Catalina Island News

Volunteering on Catalina Island

Catalina Island Conservancy

The Catalina Island Conservancy offers individual, group, and vacation volunteer experiences. Becoming a volunteer provides you the opportunity to get involved, to learn more about the Catalina Island Conservancy and Santa Catalina Island and to make a positive impact on the Island's and world's ecology.

Volunteer Groups offer the opportunity to get into the outdoors, work as a cohesive team, share stories, and create an awareness of island ecology and conservation issues. Volunteer groups have an added advantage of many hands working cooperatively to tackle and complete restoration projects that generate impressive results in a short amount of time. An array of volunteer groups ranging from local and National chapters of the Sierra Club, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, to college students and classes from across the United States have volunteered with the Catalina Island Conservancy.

Catalina Island Conservancy volunteers are provided with on-island transportation, training and tools for projects, accommodations at the Laura Stein Volunteer Camp, an educational program and a volunteer project. Volunteer projects are chosen for groups based on several factors: the time of the year, as these can vary according to seasonal conditions, the group's abilities, age and skill level.

Detailed instruction and training are provided for each project. While those with varying skills and abilities are encouraged to participate, volunteers need to be in good physical condition and be able to hike over uneven and hilly terrain. Current tetanus shots are recommended.

Following are brief descriptions of several volunteer projects that groups may participate in.

  • Fence Removal (Island style) ~ There are approximately 40 miles of old, decaying fence lines still visible on the island from the ranching days on Catalina. This project offers scenic vistas and visible results as the landscape opens up with each section of downed fence line.
  • Build Fence Exclosures ~ with the presence of non-native animals on the island, it is necessary to protect rare and endangered habitats from being browsed and trampled. Volunteers build temporary fence exclosures so sensitive habitats can be monitored without being browsed, trampled or uprooted. These areas are closely monitored for seedling success and overall health of the plant communities.
  • Non-native Plant Removal ~ One of the island's greatest threats to its natural environment is the introduction of non-native, invasive plant species. Non-native vegetation has a competitive edge over island endemic plants, out-competing them for light, nutrients, space and water. Non-native plants threaten the biodiversity of Catalina's unique plant communities.
  • Restore Native Habitats ~ Middle Canyon has 80 acres of decommissioned hayfields that are in the process of being restored to their original plant communities. This expansive canyon boasts many of the different habitats found on Santa Catalina: grasslands, riparian and oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub and chaparral. Test plots have been established and are monitored year-round. Results from this research will define how the Catalina Island Conservancy could effectively restore remote locations.
  • Island Maintenance ~ The Laura Stein Volunteer Camp, interpretive hiking trails and Catalina Island Conservancy operated facilities need seasonal maintenance with some painting and light construction. It is rewarding to know you are an integral part of maintaining these sites.
  • The Laura Stein Volunteer Camp is located approximately 5 miles west of Avalon, near Haypress Reservoir. It is isolated among Coastal Scrub Oak and Lemonade Berry groves. The site is composed of two canvas-sided tents on raised decks. Each tent cabin contains eight padded bunk beds. Sleeping accommodations are dorm-style and cozy. For those of you who prefer more privacy, you have the option of bringing your own tent.

Amenities include; picnic benches, umbrellas, bathroom facilities (flush toilets), hot showers and potable, running hot/cold water. The outdoor kitchen is equipped with a propane barbecue, a two-burner stove, cookware, plate ware, and eating utensils. There are also food storage containers, coolers and ice provided to store perishable foods. The camp is supplied with environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and paper products.

Solar energy is provided at the camp for minimal lighting in the tent cabins (additional lanterns are provided). There is no electricity supplied to the camp so electrical appliances are better left at home. Outdoor furniture is available to sit on around the campfire in the evenings and there are a variety of games and natural history books for volunteers to enjoy.

Telephone service is available directly across from the camp entrance, at Haypress Reservoir. It requires a calling card or may be used for collect calls. In case of an outside emergency, contact can also be made to the camp by calling the Conservancy House during regular business hours, seven day a week.

Volunteer Vacations
are a rewarding opportunity to actively participate in Catalina's restoration for five wonderful and fulfilling days. Based at the volunteer camp, Volunteer Vacationers are guaranteed a most memorable experience.

Whistle while you work as you spend your days involved in native plant nursery work, hayfield restoration monitoring, non-native plant removal, feral cat research study, and many other projects that are underway with the Catalina Island Conservancy.

When the workday is finished, enjoy an evening at the camp. The camp chefs, Mary and Steve Story cook up a storm of tantalizing food that is eagerly awaited after a day's work in the island's interior. Mary is very creative when it comes to cooking. She has loads of exciting recipes and plenty of professional experience. Most dietary concerns can be accommodated, given prior notice. Dinnertime also provides an excellent opportunity to relax and share the day's experiences. After dessert, all guests help with the cleaning and washing up. Each evening guests can look forward to a different theme for appetizers and dinners.

Volunteer Vacation participants are required to provide their own breakfasts and lunches. Planning your menus and purchasing your supplies should be taken care before arriving to the island.

Included in the cost of Volunteer Vacation's is round-trip, cross-channel boat transportation. Ports of departure include, Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point and Newport Beach.

Individual Volunteers are carefully coordinated with projects related to the conservation of Santa Catalina Island. Your talents and skills are matched with volunteer positions or projects that best satisfy your interests and aid in the fulfillment of the Catalina Island Conservancy's mission. You can participate in a one-time project or volunteer over several months or years. Individual volunteering opens up a landscape of opportunities including a chance to experience the diversity of Santa Catalina Island. Many volunteer projects take place in the interior of the island where you may catch a glimpse of our shy island fox or spot an American bald eagle soaring overhead. Volunteer activities may include:

  • Educational Outreach
  • Marine Research Diving
  • Native Plant Gardening
  • Office Assistance
  • Special Events Coordination
  • Trail Construction
  • Vegetation Monitoring
  • Wildlife Data Recording

Although the weather on Santa Catalina Island is usually mild, it can vary quite a bit. It can be cool and foggy, hot, and sometimes windy. It is best to dress in layers so that you are comfortable while working. A windbreaker is helpful when the winds pick up. Rain gear is strongly recommended during the winter months (it is better to be safe than sorry). It is recommended to bring clothing that can get soiled. Some of the plant extracts leave permanent stains on clothing. Long sleeves and long pants will help protect from spiny plants and poison oak. Footwear is important and hiking boots are a must!

Volunteers have become an integral part of the Catalina Island Conservancy's efforts to preserve Santa Catalina Island for future generations. If you would like to get involved with Catalina Island Conservancy's volunteer program or are interested in further information, please contact us at (310) 510-2595 extension 110.

Kathleen King