818-597-8627 info@rcdsmm.org

Field Notes

Outdoor science research and environmental monitoring field programs connecting students to nature reserves and wilderness areas in Los Angeles.  Click here for a Printable Brochure

Field programs are offered in the following areas:

Oak Woodland Reforestation

Planting oak saplings

Plant oak saplings as part of a larger riparian reforestation effort, monitor restoration success, and learn about the habitat needs of native wildlife.

LOCATION: Topanga State Park
GRADES: K-12, AP, adult

Bird Surveys

Bird watching

Employ bird survey methods to observe and count bird species at the wildlife preserve. Analyze distribution between habitat types.

LOCATION: Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve.
GRADES: 4-12, AP

Seed Collection


Investigate methods of seed collection and analyze data to examine
seed diversity and abundance. Discuss historical and cultural uses of native plants.

LOCATIONS: Topanga State Park, Trippet Ranch
GRADES: 3-12, AP, adult

Endangered Fish Surveys


Be prepared to get wet! Document the diversity, distribution, and abundance of fishes, including the federally endangered tidewater goby, in Malibu Lagoon using seine and hand nets. Learn estuarine fish identification, and compare data to pre and post-restoration surveys.

LOCATION: Malibu Lagoon
GRADES: 9-12, AP

Water Quality

water quality

Measure water quality by collecting data (e.g. temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH). Sample and identify species from the benthic community and discuss the role of water quality in the food chain and human influences.

LOCATIONS: Malibu Lagoon or Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
GRADES: 5-12, AP

Oaks in Drought

Measure oak condition and growth

Measure oak condition and growth. Compare tree data to environmental variables to examine what makes some trees and landscapes more vulnerable to drought than others.

LOCATION: Trippet Ranch
GRADES: 4-12, AP

Plant Communities


Map plant types and compare soil conditions, air temp., and arthropod diversity between invasive and native plant communities.

LOCATION: Topanga State Park
GRADES: 6-12, AP

Life in the Sand

Investigate the diversity, distribution, and abundance of sandy beach organisms by sampling the beach using transect tapes, shovels, and sieves. Compare results between groomed and non-groomed areas.
LOCATION:Malibu State Beach
GRADES: 7-12, AP

Invasive Crayfish Removal


Help manage an invasive species population. Study the ecology of aquatic invasive species in freshwater systems. Go fishing for crawfish and measure the catch.

LOCATION: Topanga Creek
GRADES: 3-12, AP, adult

Programs engage students in:

  • Collecting real scientific data
  • Common Core, NGS, and AP Environmental Science StandardsField Notes
  • Placed based ecology, focused on connections between Santa Monica Mountain ecosystems to the global environment

Programs are:

  • Available at 5 locations
  • Focused on 11 research projects, but are flexible in format and can be suited to fulfil class requirements
  • Open to K-12 grades, AP classes, as well as adult learners.

Handouts detailing the field study element of your choice, including background information  and data sheets are provided to teachers and students beforehand so that they can be prepared for the field event. Each program is approximately 2-4 hours and includes an overall introduction to field/conservation biology, completion of one or two research elements, and a brief discussion of the results.  If there is a specific area of study that interests you, which is not described, please let us know; we are happy to accommodate your needs.

Program fees vary by location and number of students, but can be estimated between $10.00 and $35.00 per student. Please email the Field Notes Program Supervisor or call 818-597-8627 x106 for program fee inquiries.
Schools are responsible for transporting students and chaperones to and from the study sites.  There is bus and car parking available at all sites.
Students will be working in the field. There are not always restrooms immediately available. We recommend students wear long pants and must wear closed toed shoes that can get wet, like a pair of old sneakers. They will need to have hands free to carry field equipment and data sheets, so water, lotions, snacks, lunch, etc. should be in backpacks. Malibu Lagoon students may get sandy and wet, so a change of clothes is recommended.

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