Isla Guadalupe was once a "naturalist's paradise" humming with biodiversity. Then, 200 years of human visitors and subsequent invasive species changed everything. Armed with years of historical field data and a healthy dose of hope, our researchers ventured back to Isla Guadalupe in 2000 to document the changes, search for lost species, and help our Mexican colleagues make the case for invasive species removal. The island’s dramatic recovery was made possible through research data, binational government collaboration, and the dedication of individuals on both sides of the border.
Nat paleontologists are piecing together the ancient past of today’s threatened species. Out on the western edge of Southern California’s Santa Cruz Island, our team explored ancient marine terraces and uncovered fossilized marine mammal bones from the mid-Pleistocene, roughly 700,000 years ago. The jawbone and teeth of an ancient sea otter were especially notable finds because sea otters no longer exist south of Santa Barbara, and still remain on the U.S. endangered species list. Through close analysis of fossil specimens, we can reconstruct ancient environments and food webs, thereby providing the information needed to strengthening conservation efforts for sea otters and other marine mammals living today.