The California state park system dates back to 1864, when then President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation to grant the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the state of California to protect. The grant preceded the national park system and cleared the way for other areas to be designated under similar protection. Yosemite would later be transferred to federal jurisdiction to become a national park.
California's parks, both state and national, preserve the natural and cultural history of the state. And while many parks focus on the natural past, this website will arm you with the latest science happening in these parks today.
California's park system has grown tremendously since its early days. Today, it's the largest state park system in the United States with 280 parks, reserves and open spaces. California is also home to nine national parks.
So how do you choose only a handful of parks to focus on for the beginning of a project? One by land, one by air, one by sea. This thesis website will focus on at least one California state or national park from each of those areas, telling the stories of science happening there today.
The science in Calfornia's parks goes beyond the scenery that most visitors take in. (Pictured here, you see California poppies at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve near Lancaster in northern Los Angeles County.) Every day, scientists from institutions and universities from across the state trek into the parks, studying all sorts of things, from habitat and animals to invasive species and wildfire recovery. Some discover new species. Others lay the groundwork for future scientists to build on.
You don't have to go to a park to see nature, though, as the lines between nature and urban life blur. You can listen to scientists from this project talk about that here.
To use this site, click on the menu to either choose parks from a map or choose parks from a list to further explore them. Would you rather have a visual reference? Then click on the photos below to go to a park page. Learn more about the project and take a behind-the-scenes look at how it was made. And if you have comments or ideas for future segments, contact us and let us know. After all, we are all California Explorers, one park at a time.