The Golden Forest

Science and Technology @ UCSB

Situated between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the coastal plain to the north and the unique Northern Channel Islands archipelago to the south, the coastal zone of Southern California near Santa Barbara is especially alluring.A new children’s book, “The Golden Forest” (Muddy Boots, 2017), delves into the region’s unique characteristics and diversity. Co-authored by two UC Santa Barbara marine biologists for the schoolyard program of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network, the 32-page volume explores the connection between giant kelp forest (Macrocystis pyrifera) and sandy beach ecosystems that make up the Santa Barbara Coastal (SBC) LTER project based at UCSB.
“We wrote the book knowing that Santa Barbara schools had chosen ocean science for the new sixth-grade curriculum,” explained Carol Blanchette, a research biologist at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute (MSI) who formerly oversaw education and outreach for the SBC-LTER. Real-life experiences inspired Blanchette, now director of the Valentine Eastern Sierra Reserves of the UCSB Natural Reserve System, to write “The Golden Forest.”
The book centers on Owen, who travels from Colorado to stay with his marine biologist aunt in coastal California. Educational adventures ensue as he and cousin Neko explore the beach, conducting experiments on giant kelp that washed ashore during a storm.
When the cousins have a tug-of-war with a single strand of kelp, called a stipe, it snaps. But when they pull on three stipes together, they are unable to break them. Blanchette said she got the idea from schoolchildren on a UCSB field trip who were exploring the concept of disturbance — when large storms break or dislodge kelp from the ocean and deposit it on the beach. “This exercise not only shows the kids how strong the kelp is but also is a lot of fun for them,” she noted.
As the story continues, Owen and Neko lay out a …

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