Ninth Annual Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Conservation Symposium

Date: Saturday, March 5, 2022

Time: 10:00AM - 2:30PM

Instructor: Dr. Carla D'Antonio (Keynote)

Location: Virtual

Registration required, no walk-ins.

General Admission: $25.00/ Students: Free with school ID 

After the Fires: Recovering California's Wild Spaces

Register Here

The Annual Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Conservation Symposium, established in 2012, is designed to address topics that are critical to environmental conservation in our region, as well as nationally and internationally. This year's keynote speaker is Pritzlaff Conservation Awardee, Dr. Carla D'Antonio.  

On March 5, 2022, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s annual Conservation Symposium will focus on what we can all do to help California wildlands recover after fire. Diverse native vegetation is essential for providing the slope stabilization, watershed protection, wildlife habitat, and other benefits that we rely on as humans – and we can all help by making sure that our wildlands don’t turn into big bare patches or a sea of weeds.

Get the scoop from eight regional experts on fire ecology, rare species recovery, weed control, and other habitat restoration work, as well as ways that we can all get engaged. Then get your questions answered in an all-speaker panel discussion. Join us as we present Dr. Carla D’Antonio with our Honorable John C. Pritzlaff Conservation Award for her top-notch science, inspiring teaching and mentorship, and dedicated conservation leadership. Our other speakers include Dr. Max Moritz, University of California Wildfire Specialist, and Dr. Nicole Molinari, Southern Province Ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service. 

Symposium Schedule of Events

10:00 – 10:15: Welcome, videos, presentation of the award

10:15 – 10:50: Carla D’Antonio (keynote) | When and why would we need post-fire restoration?

10:50– 11:10: Nicole Molinari | Development of a post-fire restoration framework for southern California shrublands

10-minute break

11:20 – 11:40: Mauricio Gomez | Post-fire impacts on steelhead trout habitat and strategies for recovery

11:40 – 12:00: Aaron Ramirez | Ecophysiological responses to fire and drought underlie climate resilience of bigcone douglas-fir

12:00 – 12:20: Mark Mendelsohn | Native and invasive plant responses to the 2018 Woolsey Fire (and what we did about it)

40-minute lunch break

1:00 – 1:20: Josie Lesage | Post-fire mapping on the South Coast to inform habitat restoration and engage the public

1:20 – 1:40: Stephanie Ma and Shane DeWees | Creating an ecological framework for chaparral restoration

1:40 – 2:00: Max Moritz | Building resilience to fire through the Regional Wildfire Mitigation Program

2:00 – 2:30: Panel discussion and audience Q & A


Symposium Speakers 


Keynote Speaker: Dr. Carla D’Antonio

Topic: When and why would we need post-fire restoration?

While many species in California are adapted to a particular range of fire regime conditions, humans have altered the timing, frequency, and nature of fire in many ecosystems. Carla will discuss how these changes, along with widespread invasive species and climate change, lead to the alteration of native habitats and the need for habitat restoration. She’ll also discuss setting realistic goals and how we can best approach restoration in the face of persistent environmental change. 

Dr. D’Antonio is a professor in the Environmental Studies and Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology Departments at UCSB. She serves as a Program Officer for the National Science Foundation and received her Ph.D. in Plant Ecology from UCSB after receiving a B.A. in Zoology from the University of Washington and an M.S. in Zoology from Oregon State University. Her forays into wildland fire began during her Ph.D. research and expanded during her post-doctoral work at Stanford University where she explored fire regime changes and forest loss in Hawaii. Carla’s forward-thinking approach to ecology has simultaneously integrated theory with practical and on-the-ground conservation, habitat management, and restoration, and her ground-breaking work has been published in top journals like ScienceNature, and Ecology.


Speaker: Dr. Nicole Molinari

Topic: Development of a post-fire restoration framework for southern California shrublands

As large fires become more common across California, it is important to have an ecological framework in place to identify areas at risk of degradation. We developed a Post-fire Restoration Prioritization (PReP) tool to aid resource managers with early detection and prioritization of degraded chaparral landscapes in need of restoration.

Nicole Molinari is a community ecologist with a broad interest in the consequences of human-induced global change, including the effects of wildfire, biological invasion, climate change, and altered disturbance regimes on vegetation patterns. Dr. Molinari serves as the USDA-Forest Service Province Ecologist for the four southern California forests where she applies scientific and ecological principles to pressing management issues. 


Speaker: Mauricio Gomez

Topic: Post-fire impacts on steelhead trout habitat and strategies for recovery

Moe’s talk will focus on the post-fire impacts on steelhead trout habitat in addition to sharing case studies on what has been done locally to improve habitat. Impacts include the immediate loss of riparian canopy, to the subsequent impacts of sedimentation following winter rains. 

Mauricio Gomez is the Director of South Coast Habitat Restoration, a non-profit organization based in Carpinteria.  He has been working on watershed restoration projects for the past 17 years in the Santa Barbara/Ventura region and is proud of the partnerships he has developed in his career to focus on steelhead trout recovery efforts. 


Speaker: Dr. Aaron Ramirez

TopicEcophysiological responses to fire and drought underlie climate resilience of bigcone douglas-fir

Bigcone douglas-fir is a charismatic conifer found only in the mountains of southern California, which has been hard hit by a combination of record-setting fires and drought in the region. Aaron will discuss collaborative, ongoing research to investigate its long-term growth trends and health, and research on bigcone’s ecophysiological resilience to worsening drought.

Dr. Ramirez is a professor of Environmental Studies at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Research in the Ramirez Lab is broadly focused on the impacts of disturbance (fire, drought, and global climate change) on the health, physiology, and management of trees and forests in the western US. 


Speaker: Mark Mendelsohn

Topic: Native and invasive plant responses to the 2018 Woolsey Fire (and what we did about it)

After the Woolsey Fire burned over half of the natural lands in the Santa Monica Mountains & Simi Hills, we did not know how abundant rain, re-emerging drought, and even additional fires would sculpt the post-fire landscape. Native and non-native vegetation monitoring plots nearly doubled, and our native plant nursery and restoration efforts increased by leaps and bounds.

Mark Mendelsohn is a botanist for the National Park Service at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Mark has been working with the flora and fauna of the Santa Monica Mountains & Simi Hills for 10 years, following prior biological research and consulting for the US Geological Survey and private firms.


Speaker: Dr. Josie Lesage

Topic: Post-fire mapping on the South Coast to inform habitat restoration and engage the public

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has been conducted post-fire mapping of rare and invasive plants and erosion in the Jesusita, Zaca, Whittier, and Thomas fires and has been building in community science and volunteer opportunities. Josie will share the findings, outcomes, and stories of these projects, designed to inform restoration and engage the public in the stewardship of our local habitats.

Dr. Lesage works to map, conserve, and restore California habitats using ecological theory as a guide. She has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she studied long-term management and community change in California’s coastal prairies. As the Garden’s Applied Ecologist, she is interested in understanding how local ecosystems respond to disturbance and restoration intervention.


Speaker: Stephanie Ma and Shane DeWees

Topic: Creating an ecological framework for chaparral restoration

Stephanie and Shane’s talk will focus on engaging UCSB’s undergraduate community in restoration research and chaparral restoration. Our framework aims to optimize the survival of plant seedlings across a landscape using mathematical models of habitat suitability and an understanding of the benefits of early colonizers called “nurse plants”. 

Shane is working on his Ph.D. degree in Carla D’Antonio’s lab at UC Santa Barbara. His dissertation work and broad research interests are focused on understanding drivers of vegetation fluxes, how to apply ecological theory to inform restoration ecology, and postfire effects on tree and shrub physiology. 

Stephanie is a plant community ecologist with a focus on southern California chaparral ecosystems. She is interested in applying her skills to the protection and restoration of local plant communities and engaging with the Santa Barbara community, including potential future ecologists. Stephanie is a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Carla D’Antonio’s lab, where she studies shrubland restoration and the impacts of drought on chaparral recovery following a fire.


Speaker: Dr. Max Moritz

Topic: Building resilience to fire through the Regional Wildfire Mitigation Program

This regional program is a visionary project to help Santa Barbara County organize and prioritize mitigation activities to reduce wildfire-related risks in the region. Spearheaded by Max and local collaborators, it focuses on increasing wildfire resilience to the built environment, the landscape, and the people who reside in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).

Dr. Moritz is the Cooperative Extension Wildfire Specialist for the University of California Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources, an Adjunct Professor for the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara, and an affiliate of the Earth Research Institute. His research focuses on understanding the dynamics of fire regimes at relatively broad scales, and his Extension work involves applying this information to planning, management, and policy-relevant to fire-prone landscapes.


Conservation & Restoration