Carrizo Plain National Monument: Science in an Endangered Ecosystem
Carrizo Plain National Monument, California
Carrizo Plain National Monument encompasses more than 200,000 acres of vast open grasslands rimmed by mountains –  one of the last remaining remnants of an ecosystem that used to span the Great Central San Jouquin Valley of California. Coveted for its solitude, the Monument also is recognized for its exceptional biological, cultural and geologic resources.

Long referred to as an outdoor laboratory, Carrizo Plain is increasingly attracting the interest of researchers. From analyzing ancient pollen and crustaceans in Soda Lake to tracing the genetics of legless lizards or studying earthquake frequency, research projects are diverse and the possibilities for new research are numerous. Some examples of current research were presented in A Decade of Discovery Science Symposium in celebration of the 10 th Anniversary of the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, May 24 – 28 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The event was sponsored by the BLM in partnership with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.


In the Symposium session Endangered Species Management and Scientific Endeavors in an Endangered Ecosystem, BLM managers highlighted of a number of research projects and described some of the management challenges and innovative ways to overcome them on the Monument.

The Carrizo Plain National Monument plays a crucial role in the conservation and recovery of several threatened and endangered species. One of those, the endangered kangaroo rat, was the subject of Cattle vs Endangered Kangaroo Rats: Optimizing Multi-Use in the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

Survival of Pronghorn Fawns on the Carrizo Plain National Monument described the use of lightweight GPS units to track pronghorn fawns in hopes of learning more about the factors affecting their survival, part of an inquiry into the population dynamics of a translocated population of pronghorns on the Monument. The new technology delivers precise locations on a scale never before possible; the first season’s results will be presented and ultimately, this data will help resource managers increase fawn survival.

The Monument also contains a remarkable concentration of prehistoric archaeological sites. The Carrizo Plain Discontiguous Rock Art District, 24 pictograph sites, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recently nominated as a National Historic Landmark. These pictographs include the world-renowned Painted Rock, considered a sacred site by the local Native American community. The importance of the Native American consultation process to the management of sacred landscapes was discussed in The Native Voice and Sacred Sites on Public Lands: Painted Rock of the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Scientists are still uncovering previously unknown sites on Carrizo Plain. Researchers are correlating clues at these sites with ancient evidence of climate change and prolonged drought to learn more about human responses to dramatic climate changes. This work was highlighted in the presentation, Paleodemography and Climate Change in the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

Today’s modern economy is also a focus of research on the Monument. Researchers from the Wilderness Society presented findings from an evaluation of the relationship between trends in the regional economy and the designation of the National Monument in National Monuments in a Regional Economic Context: Case Study of the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

As interest in conducting research on the Monument grows, so does the importance of partnerships and volunteers. UC Berkeley, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Carrizo Plain, local Audubon groups and volunteers are among those that provide their time, energy and expertise to the Monument staff. The science review team comprised of species experts and other professionals provide important input on research design and proposals.

To learn more about Carrizo Plain National Monument, please click here.

To read more features and learn more about A Decade of Discovery Science Symposium, please click here.


Scientists study earthquake frequency along the San Andreas Fault.
Scientists studying the San Andraes Fault
The endangered Kangaroo Rat is a focus for research on the Monument.
Scientists study a Kangaroo Rat
A translocated population of Pronghorn on the Monument is monitored with GPS technology.
Pronghorn on the Carrizo Plain National Monument
Caliente Mountains
Caliente Mountains