In the late 1960s, as UCSB was setting up a geology field station out on privately owned Santa Cruz Island, Lyndal Laughrin decided to study the Channel Island fox. A couple of years later, he was named director of what would later become the Santa Cruz Island Reserve, and he’s been out there ever since, helping generations upon generations of geologists, archaeologists, biologists, and other researchers explore this unique slice of California.
“This is a fairly big property and has a lot of diversity,” said Laughrin, who lives in the island’s central valley with his wife, Ann Bromfield. “It’s probably the reserve that’s used by the most disciplines. Geology is what started the place, but there’s lots of archaeology thanks to the amazing middens and just about any biology you can think of.”
And the island reserve’s model, in which UCSB simply runs the field station and partners with the landowner (in this case, The Nature Conservancy) without owning the property, is becoming a more popular way to set up these living laboratories. “It’s very expensive to own property and be responsible for it,” said Laughrin. “This is probably a model that we’re moving more into.”
Travel to and from the mainland is easier now than it was in the 1970s, when he’d have to hitch a ride with the navy to Port Hueneme, but it remains a pretty rustic existence. He’s not quite sure how to retire. “This is not Catalina, where I could go get an apartment in Avalon and spend my twilight years sitting on the porch,” he said. “So it’s a work in progress at the moment.”