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Irvine Ranch Conservancy Collaborates with UCI on Summer Institute for Data Science Graduate Students

PictureUCI’s Ridge to Reef Summer Institute students

As part of Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s Monitoring and Research, Restoration and Enhancement, and Community Engagement and Education Programs, IRC staff partnered with the University of California, Irvine during the annual Ridge to Reef Summer Institute. Taking place August 23 – September 2, the two-week course for university graduate students in environmental science provided training in data science and related skills, as well as facilitated growth in interdisciplinary knowledge, professional development and communication skills.
Helping to educate a new generation of scholars, IRC staff provided nine years of data analysis from the Conservancy’s restoration efforts and gave lectures to participating students. Through the Ridge to Reef Summer Institute, students analyzed data from OCTA funded restoration projects in OC Parks’ Bee Flat Canyon, Silverado Canyon and West Loma, and OCWR funded restoration projects in OC Parks’ Agua Chinon.

“The collaboration between Irvine Ranch Conservancy and UCI’s Ridge to Reef Summer Institute has highlighted the importance of environmental data analysis and strengthened the foundation for further collaboration between IRC and other students and environmental researchers,” said IRC’s Vice President & Chief Programs Officer Nathan Gregory, Ph.D.
IRC Project Manager, Rachel Kenny, presented the students with information on local native vegetation and wildlife species, described restoration methods used on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks and introduced the dataset the students would be analyzing over the course of the two-week program. Students were split up into groups and given the opportunity to analyze vegetation data collected from local grassland, coastal sage scrub and riparian habitats.
The students examined the changes in vegetation that occur over the course of a restoration project, particularly with respect to native cover and diversity, with the goal of understanding the long-term sustainability of such projects. They were given data collected by IRC staff and analyzed how native plant diversity and cover has changed over time and compared the effectiveness of active restoration, where invasive species are completely removed and native species are strategically planted, to that of passive restoration, where specific invasive species are removed to encourage the natural spread of native species. The students participating in UCI’s Summer Institute confirmed that active restoration shows greater success for restoration projects, supporting the effectiveness of IRC’s restoration methods and work on the Landmarks.
“We would love for students to use the data we have and continue to study it,” said IRC Program Manager Robert Freese. “We hope to glean more information from the data as new students explore it further.”
To learn more about UCI’s Ridge to Reef Summer Institute, visit For more information about the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and restoration efforts on the Landmarks, visit