Coastal Resources Institute
The Coastal Resources Institute (CRI) at California
Polytechnic State University is dedicated to resolving issues involving the
management of natural resources such as land, water, timber, flora and fauna.
These resources hold great significance for our state's future economy and the
welfare of its people. CRI assembles interdisciplinary teams as needed to
address specific concerns related to natural resources.
Since its founding in 1990, CRI has provided a wide range of
services, including management plans, habitat audits, environmental/social
impact inventories and analyses, and policy planning. The following analytical
services are available through CRI: general soil and plant tissue analysis;
water analysis for trace metals, semi-volatile organics, pesticides, and other
elements; genetic analysis for identification of natural populations of plants,
animals, and microbes; and map and database creation, update, plotting, and
analysis with Geographic Information Systems. Institute affiliates have access
to a wide variety of laboratory and computer equipment, ranging from electronic
spectrophotometers to computerized mapping and photo interpretation software.
The Role of the Institute
More than 80 faculty members are CRI affiliates, including
specialists in biological science, business administration, city and regional
planning, civil and environmental engineering, economics, food science and
nutrition, integrated pest management, geology, landscape architecture, natural
resources management, physical science, political science, recreation, social
science, and soil science. The faculty are organized into task forces utilizing
their expertise, such as:
- Environmental Assessment
- Food Resources and Fisheries
- Comprehensive River Planning
- Social Impact Assessment Capabilities
- Water Quality
- Ecosystem Biodiversity and Genetics
- Waste Treatment and Disposal
- Soils, Geology and Hydrology
- Landscape Architecture
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Urban and Regional Planning
- Forestry and Forest Resources
- Geographic Information Systems
- Flora & Fauna
- Recreation and Tourism
In addition, to these vast interdisciplinary strengths, CRI
interrelates its work through community collaborations and public participation.
Plus, with the continuing support provided to CRI by Cal Poly students and
staff, CRI can implement multiple in-depth projects over a sustained period of
This group works with federal, state and private organizations on regional,
local and site-specific projects. Teams have completed NEPA environmental
assessments and impact statements, CEQA environmental impact reports, and
their Functional Equivalents. Members have been involved in developing habitat
conservation plans, and in planning basins, watersheds, and river systems.
Cultural and social resources are considered along with physical issues.
This task force encompasses a wide range of economic and policy analysis
capabilities, from small-scale resource supply and demand analysis to regional
resource policy analysis and planning. Relevant skill areas include business
economics, capital budgeting, benefit-cost analysis, resource allocation
efficiency, non-market valuation, marketing, and resource policy analysis.
Projects include environmental and economic impact analysis of changes in the
state fish hatchery program and state water resource policy analysis.
Complex projects involving various environmental issues generally require
integrated input from various disciplines in order to develop acceptable
implementation strategies. The process becomes more acute when the project
takes on a watershed or regional perspective,and or when the environmental
problems, impacts or solutions are not readily apparent. The CRI faculty are
skilled in interdisciplinary team activity, and many of the principal
investigators have managed and co-ordinated projects with over a dozen
different disciplines or constituents involved. The CRI team has experience in
coordinating activities from the problem formation and development stages
through data collection, analysis, evaluation and implementation.
Social Impact Assessment Capabilities (SIAC):
The SIAC team addresses existing and planned land use, population, housing,
business, holding capacity, employment, economics, public facilities,
transportation, historical/cultural resources, and aesthetic/scenic resources.
After the problem is defined from a social perspective, data are collected,
compiled and collated, and findings are interpreted and analyzed. Professors
from economics, geography, history, political science, sociology, and other
relevant disciplines are available for this task force.
Landscape Architecture - Urban and
This task force performs site study and planning tasks at a range of scales,
from analysis of specific sites to broad regional and watershed studies.
Projects include analyzing settlement patterns, developing administrative
structures for environmental planning and management, modeling and projection
of activities and environmental impacts, creation of regulatory mechanisms
linked to resource protection planning, and studies related to changing
populations and economic conditions. Faculty affiliates have hands-on
experience in coastal planning and management issues through working as land
use planners in coastal communities and counties.
Comprehensive River Planning:
CRI has extensive experience in applied hydraulics and hydrology, water supply
analysis, and comparing water supply to projected or historic needs. This task
force evaluates the impacts on agriculture of point and non-point sources and
their relationship to irrigation in the rivers, and studies water quality
issues relating to irrigation practices on-farm, irrigation districts and
regional studies. It recently analyzed drainage and irrigation water
management alternatives to improve river water quality.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS):
This unit provides data capture and editing, modeling and analysis, and plot
production with land management software, as well as database design and
project management. GIS-compatible data capture from photogrammetry, land
surveying, property legal descriptions, and topographic modeling are
available. Projects include investigating the migratory patterns of salmon by
relating their DNA signatures to sample point locations and habitat
information; displaying mercury sources and watershed pathways for Lake
Nacimiento; analyzing the nutrient objectives of the San Luis Obispo Creek
watershed; and studying non-point source pollution in the Morro Bay watershed.
The GIS unit includes affiliates from the academic computer services,
agricultural engineering, landscape architecture, and forestry and natural
Flora and Fauna:
This group provides comprehensive biological studies of terrestrial and
aquatic habitats. Its field investigations have included detailed inventories
of flora and fauna and comprehensive reports on plant communities and wildlife
habitass, including studying community interrelationships and variations in
community composition and structure. The task force can inventory rare,
endangered, or threatened species, detailing threats to each species, as well
as its habitat requirements, status, and location. It also prepares vegetation
and wildlife habitat maps, including maps of rare species, and develops
monitoring, mitigation, restoration, and revegetation plans.
Soils, Geology and Hydrology:
This group uses groundwater computer models and geological models for
groundwater characterization studies; heavy metal analysis to monitor and
document heavy metal contamination source areas; and soil and geological
resourse inventory and attribute analysis to characterize wetland soils, heavy
metal source areas, and vegetative communities. It has worked on the Paso
Robles Groundwater Basin Study, the Clean Lakes Assistance Program for Lake
Nacimiento, the San Luis Creek Project, and the Morro Bay Watershed Project.
This unit includes Professional Engineers, Registered Geologists, Certified
Professional Soil Scientists, and Certified Erosion Control Specialists.
This task force assesses the water quality of large and small groundwater
basins. It has studied heavy metals contamination of fish, done botanic
assessment of creeks, and examined creek wildlife relative to flow regimes and
urban wastewater discharges. Members have studied the well and surface water
in the Paso Robles groundwater basin, the basin's hydrology and geohydrology,
and the distribution of waters of different quality. Two studies of water
quality and types associated with rare plant populations are currently being
completed. The unit's experience in irrigation return water and the
interaction of soil and pore water chemistry with crop development enables it
to conduct agricultural water quality tests.
Forestry and Forest Resources:
This group provides professional assistance in areas such as wood energy and
biomass, social forestry and urban/community forestry; wood identification;
sawmill production efficiency; riparian restoration; and the management of
forest ecosystems, Christmas trees, nurseries, and urban creeks. Wildfire
hazards, urban shade tree hazards, and windbreaks can be analyzed. Members can
advise on applying coordinated resource management planning to woodland and
riparian resource areas, holistic resource management to forest lands, and
agroforestry to interface woodland areas. Technology transfer, public
information workshops, and planning for erosion control also are available.
Food Resources and Fisheries:
Faculty from this task force have written extensively on unconventional marine
species, development of rapid methods for assessment of fish quality,
comparative nutritional evaluation of southern New England marine species,and
the use of solid fish byproducts. A faculty affiliate currently is assessing
the coastal region of Northern Sinaloa in Mexico where, despite great
potential for developing marine resources, fishing is limited by the lack of
processing and distribution networks.
Many agricultural producers are seeking ways to reduce inputs of water,
energy, labor, and pesticides, while sustaining the economic viability of
their operations. This task force assesses the environmental, social,political,
economic, and scientific ramifications of various agricultural practices. It
compares the production inputs (i.e., choice of seed, pesticides, fertilizers,
and water) with outputs (e.g., crop yields, pesticide runoff, quality of
produce) of conventional and sustainable farming approaches, and can assess
the risks and benefits of adopting sustainable farming practices.
Ecosystem Biodiversity and Genetics:
This task force samples and analyzes biological communities and ecosystems.
Combining objective sampling of plant and animal populations with quantitative
and chemical procedures, it can characterize the species composition, species
diversity, population structure and dynamics, and genetic diversity of target
populations. Ecological and genetic data provided by contractors and third
parties can be analyzed independently using a variety of statistical
techniques and computing technologies.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM):
Faculty with expertise in entomology, forestry, mematology, plant pathology,
weed science, biological control, and agricultural chemicals make up the
primary IPM team. The team has experience in design and implementation of IPM
programs for agriculture, turf, landscape, and greenhouse systems.
Waste Treatment and Disposal:
Organic matter amendments from dewatered biosolids can restore physical and
chemical properties to the soil. This group characterizes the soil conditions
existing before biosolids are applied at controlled rates, and then, through
extensive field testsand soil monitoring, evaluates the physical and chemical
changes that occur. Team members can evaluate the long-term effects of
biosolid application on soil properties and crop responses, and determine
nutrient up-take efficiency as a result of biosolids application. Soil
properties such as heavy metals, nutrients, bulk density, water infiltration
and water holding capacity, salinity and pH, and soil organic matter can be
Recreation and Tourism:
This team investigates outdoor recreation behavior and issues that affect
policy development, planning, and management of natural resources, such as
site impacts, trail erosion, water pollution, user conflicts, overuse,
irresponsible behavior, and incompatible uses. It also aims to facilitate
dialog between tourism interest groups seeking to maximize natural resources
for tourism development and conservation-oriented groups who oppose such