activities on the Ranch this month. Enjoy what remains of the summer – and get out and observe those plants and animals that thrive in the late season heat and dryness.

The Antelope Ground Squirrel

Text and Photos By California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent Chris Gardner

The White-Tailed Antelope Ground Squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus) is commonly spotted on the Antelope Valley side of the Tejon Ranch. It is omnivorous, primarily feeding on foliage, seeds, arthropods, and, to a lesser extent, vertebrates (mainly lizards and rodents). In addition to being a predator, the squirrel is also prey to many larger animals, including raptors, various canids, and snakes.

They carry food in cheek pouches and cache food. They live long periods without free water, taking moisture from plants, such as Ephedra (Mormon tea). These ground squirrels are active during the cooler parts of the daylight hours. Their burrows are simple, and are used for escaping predators and extreme temperatures.

Meet Garry george, our newest board member

Garry George

Please join us in welcoming an outstanding new board member to the Conservancy. Garry George joined Audubon California as Chapter Network Director in 2008 after service as the first Executive Director of LA Audubon. His work expanded as Renewable Energy Director of state and federal policies in California and the West, where he focused on renewable energy siting and conservation policies. Among many accomplishments, is the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan for 12 million acres of Mojave and Colorado Deserts, which also covers our neighboring Antelope Valley. He is currently completing work on the Antelope Valley Regional Conservation Investment Strategy pilot under AB2087.

“Garry has devoted his career to the protection of wildlife, and his most recent work on the siting and design of over 20 renewable energy projects in California has greatly mitigated impacts on birds,” said Joel Reynolds, Tejon Conservancy Board Chair. “We look forward to benefiting from Garry’s expertise, relationships, and clear passion for our Southern California environment to help the Conservancy navigate the challenging world of conservation.”

Currently Garry represents National Audubon on the Avian Solar Working Group and the Board of the American Wind & Wildlife Institute. “Audubon has been a key partner in conserving Tejon Ranch from the beginning. We look forward to continuing our work with the Conservancy, and helping to fulfill the goals of this remarkable endeavor in preserving Tejon Ranch for generations to come, including my 4 and one half year old grandson.” said Garry. “My husband and I bird watch around the world to add to our life list of over 7,000 species, but always look forward to birdwatching trips on Tejon to see Condor, golden eagle, Lewis’ woodpecker, Hermit warbler and other rare species of birds in California.”

Garry replaces Brigid McCormack, former Executive Director of Audubon California, as a Resource Group representative on the 12 member Conservancy board of directors.

Volunteer Appreciation Lunch

By Conservancy Public Access Manager Chris Fabbro

Thanks to the volunteers, friends and family who participated in the Conservancy's 2017 Volunteer Appreciation lunch at Ft. Tejon State Park. Special thanks to Reema Hammad and Paula Harvey for help setting up the lunch and to Ellery Mayence for smoking an impressive amount of BBQ pork. State Parks staff also lent a hand with setup as well as hosting a tour of the compound. The Conservancy is looking forward to hosting other events for volunteers later this year as a way of saying thanks for your service.

Learn more about California ecology or share your knowledge by becoming a Conservancy Volunteer. Contact Chris Fabbro at (661) 248-2400, x105 or by email: cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org.

Getting it Right, Wildlife Camera Planning

By Conservancy Wildlife Biologist Ben Teton

Wildlife camera trapping can best be understood as a way to read our wild landscape across progressively finer and finer scales. The Conservancy’s use of this technology relies upon effective camera placement, particularly as it is applied to research science, and often requires a measured understanding of a landscape across hundreds of miles. Equally important is the specific capture frame of the camera itself, wherein adjustments of a few millimeters can make all the difference.

Taking our current wildlife monitoring work on Tejon Ranch as an example, we begin with the 400 square mile property and design a survey grid around a representative portion containing large swaths of the various habitat types that characterize the Ranch and in which we are interested. In this case we chose a 48 square kilometer grid situated deep in the interior of the Ranch. From there we selected camera sites within each of the 48- 1 by 1 km grid cells. These were selected based on a reading of wildlife signs along movement corridors that occur naturally across Tejon’s wildlands.

Ideally cameras are placed at “pinch-points” along these corridors, where terrain and vegetation features constrain and somewhat direct wildlife movement along a predictable orientation. By predicting wildlife movement in this way, we can visualize the images or videos we hope to capture before the camera is even set. Now that we have a camera site selected, there is an equally complicated exercise of orienting the camera itself. Micro-adjustments that shift the frame of the camera a few degrees this way or that, have a huge impact on the overall quality of the images or videos captured.

A clear reading of wildlife presence in the area can act as a guide in this endeavor, but will often require an additional, and often painstaking sequence of trial and error exercises to get it right. It is common for us to use wildlife tracking skills, local knowledge, and movement patterns to help place our cameras. Needless to say, it can be very time-consuming, requiring significant staff and volunteer time (to learn more about joining our volunteer wildlife camera team contact me at (805) 448-5170 or email me at bteton@tejonconservancy.org.).

This month we feature a series of wildlife trap camera captures, taken from the same location, after a series of micro-adjustments, with the intent of better capturing behaviors of cougars.

We have 68 wildlife cameras around Tejon Ranch which help our conservation work and provide a rare glimpse into our natural world. Please support the Conservancy's wildlife camera work.

Click here to learn more.

Thank you!

Tejon Ranch Conservancy E-News is written and produced by Conservancy staff and volunteers with the help of co-editors Tim Bulone, Paula Harvey and Susan Chaney. If you'd like to contribute to E-News please let us know.

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