Nature preserve, a hidden gem

Elizabeth McLaurin, Staff Writer

Nestled between parking lot B and Campus Drive is the Nature Preserve, an oft forgotten treasure of Los Medanos College that offers students, visitors and staff a variety of lush and seasonal vegetation. It’s a peaceful and quiet reprieve to the asphalt jungle that comprises the rest of campus.  The Los Medanos College Nature Preserve was established in 1999, a culmination of a years-long passion project of former Biology faculty Christine Hagelin.

“I believe she intended the preserve to be an outdoor laboratory for many of the Biology classes, especially Environmental Biology,” said Jenifer Fay, Science Laboratory Coordinator for the Biology Department.

Biology students of years past have dedicated many hours planting, landscaping and trail-building to ensure future biology students would always have an area on campus to learn about botany, wildlife, and soil.

Today, the nature preserve is mainly cared for by a single part-time student and instructor’s assistant. Ricardo Black has been an LMC student since 2014 and he spoke about the state of the preserve when he first arrived.

“It wasn’t in great shape,” he said. “You couldn’t even see the trails.”

Black’s love for the preserve is highly evident and he was quick to list off the many plants and animals that can be seen there.

“There must be over 30 kinds of birds here, lots of rabbits too. Last year someone saw a fox in here,” he said.

It’s the plants and trees however, that are the real treat. A heavy focus of the preserve is on native plants and you’ll find over 80 species located there. Black made special mention of the variety of sage. Walking through the preserve he pointed to three different species of it, stopping to pull off a few sprigs to smell. But he said his favorite plant in the preserve is the blue oak because of its resilience.

“It takes the longest to grow,” he said. “But it’s drought resistant, so it’ll be here a long time.”

The nature preserve is a truly unique and special place on campus, a sentiment shared by both Fay and Black.

“The nature preserve provides so many different things to our campus community,” said Fay. “It continues to fill its original purpose as an outdoor Biology lab, but its value goes far beyond the Biology department. It is a great space to relax, eat lunch, and enjoy some quiet time away from the stress of schoolwork.”

But the most important function of the preserve might be in what it shows us over time. With the increasing threat of climate change, the preserve offers us an opportunity to see possible effects on a small scale and to interact with nature on a more personal level. For Black this aspect is really valuable.

“We get to see how it changes and then we have to adapt to it,” he said.