Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve

Research at the BCCER

The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve is an invaluable resource for environmental research and education. We encourage reserve use for field trips by classes and organizations and a wide variety of research activities.

At the BCCER you will find many different habitats and species, as well as geological features and records of human activity. It contains historical sites and features indicative of exploration, mining, logging, homesteading, and ranching, as well as prehistoric sites and features showing ancient and historic Native American habitation and other land uses.

We invite field trips and research in order to use reserve resources to maximize environmental knowledge and appreciation. We believe, however, that a very important lesson to be learned in association with the reserve is how to conduct educational and research activities in ways that maximize learning while minimizing environmental damage. For the sake of future research and interpretation it is essential to preserve these habitats, maintain the physical integrity and sociological sensitivity of historical and archeological sites, and protect the reserve from undue encroachment or damage by human activities.

The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve is an educational resource serving as an outdoor laboratory, a natural museum, and an outdoor classroom. One goal of BCCER management is to promote and accommodate use of the Reserve for research and educational purposes. The procedures listed below will assist you in your request to use Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve.

Research Protocol

  1. Contact our reserves management staff to discuss your research proposal by calling 530-898-5010.
  2. Review and adhere to our research protocol and access rules and guidelines.
  3. Apply for a use permit use by accessing our online Reserves Access Management system (RAMS).(opens in new window) Please provide as much detailed information about your planned classroom project activities as possible. Submit one application for each class request.
  4. Your request will be evaluated by our reserve management team and you will receive a response to your request in a timely manner.
  5. Following application approval, arrange your orientation with our BCCER management staff if you are a first time user by calling 530-898-5010.
  6. Researchers are required to remove all flagging, equipment, and mitigate any disturbances at the conclusion of the research project.  Failure to remove flagging and equipment, or to return the site(s) to their unaltered condition, will result in a letter to the University to delay graduation until the matter is resolved.

Current & Ongoing Research

FISHBIO's Annual Big Chico Creek Fish Population Survey

2022 Fish Population Survey (PDF)

At the heart of our Reserve is Big Chico Creek. The team at FISHBIO conducts an annual assessment of BCC's fish population. For more information, be sure to read their latest report.

Counting Trout: FISHBIO & BCCER Fish Population Survey

A short film on the 2019 Big Chico Creek fish population survey conducted by FISHBIO and the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve.

Research Use

All researchers using the reserve must be qualified to conduct the research proposed. Research in any subject area may be allowed if the researcher can demonstrate that the resources and/or facilities available at the reserve are reasonably necessary for the proposed research project and that the research activities will not compromise the goals of the BCCER.

Research Application

All researchers should discuss their proposed research project with the reserve manager before formally applying for permission to conduct their studies. All researchers must apply for research permit(s) using the online Reserve Access Management System(opens in new window) (RAMS) and agree to comply with all reserve rules and regulations. Describe the purpose of the research and procedures to be followed in conducting research, specify the proposed project duration, dates of reserve use, contract and grant information, prospective research site(s), and animal and plant populations that may be affected by the proposed research. Any potential disturbances to the reserve's ecosystem or cultural resources must be clearly described along with plans for avoidance or mitigation.


The reserve manager will use the following to evaluate each application for research use:
(a) Impacts on Natural Systems. Potential positive and negative impacts on natural systems (e.g., significant new research, extensive collections, significant habitat alterations, introductions of species or genes);
(b) Impacts on Present or Long-term Use. Potential positive and negative impacts on present or future long-term use of reserve for research or instructional purposes;
(c) Laws and Policies. Compliance with applicable state and federal laws, and with established research guidelines of the reserve;
(d) Feasibility. Feasibility and scientific merit of proposed project;
(e) Researcher's Credentials;
(f) Funding. Certification of grant approval by the applicant's funding source;
(g) Alternative Sites. Availability and proximity of alternative sites;
(h) Safety. Ability of researcher to conduct research in a safe manner.


The reserve director will inform the applicant that his/her request has been approved, denied, or approved with conditions. If an application is approved, the researcher must comply with all applicable University and reserve regulations, and provide all required state and federal permits. The reserve director and potential users will discuss appropriate restrictions on research projects involving experimental manipulations.


All researchers are required to provide copies of mature data sets derived from work on the reserve, which will be archived at the reserve. Data sets should include procedures followed and site descriptions sufficient to permit future replication by independent investigators.

Publications and Reports

All researchers must identify Chico State Enterprises/Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve in any publications or reports that result from the use of the reserve. Two copies of each publication resulting from work done at the reserve shall be provided to the reserve as soon as they become available. One bound copy of each thesis shall be provided to the reserve. Researchers are encouraged to also provide a digital copy of publications to the reserve.