So it would be a travesty if I created a blog and didn’t post some sublime pictures of Catalina Island in all its splendor.
Catalina Island is the most popular destination of the channel islands. In the 50s, it became a hotbed of activity as a relatively close place to Hollywood to film Westerns. Apparently, John Wayne was a regular visitor to the gorgeous island. As a result, there’s a great deal of ecological issues of invasive species versus the endangered endemics that already lived there. During our visits there, I was inundated with information on the plight of the Catalina Island Desert Fox and many other species of plants and animals that are facing extinction at the hands of well-adapted invasive species. The silver lining of this invasive species problems is that the bison that they’ve brought to the island have now been used as the foundational species to repopulate other places like the Dakotas and Montana where the bison population has been suffering. Also, the kelp forests in the shallow bays of Catalina Island have drawn the attention of the government and been designated as Marine Protected Areas (MPA). One of the nights, we were able to do a snorkel dive of the area and see huge lobsters and other fish that would be overfished or their habitats destroyed in a non-MPA area.
Scientifically, Catalina is really important because the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at USC has set up its main field station at Catalina Island. Upon a first glance, I thought we had landed at a resort, not a scientific lab. A few major benefactors turned this modest marine lab into a first-rate residence for scientists, both temporary and long-term. Adjacent to the lab is one of the dozen or so hyperbaric chambers in North America on the island. This is used to treat the bends and other diving sicknesses. We were fortunate to receive a tour of the chamber and learn about the physics of how they treat people in the chamber, as well as things you don’t think about like how to bring in food, and another doctor, all the while keeping the pressure and temperature to particular conditions to help the patient.