ON THE RANCH
By President and CEO Bob Reid
Observing and responding to the various factors influencing the ecological health of a landscape like Tejon is at once quite challenging and enormously rewarding. Whether it’s going from drought to deluge, from blossoms to fires, or from invasives to natives, it’s all part of the job of conservation. Tejon is a vast and rich environment with 90 percent of its land conserved. The Conservancy, working with the Tejon Ranch Company, seeks to maintain and improve conservation values throughout these iconic western lands. Hands and minds are working together to tread lightly on the land and leave a legacy of sound science and stewardship.
This is all pretty cool stuff, and you can be part of it. Join as a member, volunteer, or just come and visit on one of our many outings and adventures!
See you on the Ranch!
President and CEO
By Biological Technician Mitchell Coleman
Since the fall of 2015, Dr. Brandon Pratt and Dr. Anna Jacobsen of California State University Bakersfield have been studying the chaparral vegetation at Tejon Ranch.
Dr. Anna Jacobsen, left, and Dr. Brandon Pratt, pictured at their chaparral research site on top of Bronco Ridge on Tejon Ranch. The Antelope Valley is behind them to the south.
Chaparral broadly refers to a type of evergreen shrubland common throughout California, especially in the south. It is California’s most common vegetation type. The shrubs are distinguished by their thick, leathery, evergreen leaves, described as “sclerophyllous.” This adaptation allows the leaves to persist in our drought-prone, Mediterranean-type climate by greatly reducing water loss.
Chaparral communities support a tremendous biodiversity. Many annual and perennial species are endemic, meaning they occur nowhere else.
Flower blossoms of Ceanothus vestitus (Mojave ceanothus) on Bronco Ridge in April 2018. This common Southern California chaparral shrub is known as one of the most drought-tolerant species on record, capable of surviving multiple years of high-intensity droughts.
The chaparral communities at Tejon Ranch occur predominantly on mid-elevation slopes of the Tehachapi Mountains facing the Antelope Valley to the south.
Common shrub species include Ceanothus vestitus (California lilac), Arctostaphylos glauca (big berry manzanita), A. glandulosa (Eastwood manzanita), Adenostoma fasciculatum (chamise), Quercus berberidifolia (scrub oak), Cercocarpus betuloides (birch-leaf mountain mahogany), and Garrya flavescens (ashy silktassel). Rare species are also present, including Eriogonum callistum (Tehachapi buckwheat), a perennial herb which occurs on patchy limestone outcroppings in the far south of the Tehachapi range.
The greener leaves of Arctostaphylos glauca are fresh from the current year’s growth, whereas the lighter gray leaves are from previous years.
Chaparral shrubs are well-suited to California’s hot, dry summers, though survival in such arid land does not come without costs. For example, the shrubs’ vascular system can become compromised when the tension of water inside the plants exceeds a certain threshold. This causes the water column to “break” and gas bubbles to fill the intervening space, called “cavitation.” Cavitated vessels can’t transport water to leaves, which can cause a suite of related problems such as reduced photosynthetic capacity and nutrient transport. These cumulatively result in mortality if conditions persist.
An understudied aspect of these shrubs is the role of cavitation resistance in their ability to tolerate and recover after multiple years of drought. Using a combination of anatomical (internal plant structure) and physiological (plant function) measurements, Drs. Pratt and Jacobsen hope to understand how, or if, the chaparral shrubs at Tejon have recovered from drought-induced stress from the drought that started in 2011. They hope to continue their studies to create a long-term physiological data set. Such data sets are rare, and much can be learned from examining long-term trends.
A 3D model of a Quercus kelloggii (black oak) stem imaged at 3-micron (0.0001 inches) resolution (the stem is about 1/4 inch in diameter). The dark regions are gas (cavitated) and the white spots are X-ray dense crystals, mainly in the bark and pith. The white-filled water-transporting and functional conduits were fed an iodine-rich compound to make them stand out.
A particularly fascinating aspect of their work is an innovative way to measure plant structure and function. Recently, Dr. Pratt received a grant from the Department of Defense to purchase a high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scanner. It allows plant anatomy to be viewed in vivo (i.e., no need to cut plant stems open). Within 15 minutes of placing a plant specimen in it, high quality images of the plant’s internal structure are seen. This, in combination with other established methods, promises great strides in our understanding of drought-induced mortality.
We look forward to continued collaboration with CSUB, Drs. Pratt and Jacobsen, and other researchers eager to use Tejon for scientific advancement.
Read more about this work here
Behind the gates...
Sketching With Artist in Residence Lisa Ann Mahony
Last month our AiR Lisa Ann Mahony hosted an outdoor sketching workshop for Conservancy members and guests. The group had a wonderful day touring the Ranch and spent the afternoon working on their craft with Ms. Mahony. Here's what workshop participant Julie Jordan Scott had to say about the experience:
“I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up to attend the Tejon Ranch Conservancy Artist in Residency Sketching Workshop. I trusted it would be incredible so I invited a few other Bakersfield Creatives and together we took the short ride south. We were completely enthralled from the moment we arrived! I stayed exhilarated for days. The sketching inspiration, the instant-creative-community, the shared passion... I look forward to the next adventure I take with the Conservancy! It was easily the best day of 2018.”
To learn more about our Artist in Residence program and to find out how you can be part of the fun, please contact our Public Access Coordinator Chris Fabbro: email@example.com
TEJON RANCH ECOLOGY SEMINAR SERIES
With the arrival of autumn, the October edition of TRESS (Tejon Ranch Ecology Seminar Series) will target the Ranch’s high country where we can get out (on foot) and enjoy the cool weather and colorful black oak foliage. Though the actual hiking route is to-be-determined, expect the difficulty level to be in the neighborhood of strenuous, as there’s not much flat ground in Tejon’s interior. As with previous TRESS events, plan for a full day afield. Space is limited, so book your spot soon! $20 fee.
For additional information, please contact Conservation Science Director C. Ellery Mayence at firstname.lastname@example.org
TEJON’S FUNNIEST (and wildest!) HOME VIDEOS
By Ben Teton
You might be asking yourself, “Why feature a highlight reel of animals looking silly?” These are, after all, wild creatures worthy of respect, endowed with an intrinsic nobility, and evolved over thousands of generations in perfect balance within their broader ecological community. Despite what Ringling Bros. Circus and SeaWorld might have you believe, these creatures do not exist for our entertainment.
They are however, individuals, and more than a collection of instincts and impulses set upon the environment like so many wind-up dolls. As wildlife biologists we often think in terms of broad population trends and rarely consider the moment-to-moment existence of the individual as it lives out its day-to-day life. While this is generally a reasonable and pragmatic perspective when working to sustain long-term population viability, we must never lose sight of the commonality between all living creatures, particularly the shared experience between ourselves and the other highly evolved species that surround us.
It is in this spirit that I share the following wildlife blooper reel, not so that these animals can be laughed at, but laughed with. Like us, our forest dwelling neighbors have good days and bad days, their children can drive them crazy, they get distracted and make mistakes. In this way our own private struggle to make it through the day without tripping over our own feet (or is that just me?) can be seen as a shared experience among all of us busy creatures hurrying about this wild and unpredictable world.
tejon trivia: name that critter!
Submit your answer along with the contact email of two friends who would like to join our E-News for your chance to win a free Tejon Conservancy swag bag!
The gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) is an omnivorous mammal from the dog family Canidae. what unique trait does this species share with only one other canid species?
Submit your entry to email@example.com and be sure to check back next month to find out the correct answer!
Congratulations to our September Tejon Trivia winner Bas Van Schooten!
Ben Teton, Neil Kramer and Reema Hammad