Channel Islands Santa Rosa Research Station: Cause Hanna

By Sheryl Hamlin

In a previous article, malady Citizens Journal featured a Santa Paula native, try Luis Sánchez, for sale who had returned to teach after obtaining a dual doctoral degree. In this article, another product of Ventura county is featured: Dr. Cause Hanna, PhD.

Growing up in Newbury Park, Cause Hanna was a star athlete and was inducted into the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. He received a mention in the LA Times over a thrilling football win as a star high school football player.

Growing up in Ventura County, Dr. Hanna internalized the county’s trove of bio-diversity. He earned a BS in Biology from UCSD. He states on the CSUCI website that as a student as UCSD, he “was made aware of the interdependence between strong scientific research and the ability to communicate the impact of that research…”, skills he projects as he delivered his fact filled hour lecture at the Santa Paula Blanchard Community Library on March 12, 2015. His full CV of grants, degrees and writings is available here. His PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management was earned at UC Berkeley.

Founded in 2002, CSUCI was the first four-year public university in Ventura County. With 5000 students today, the university population is 38% Hispanic and 87% from local counties. Interdisciplinary education is required. Small class sizes make CSUCI seem like a private school, though that will change as the enrollment nears its projection of 15,000 students in several decades.

The CSUCI Research Station on Santa Rosa Island is one of only two research stations run by universities. Dr. Hanna manages the research station.

Dr. Hanna provided an overview of the eight islands in the group: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, San Clemente and San Nicolas. The following picture from Wikipedia shows the islands west of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. The CSUCI research station is located on the Santa Rosa Island which requires a trip of over two hours by boat.


The Nature Conservancy is involved in restoration of Santa Cruz Island and a permit is required for landing. The Navy uses San Clemente for bomb testing and San Nicolas for radar. Santa Barbara Island is only one square mile, flat and wind exposed with an old ranch. Anacapa Island has remnants of an old volcano.

Success stores for species restoration include Bald Eagles on Santa Cruz, San Miguel and Santa Rosa and Island Foxes on San Miguel which was featured in NPR.

Dr. Hanna explained the Southern California Bight and its positive effect on the Channel Islands. The confluence of north flowing current and south flowing current meet in the bight. The currents cause upwelling of old material which had previously floated to the bottom of the ocean to become plankton. Whales consume plankton in large quantities, so this area is popular for whale gazing. According to Dr. Hanna, ten percent of the blue whale population is found off of the California coast. 20,000 dolphins also play in the kelp forests.

Dr. Hanna provided an instructive overview of the Transverse Range rotation. Most California mountains are oriented north-south, but the Transverse Range associated with the Channel Islands is oriented east-west. The Transverse Range is bounded on the east by the San Andreas Fault and the North American Plate. The Channel Islands are situated in the Pacific Plate. The Transverse range has moved 200 miles north in 20 million years with some uplift also occurring. The image below is taken from a CSULB site.


In 1959, Dr. Phil Orr dated the oldest human remains in North America found in Arlington Canyon on Santa Rosa Island from 12,000 years ago. Theories about the route these early Chumash tribesmen took include Bering Straights and Kelp Forest Boats. In the 1800’s thousands of sheep grazed the island and denuded much of the vegetation. Arizonans Vail and Vickers started a cattle ranch that ran for most of the 20th century. The ranch house still stands. The island Manzanita trees, worn off by decades of wind and grazing, are now showing new growth, as are some oaks. Keeping in the 1992 theme of E.O. Wilson’s “Era of Restoration”, the US Park Service moved cattle and pigs in 1998 and by 2011 all non-native deer and elk were removed.

Fast forward to the present. Research students come to the island and stay in the bunk house for hands-on research and collaboration. The bunk house sleeps 35 people with a full kitchen. Researchers are K-12, undergraduates and graduate students. In 2014-2015, four hundred students comprising over 2500 user days participated in research programs. Because interdisciplinary education is required, there may be art students producing biological drawings. Dr. Hanna showed student art of biological topics which required study and knowledge to produce drawings in such detail. The Torrey Pines Census showed 21,000 trees and Dr. Hanna reminded the audience that these pines grow only in Del Mar and the Channel Islands.

Dr. Hanna and his young family live on the Santa Rosa. He explained briefly their well, solar energy generation, backup diesel and sanitation system. This topic was so interesting that another hour could have been spent on this type of living.

He reminded the audience that restoration ecology is subject to interpretation based on thorough research.

University pictures of the research station are shown here with a description.

The next lecture is: Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Ruben Alarcón, Ph.D. Topic: Bees, Food and You. For a list of the entire series, please visit this link.

*Featured Image: Channel Islands Santa Rosa Research Station


Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.  Ms. Hamlin’s blog Stealth Fashion  and  technology product ‘ Plug and Play Webmaster’.

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