CSU, Chico News

Ecological Reserves Have New Staff Looking Forward to Busy Year

Date: 08-18-2015

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

New staff with new plans and programs are preparing for a busy fall at California State University, Chico’s Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve and the Butte Creek Ecological Preserve.

Jamie Visinoni, manager of the ecological reserves, started work on June 1, and Jon Aull, outdoor education coordinator, came on board December 2014. Two part-time associates with the title of land steward and two part-time student positions have also been hired this summer.

In the coming months, a full-time field coordinator who will help manage the faculty and student research at the two locations will be hired. Visinoni said a bus is being purchased to help transport students for field classes.

While projects and visitors have kept staff occupied during the summer months, much more activity is anticipated with K-12 schools opening and the start of the fall 2015 semester at CSU, Chico.

The 3,950-acre Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER), located approximately nine miles from Chico along Highway 32, was created with the purchase of the Simmons Ranch in 1999 and the Henning Ranch in 2001 by the University Research Foundation.

The 98-acre Butte Creek Ecological Preserve (BCEP), approximately three miles from the Skyway on Honey Run Road in Butte Creek Canyon, was purchased by the Research Foundation in 1998.

The BCCER and BCEP hosted more than 2,000 users over the first six months of 2015. K-12 visits accounted for 1,057 visitors, and college/university-level classes brought 982 students and faculty to the reserve.

With new staffing and initiatives, Visinoni anticipates increased use of the reserves. She said staff are planning more public hikes at the BCCER in the fall. A popular activity at the BCEP for fall will be hosting schoolchildren to view fall-run Chinook salmon in Butte Creek. Students will view live spawning salmon and learn about salmon biology, life cycle, migration and challenges.

This summer at the BCCER, staff and volunteers have been busy instituting a fuel reduction program — clearing snags and removing piled-up brush — to reduce the amount of highly combustible material at the reserve. “It’s very time-intensive, hard work,” Visinoni said. They also are exploring innovative ways to collect and store water at the reserve during rainy times. The rainwater would be used during the dry summer months in support of firefighting efforts and restoration activities such as prescribed burns and roadwork.

Katy Thoma, executive director of the Research Foundation, said that the University is also looking into plans for a center, housed in the College of Natural Sciences, to provide support for faculty and student research and other academic uses at the ecological reserves and Eagle Lake Field Station in Lassen County.

Prior to working in her current position with the reserves, Visinoni spent 10 years at Beale Air Force Base in a number of capacities as a biological scientist. She earned a degree in biological sciences from CSU, Chico in 2003.

Aull is also a CSU, Chico alum, earning an MA in recreation administration in 2004. From 2005 until last year, he was education coordinator at the Chico Creek Nature Center.

“As a student at Chico State, you dream of having a position like mine,” Visinoni said. “It’s a great opportunity for all of us to make our mark, put forth the effort, to shape the reserves and meet the needs of faculty and students. I never dreamed I’d be in this positon — I feel very fortunate.”