UCI NATURE Composite Image of different facilities


University of California Irvine

UCI-NATURE offers UC Irvine’s faculty and students opportunities to bring their research, scholarship, teaching, public service, and developing careers out into the natural environment in a wide diversity of settings characteristic of California. UC Irvine directly oversees four protected natural areas, two of which include lodging facilities and are about a three hour drive from Irvine, and two of which are within walking distance of campus. UCI-NATURE also maintains partnership agreements that facilitate access to additional natural areas and facilities not directly managed by the University. Together, these field-based assets span regional gradients across environments from the ocean to the desert, as well as a diversity of societal contexts, all within a few hours of campus. This system of assets available to UC Irvine’s faculty and students is connected on yet a larger scale to the system-wide UC Natural Reserve System. The UC Natural Reserve System (UCNRS) is the largest university-operated reserve system in the world, including 39 sites and 756,000 acres. Each UC campus participates in the governance and management of the entire UCNRS network, in addition to system-wide staff.

Being part of the University of California, the mission of UCI-NATURE is aligned with that of the University system as a whole, in addition to the UC Natural Reserve System:

To advance understanding and stewardship of the natural environment by promoting the
University’s natural areas and field-based assets through operational and programmatic
support for research, education and public engagement

UCI-NATURE functions as a single umbrella structure for the management, operations, and leveraging of these natural assets, and includes faculty governance that allows for communication and optimal allocation of resources across the different programs. The place-based focus fosters excellence in research and scholarship, tangible interdisciplinary interactions, and community-based partnerships that engage our faculty and students in meaningful real-world problems. The ability to conduct these activities in natural areas in a setting that offers security for sensitive supplies and equipment, support for long term studies, accommodations for groups, and affordability is increasingly rare in California, furthering the significance of these assets to the University of California.

In addition to the physical assets offered by UCI-NATURE, staff and faculty seek opportunities and external funding for students and faculty to collaborate within the University and between the University and its partners. These natural areas and facilities also serve to extend the University to areas of the state not easily served by a UC campus, bringing expertise and education to communities lacking these resources.

Download the UCI Nature trifold brochure


Crystal Cove State Park Research Cottage

  • Beach shore and coastal hill access within Crystal Cove State Park.
  • Meeting/lecture space, lab (wet and dry), and public area for outreach.
  • Included within agreement between UCI, State Parks and Crystal Cove Conservancy, leveraging resources to provide mutually beneficial programs in research, education, and public service. These programs provide leadership experiences for students, education to the community and helps to advance the Park’s understanding and management of its natural resources.

Campus Ecological Preserve

  • 62 acres of coastal sage scrub and grassland within an urban-wildland matrix and walking distance from campus.
  • Enrolled in a 36,000 acre regional conservation plan overseen by the Orange County Natural Communities Coalition, a close partner with whom collaboration facilitates the expansion of research to regional studies and application of results to local environmental issues of concern.
  • Outreach opportunities with the University Hills community.
  • Proximate location for class exercises, research projects, and internship leadership opportunities in natural lands management and interpretation.

San Joaquin Marsh Reserve

  • 202 acres of coastal freshwater marshes and experimental ponds, in addition to riparian and upland habitat, providing critical habitat for resident and migratory birds and the Pacific pond turtle. Adjacent former landfill overseen by UC Irvine and within the same regional conservation plan as the Campus Ecological Preserve.
  • Located within walking distance from campus and situated between two major hydrologic features in Orange County: San Diego Creek and Upper Newport Bay.
  • This asset places the University at a nexus point for addressing critical resource management issues relating to freshwater resources, impacts of stream management, and the threat of sea level rise, pertinent to Orange County specifically as well as other coastal zones.
  • While the reserve provides critical habitat for species, there is also much potential for ecological restoration, a growing field and important tool for addressing land management challenges. It serves as a natural laboratory across disciplines on campus, including the new Restoration Master’s Program.

Burns-Piñon Ridge Reserve

  • 306 acres of high-desert habitat representing an ecotone between montane and desert biota, with mixtures of Joshua tree, piñon pine, and juniper woodland.
  • Facilities include a former ranch house with kitchen, living room, and dorm rooms; faculty/researcher trailer, and camping area. Additional shop area to be renovated for lab and multi-purpose work space.
  • Located approximately 15 minutes from the rural town of Yucca Valley in San Bernardino County and 30 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park.
  • Partnership opportunities and connectivity with the local Wildlands Conservancy and National Park.

Steele Burnand Anza Borrego Desert Research Center

  • 78 acre property with a large, historic clubhouse that serves as a home base for researchers and students to access the adjacent 615,000 acre Anza Borrego State Park. The park encompasses native fan palm oases, low desert wildflower fields, piñon pine-juniper forests, and is home to the endangered desert bighorn sheep.
  • The facilities include multi-media systems in the great room and classroom, community dining, a large kitchen, a lounge, dormitories, and private lodging units.
  • UC Irvine shares a cooperative agreement with State Parks and the Anza Borrego Foundation, providing shared visions and collaborations for furthering our understanding and management of the State’s largest state park.
  • The Research Center is adjacent to the town of Borrego Springs, a rural resort and farming community with diverse socioeconomic demographics and a strong cultural of volunteerism. The community is enthusiastic about the State Park’s partnership with UC Irvine to address current and future environmental and societal challenges.


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