By Stacey Vigallon, Director of Interpretation, and the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Interns

On May 24, 2014 students participating in the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Internship Program presented their research to the public at a symposium hosted by Politi Elementary School. This year, projects addressed topics ranging from noise pollution and student perceptions of nature to the effectiveness of a solar-powered birdbath. The information obtained through student research projects is available to California State Parks and the Baldwin Hills Conservancy staff and is used to inform habitat restoration at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. We are extremely proud of the work that interns did during the 2013-2014 school year, and we’re looking forward to working with a new group of Greenhouse Interns and Restoration Leaders in this fall. Below we are pleased to present the 2013-2014 Greenhouse Intern project abstracts…

Monica Anderson

The Relationship Between Bird Abundance and Human Abundance at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook: A Three-Year Summary

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park (BHSO) is largely fragmented coastal sage scrub, inhabited by approximately 166 bird species (Molina 2001), and surrounded by Los Angeles. In the years 2011-2014 from November to April, I surveyed bird and human abundance at BHSO, twice weekly between 1:30 and 5:30pm. I spent 4-30 minutes at each of five points, using a field guide and binoculars to help collect data. I hypothesized bird abundance varied with human abundance, and data supported my hypothesis, but each year, the trend has become weaker. Bird abundance and species diversity were higher in sites with less human abundance and more native vegetation. After the first year, bird and human abundance overall was lower. I viewed 36 different bird species during my project. I added a music component to my project to engage and teach people the importance of habitat sensitivity and awareness; and on February 15, 2014, I hosted an event at Jim Gilliam Park for the Great Backyard Bird Count that engaged 27 participants.

Diandra Dillon (Project 1 of 2)

Urban students’ connection with nature through sound.

BHG DiandraDillon

Collecting data on noise levels at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park with a sound level meter

My project focused on Dorsey High School (DHS) students and their relationship with nature through sound. Many of the students that attend DHS were born in a highly urbanized area, which may influence their norms. None of my hypotheses were supported by the data I collected. This is actually a good thing, because it indicates that DHS students are more invested in nature than I initially thought. DHS students overall listed both nature and city sounds equally. The majority of students could identify by sound the crow, gull, and pigeon, but were unable to correctly identify the starling or the Black Phoebe. However, less than 40% of students affirmed having heard all five-bird species before, and only 13% affirmed having heard all except the Black Phoebe. Unlike what I predicted, it was English students who wrote more positive responses to a nature experience than did the Bio/Humanities group. Also surprising, it was the English students who referenced animals more frequently in their writing samples. A future research project could analyze the descriptions that the groups use as well as what they classify as nature vs. city sounds.

Diandra Dillon (Project 2 of 2)

Noise levels at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook compared to Dorsey High

Noise pollution is a harmful and irritating sound that can negatively impact wildlife and human health. I measured sound levels and recorded the number of birds I heard at five different areas at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (BHSO) and two different sites at Dorsey High School (DHS). As I predicted, the entrance of the park was the loudest of the five sites, with an average sound level of 75.94 dB, likely due to constant vehicle traffic. Also as I predicted, I heard more birds on average per survey at lower use areas, like the site behind the parking lot where there is more established vegetation. My hypothesis for DHS was also supported: the average sound level at DHS (75.73 dB) was higher than the cumulative average for all sites at BHSO (73.12 dB). Even though this supports my hypothesis, there was not that much difference between the loudest site at the park and DHS. My research provides baseline information about noise level at BHSO and DHS. Future projects could focus specifically on bird nesting in high and low noise level areas of the park.

Ingrid Carrillo

Will the season affect the presence or activity of pollinators at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook?

BHG IngridCarrillo

Building nest boxes for native bees at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park

I examined seasonal presence of two types of pollinators, native bees and hummingbirds, at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook from October 2013 to April 2014. I made native bee nest boxes and placed them throughout BHSO. Overall occupancy of all the boxes was very low, possibly because the bees don’t nest until the fall. I completed 24 hummingbird surveys during the course of my study at 4 different locations in the park: greenhouse, visitor center, roundabout at the parking lot, and the parking lot itself. When I compared winter (Nov-Jan) hummingbird activity to spring (Feb-Apr), there was very little difference, likely due to very similar temperatures within those time periods. Average winter temperature was 18.7ºC while spring temperature averaged 20.6º. For future students I think bee nest-boxes should be monitored through fall, giving bees more time to find and use the boxes. This information can tell us where to place the boxes in the future. My hummingbird project is useful because I’m studying patterns. Biologists would find it useful to know where and when hummingbirds are active. Also, our weather is changing dramatically so we need to know if bird activity will change, too.

Melvin Harris III

Will surface type and ambient temperature affect the detection of Western Fence Lizards at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook?

BHG MelvinHarris

A Western Fence Lizard observed during a reptile survey at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park

I surveyed the presence of the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentallis) on paved and unpaved surfaces, in the greenhouse, and on park structures at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook from November 2013 to April 2014. I also collected temperature data to see if lizard sightings varied with temperature. This lizard is the most common reptile in the Baldwin Hills area and keeps us safe from Lyme disease transmitted by the Brown Legged Tick and caused by a bacterium called a spirochete. I encountered lizards more frequently on unpaved surfaces and structures than on paved surfaces. The Greenhouse had more lizard activity than any other of my survey sites. I encountered them more frequently in higher temperatures than in lower temperatures, supporting my one of my hypotheses. Also supporting one of my hypotheses, I encountered at least one other lizard species during my study. Contrary to what I predicted, it could be that lizards were found less frequently on paved surfaces because there was a lot of human activity that drove them away from those areas.

Ariam Arispe

Will students know more about pollinators after participating in an art/science curriculum?

BHG AriamArispe

Teaching elementary school students about pollinators as part of a project that incorporated both art and science

We can use art as a way to teach people about the importance of the ecosystem. I developed a curriculum that used art and science to teach students basic information about pollinators: why they are important, and how pollinators see the landscape. I used pre- and post- assessments to measure the change in student knowledge before and after they went through my curriculum. On March 13, 2014 I tested, taught, and trained 40 high school students in the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program. These students were trained to teach the curriculum to students at Politi Elementary School. On March 20 and 22, 2014 I supervised Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Program students while they taught 31 Politi students and middle school aged alumni my curriculum. Both the elementary and the high school/middle school groups showed higher test scores after participating in my curriculum. Combining art and science into one curriculum to teach students about the importance of pollinators was effective in my study. Future interns could use this as a format to teach students about any nature-themed topic.

Sarai Panameno

Will germination and survival of native seeds differ between greenhouses and a hillside at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook?

BHG SaraiPanameno

Watering a native plant germination test plot on a hills side at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park

From December 2013 to April 2014 I studied seed germination and seedling survival between greenhouses and the hillside at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. I recorded the germination and seedling survival at the Kenneth Hahn greenhouse, the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook greenhouse and the hillside for five different native species (Toyon, Bush Sunflower, California buckwheat, White sage, Black sage). My data support my hypothesis: overall native seeds in a greenhouse had higher germination and survival than native seeds on the hillside. Seed germination varied between the two greenhouses, likely because the one at KH was temperature-controlled while the one at BHSO was not. Toyon germination and survival in the BHSO greenhouse was very high. The low germination and survival of Salvia species across all treatments is consistent with interns Young’s and Gonzales’s projects in previous years. A good follow-up for my experiment would be to use native soil from the hillside in a greenhouse setting.

Margaret Ramirez

How many birds and bird species will use a solar-powered birdbath at the Baldwin Hill Scenic Overlook?

BHG MargaretRamirez

Materials for assembling a solar-powered birdbath

Using a design from San Diego Audubon, I built a solar powered birdbath in November 2013 and monitored it until April 2014. Birdbaths provide an essential resource for birds in an urban setting during a drought year and can be a way people can connect with nature. My data showed that the birdbath was more effective at attracting birds when the water was running. Fewer birds used the birdbath during each observation session than I predicted: an average of 2.72 bird visits when the water was running vs. 0.67 bird visits when water was not running. As predicted, at least three different species visited the birdbath during the course of my experiment, and I actually had a total of at least seven species. When the water was running species diversity was higher than when the water was not running (averages of 1.22 species and 0.33 species, respectively). My experiment shows that birds are attracted to a birdbath with running water. For future research, it might be useful to compare running water and non-running water birdbath models side-by-side to see if birds have a more specific preference.

Natnael Hintsa

How do people interact with the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook?


A park offers opportunities to improve human mental and physical health. My project consisted of studying how people engaged with the park and each other. I hypothesized that most people visiting the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook would wear headphones, and that most people would visit the park in groups. Between November 2013 and April 2014 I observed people from three different locations: main entrance of the park, the bottom of the main staircase, and the visitor center where the restrooms and water fountains were located. I observed that on average at least 50% of people that visit the park wear headphones, over 85% of people wore exercise clothing, and at least half the people using the park arrive in a group. I conclude that most people visiting the park are primarily there to work out. My project is useful because it helps describe how people are using the park and how (if at all) they are connecting with nature and each other. Based on my project, follow-up studies should count the exact number of people who come to the park in groups and they should formally hypothesize about people wearing exercise clothing.

Published Western Tanager Vol. 81 No. 1 Sept/Oct 2014