Picture a habitable spot in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains that provides living quarters and lab space to investigate nature — a place where K-12 students, universities, public agencies and other organizations can advance conservation science in Southern California.

Exterior of the La Kretz Field Station

A $500,000 gift from Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky will add a laboratory to the La Kretz Field Station located in Malibu. Supervisor Yaroslavsky, a native Angeleno and UCLA alumnus, has been a leader on environmental matters in L.A. County. Now completing his fifth term as the Third District’s representative before retiring, Yaroslavsky has spearheaded land protection efforts in his district.

The field station operates as a research facility for the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science, based at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, in conjunction with three primary partners: the National Park Service, California State Parks, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. UCLA faculty, researchers and students, along with visitors from local, national and international institutions, have utilized the field station since it opened in January 2013.

“A field laboratory at the station will enable collaborative resource conservation and management that will help transform the way scientists work in the area,” said La Kretz Center Director and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Brad Shaffer. “This development will help in a very real sense advance how our broad community conducts and supports the research that is a vital component of preservation efforts in the Santa Monica Mountains.”

Plans for the expansion show 1,000 square feet of laboratory space that will house microscope stations to visualize and sort samples, bench space to process and store biological materials destined for long-term museum curation, freezers for DNA samples and upgraded storage for field equipment. An American Disabilities Act-compliant bathroom and shower will also be added to living quarters at the facility.

“Field research involves collecting plant, animal, stream and soil samples for later analysis, sorting specimens and storing them for DNA or ecotoxicological research, keeping tissue samples in stable freezers or plants in humidity-controlled chambers, and preparing museum specimens for deposition at our world-class museums in Los Angeles to document the biodiversity of the area,” explained Shaffer.

“This lab will allow us to create a hub for biological research in the Santa Monica Mountains that brings academic scientists, professional biologists, members of the local community and students of all ages together to learn about and contribute to conservation issues in the area,” said Shaffer.

Construction is anticipated to begin in mid-to-late summer.

This was adapted from a story that appears on the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability website.