By Sid Shah- Biodiversity
The biodiversity team has gone through quite an adventure this spring. We began in the early mornings looking at birds but those days seem like a long forgotten memory of the past, although they took place no more than a month ago. Our past few weeks have been extremely analysis heavy. Our task after earth week was compiling the data to make it look more presentable and also more sound. The data we collected was voluminous so we had to get down to the task of finding the best way to analyze it. We soon found out that ordinary indices don’t work on our data as we were constricted for collecting abundance numbers for plants and birds just due to time. As soon as we hit a wall we pushed right through and with the collective effort of the entire team were able to come up with our own analytical methodology just as we had created our own experimental methodology. Our indices were basic in nature but the results they showed spoke volumes. We created biodiversity indices by calculating ratios of what we would typically see in terms of birds and plants if the campus had a homogenous structure. For this we grouped our study sites into one area as they both were representative of our study areas and had a total of 6 homogenous regions. The total possible bird and plant species were then divided by 6 to get our ideal values for each of these regions that we then compared to our actual values of species counted. We then generated richness and diversity plots which showcased something very interesting. The floral richness and diversity was greatest not for the 3 most non-manicured areas but rather for Botanical Gardens, Stone Canyon Creek and Bruinwalk. In spite of this, when we performed tests to see where the most diversity and richness of birds were present we found that the 3 the original wild type areas still harbored the most faunal diversity and this speaks to great lengths because it tells us the animals have a certain preference for ecosystems.
We have also been performing our action part of the Action Research by developing our final plan for an alternative campus landscape. The team scouted out several locations that could be potentially transformed into drought tolerant landscapes because of their overuse of grass and water thirsty vegetation. We are in the process of creating a multi-tier vegetation guide of the type of plants to plant if UCLA does plan on doing any new landscaping. This guide will have all native plants on the first tier and the last tier will be a warning of plants not to plant in spite of their aeshthetics. Our greatest challenge this quarter has been in the collection of water data. Although we have successfully estimated water use in non-manicured regions we have hit roadblocks for finding sprinkler times for the manicured regions. UCLA Facilities holds this information and after lengthy correspondence with them we have ourselves decided to perform calculations for water, using assumptions suggested by Nurit Katz. Our project is shaping up and we are on the last leg of finally identifying the insects we trapped in the first few weeks of the quarter. This has proven to be a hard task as we are no entomologists but the Biodiversity team never says never and you can see us (pic above) sifting through our data (literally) and IDing the insects using their morphological traits. Soon this data will be integrated with the rest in time for the final presentation. We are excited to show both our data and our recommendations in hopes that this project gains momentum with the administration on campus and they see the need for a different landscape that will not only help UCLA save water but will also create a community that is more resilient to the changing climate of the southland.