818-597-8627 info@rcdsmm.org

Research and Monitoring

RCDSMM biologists serve as biological monitors for various public works and habitat restoration projects where sensitive biological resources are present. Our staff ensures that all permit requirements and mitigation measures are followed for projects subject to CEQA/NEPA.

Endangered Fish

Endangered Fish

RCDSMM biologists hold relevant permits and have been conducting studies of southern steelhead trout (Federally Endangered), tidewater goby (Federally Endangered), and Arroyo chub (CDFG Species of Special Concern) within the Santa Monica Bay since 1995. We are one of the few permit holders allowed to conduct research and monitoring on the endangered steelhead trout and tidewater goby in the Santa Monica Bay. We currently deploy the only instream antenna array to monitor migration of southern steelhead trout in southern California.

Services provided include instream habitat mapping according to CDFG protocols, snorkel surveys, spring spawning and redd surveys, seine and trapping monitoring, instream antenna array monitoring and maintenance, scale reading for age/size analysis, tagging using Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT), fin clip collection for DNA analysis, grunion run monitoring

Amphibians and Reptiles

Amphibians and Reptiles

RCDSMM helped establish the protocol for monitoring amphibians and reptiles in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in 2000. Since then, our biologists and Stream Team members have conducted annual amphibian surveys in Topanga Creek, monitoring trends in population abundance and diversity. We participate in annual surveys for the California newt and native amphibians within Topanga Creek as part of a regional study within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Since 2002, RCDSMM staff and Topanga Stream Team members have collected data on southwestern pond turtles in the Topanga Creek Watershed. The goals of the project include answering questions about turtle presence, location, population structure, recruitment, nesting sites, movement patterns, survival ratio, and preferred habitat.  We currently hold permits to capture, tag and radio track southwestern pond turtles throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.

The RCDSMM, in partnership with the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, has recently conducted visual and trapping surveys for the southwestern pond turtle (CDFG Species of Special Concern) at strategic locations throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.

Water Quality

Water Quality

RCDSMM’s Stream Team has monitored water quality in Topanga Creek to varying degrees since 1999, and beginning in the spring of 2016 we have been working with partners throughout the Los Angeles River watershed to monitor summer water temperatures in the LA River. We also collect water quality data as part of biological monitoring studies for fishes, amphibians and macro-invertebrates. The RCDSMM recently monitored both Topanga and Zuma Lagoons as part of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) Eutrophication Study of the Southern California Bight.

Services provided include site selection and watershed level stream order analysis, in-situ data collection (air and water temperature, pH, conductivity, Dissolved oxygen, salinity, algae, etc.), nutrient analysis (collect samples for lab analysis or in-house analysis using LaMotte Colorimeter 2), bacteria sample collection (fecal coliform, total coliform, E. coli, Enterococcus, DNA samples) for virus and bacteriodes, heavy metals sample collection, isotope sample collection, in-situ YSI 6600 Data Sondes management and maintenance, instream temperature monitors (HOBO Tidbits) management and maintenance, smaller coastal stream flow measurements and calculations


dragonfly pole dancer

RCDSMM biologists and trained volunteers have collected macro-invertebrate samples annually in Topanga Creek since 2000.

During collection, surveyors evaluate instream habitat, collect water quality data, and assess the effects of invasive Red Swamp Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) on native aquatic communities. Surveys are done according to CDFG California Stream Bioassessment protocol.

Nesting Bird Surveys

hummer in nest

RCDSMM biologists have numerous years of experience surveying for nesting migratory birds.

These surveys include pre-construction and point count surveys on public and private lands as well as habitats throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.  Our biologists have also led bird walks for Environmental Educators and local students.

Bat Surveys

erin and bat

The RCDSMM established a monitoring program for bats under bridges in the Topanga Creek watershed in 1996. Biologists and trained volunteers conduct annual outflight counts and monitor population abundance at three bridges.

Services provided include outflight monitoring of bridges, mist netting to identify species, and roost exclusion.

Santa Monica Bay Watershed Monitoring - Collaborative Effort (2009- present)

The RCD, in partnership with Heal the Bay, has initiated a collaborative effort to map the locations of water quality (and other aquatic resource) monitoring within the Santa Monica Bay Watershed.

Purpose of Project:
The objective of this project is to create a map that shares the locations (and associated metadata) of all aquatic monitoring efforts in the Santa Monica Bay watershed with local stakeholders and the general public. This effort will enhance collaboration between monitoring groups, by providing watershed-wide information that will allow groups to reduce the duplication of their monitoring efforts and fill data gaps in the watershed.

Viewing the Map:
To view the Monitoring Map, visit healthebay.org

How to Participate:
If you are an agency, organization, university, etc. who collects data related to freshwater aquatic systems in the Santa Monica Bay watershed, we invite you to participate in this collaborative mapping effort. This project will only be successful if all researchers participate! Please email Rosi Dagit for details on how to get your monitoring locations on this map. If you would like to see the actual data collected at the monitoring locations depicted on the map, please contact the appropriate agency, whose contact information is available in each location’s informational bubble.

Roadkill Observations

Help biologists track and better understand the factors that lead to roadkill of wildlife. Please report your roadkill observations to the California Roadkill Observation System by clicking here.