Our Programs

CURes’ ecological research focuses on ways to better characterize key species associated with the highly urbanized Ballona Watershed, their interrelationships and ways to regain and bolster ecosystem services.

Recent research projects include:

The Ballona Watershed Biodiversity Initiative

The Ballona Watershed Biodiversity Initiative is a project that is in its development stage. The goal is to create a cohort of studies that will provide more information about the function of the green spaces within the Ballona watershed. CURes researchers will study the pocket parks between the Baldwin Hills and the Ballona Wetlands by focusing on different biological factors and species with an emphasis on their contribution to the function of the green space.  Researchers will test the effectiveness of projects like the Culver City rain garden, as an example.  These studies will become Summer Undergraduate Research Projects (SURP) for LMU students that can be continued as independent research projects during the following years so that the systems can be better understood and monitored.

Predator aversion studies to reduce crow predation on eggs of the California least tern 

The endangered California least tern, which nests in a colony on Venice Beach, has endured five consecutive years of reproductive failure due to heavy predation from American crows.  This threat to the viability of the Venice Beach colony and can negatively impact the tern population as a whole. Therefore, an experiment was deployed in 2014 in attempt to condition the crows to refrain from consuming tern eggs. Data from this experiment may provide biologists with new tools to better manage tern colonies across California.

Mesopredator studies tracking the movement and dynamics of coyotes and feral cats in the Ballona Wetlands

Urban ecosystems are characterized by their complexity as they contain both remnants of the original pre-industrial landscape as well as the modern built environment.  This collection of buildings, roads and open space serve as habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. The degree to which the urban built environment alters the ecology of animals that live there is a an area of intense study. At CURes, we are particularly interested in the role that medium sized predators (meso-predators), such as coyotes, outdoor cats and American Crows play in the ecology of these mixed habitats.  Because cites are inhospitable to the largest of the region’s predators, such as mountain lions and bears, the smaller predators may take on an expanded importance in the flow of energy through the urban ecosystem. In addition, urban predators sometimes end up in conflicts with human inhabitants or inflict excessive predator pressure on vulnerable animal populations that are already stressed by the habitat degradation that happens in cities. The research team at CURes is dedicated to developing a deeper understanding of the ecology of these urban mesopredators and to helping develop humane and effective management strategies to alleviate the conflicts that arise among humans and animals. We are using a variety of methodologies to study mesopredators in the Los Angeles area. Some of the technologies include remote camera observations and radiotelemtry.  We welcome community participation in these studies and encourage you to contact us for more information.