Almost as if it were out of a T.C. Boyle plotline, a boatful of scientists, reporters, and island enthusiasts traveled to Santa Rosa Island on a gorgeous Central Coast day last week. On the way out, a marine layer covered the sky for the entire 40-mile voyage as more than 100 passengers ooh’d and ahh’d at a flying fish and pods of dolphins that were close by. The reason for the trip to the island — not that you need one — was for the unveiling of a new CSU Channel Islands research facility, which is just a short walk from the island’s pier.
The facility — a modest building with eight bedrooms, 22 bunk beds, and a kitchen — is the latest example of collaboration between the organizations that share a name. In 2009, the 12-year-old university acquired 370 acres of land from Ventura County, said university president Richard Rush.
Since it officially opened in March, 35 groups — 150 students in seven disciplines — have stayed in the bunks. A “healthy mix” of scientists and students share the space, said Cause Hanna, the research station’s manager, which makes for captivating conversations at the dinner table. Other colleges will also be able to use the space.
Mirroring a national trend in STEM education, the purpose of the research facility is to encourage interdisciplinary learning and provide a space for undergraduates who study marine biology, anthropology, archeology, botany, history, and art, among other fields, several speakers noted. “We play bigger than we look,” said Rush, noting that the university is the youngest in the state school system.
The partnership between CSU Channel Islands and the National Park Service began about a decade ago when Russell Galipeau, superintendent of Channel Islands National Park, walked into Rush’s office with an idea. “The parks are classrooms,” said Galipeau on Wednesday. “The idea was based upon building a seamless integration extending campus into park.” Galipeau, who has been at the helm of the national park since 2003, has co-taught a course at the university about the islands.
Also along for the ride on Wednesday was Raudel Banuelos, who is of Chumash descent. “The native way is happening here,” he said, adding he is honored to be part of the process. Santa Rosa Island was home to the Chumash until about 1820 and contains thousands of archeological sites that are federally protected. According to its website, the National Park Service has owned the park since 1986, six years after the national park was established. The island, which is 53,000 acres, was a ranch for more than 100 years. The last herds of livestock left in 2011. Echoing what a couple other speakers said, Banuelos called the university’s involvement a new phase “taking it back to the old ways.”