Copeland Creek Riparian Restoration


Copeland Creek traverses the Sonoma State University campus. For years, faculty and student volunteers have worked with SSU Facilities personnel, under the Copeland Creek Master Plan, to reduce the dense undergrowth of blackberry and other non-native species. Yet with intermittent efforts, blackberries have grown back in abundance in most of the creek bed. A more strategic long-term approach was needed. This multi-year project engages students in all phases of restoring 1 acre of habitat along Copeland Creek. They undertake grant applications, restoration planning and implementation, plant propagation, and monitoring. SSU partners with community organizations to host restoration workdays for students and community members during the school year, and disadvantaged youth during the summer. This website is annually updated with a description of grant-writing activities, new drafts of restoration plans, areas of invasive and non-native species treated, number and species of plants propagated and planted, and evaluation of the success of restoration efforts.

Grant writing

Grant writing provides additional funding to support the restoration effort, opportunities for partnerships, and experiences for students on how to prepare a grant proposal.

  • Fonti et al 2016; Vignale et al 2016: Students prepared draft grant proposals for Prop 1 Coastal Conservancy RFP. These efforts will form the basis for future proposal writing initiatives.
  • Cariaso et al 2017: Awarded $2,700 Innovative and Strategic Priorities Grant through the SSU School of Science and Technology. Half the funding was used to purchase wildlife cameras to monitor wildlife in the restoration area.
  • Elias et al 2018; Prop 68 2018: Students prepared draft grant proposals and proposal presentations for Prop 68 RFP. Language from their proposals was included in a Prop 68 proposal submitted jointly by the Center for Environmental Inquiry and Point Blue.

Restoration Planning

A long-term coordinated restoration plan is needed to reduce non-native species and increase native species diversity. All parts of this plan are developed by students in consultation with instructors and staff from SSU facilities and Sonoma Water. Implementation of treatments described in the restoration plan is carried out by students, contractors, volunteers, and collaborators, such as California Conservation Corps and Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps (SCYEC). Size of Restoration Project Site: 4,371 m2 (1.08 acres).

  • Foster 2017: Conceptual planting plan draft notes
  • Christian and St. John 2016: Restoration Ecology students drafted a suite of monitoring protocols for evaluating the effects of Copeland Creek restoration efforts on plants and animals. Variables monitored included: water quality and aquatic communities, streambed morphology, canopy and understory vegetation, vertebrates, and problem species.
  • Luke and St. John 2018: Copeland Creek Treatment Schedule
  • Elias 2018; Winkler 2018: Students performed site assessments to characterize restoration areas.
  • Garcia 2018: Restoration Ecology students worked with professionals from Point Blue to create a planting plan for the newest phase of restoration planting along the creek. We attended Point Blue’s Climate Smart Restoration Workshop in November, 2018, and learned to use the ClimateSmart Planting Tool.

Invasive and Non-native Species Removal

Size of Restoration Project Site: 4,371 m2 (1.08 acres)

Cumulative Area Treated to Date:

  • 2,500 m2 mechanical mastication
  • 1,000 m2 hand pulling.

The most common species removed are:

  • Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus),
  • Hemlock (Conium maculatum),
  • Wild Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum),
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis),
  • Common vetch (Vicia sativa),
  • Common periwinkle (Vinca minor),
  • Bristly ox-tongue (Picris echioides).



  • March 23-25, 2017: Flagging of approx. 50 native shrubs and trees was completed by SSU student interns on March 23 and 24, 2017. The purpose of flagging was to identify areas to avoid during mastication. Hand-pulling invasive plants within 1 meter of native trees and shrubs was completed on March 25 2017 by volunteer crews recruited and hosted by California Conservation Corps
  • April 27, 2017: Mechanical mastication of 2,500 m2 of blackberry and hemlock was completed by Trailscape Inc. Prior to mastication, Trish Tatarian of Wildlife Research Associates conducted bird nesting surveys on April 25, 2017. No nests were found.
  • March 24, 2017 and April 29, 2017: Sheet mulching of hand-pulled and mechanical mastication areas was done by volunteer crews recruited hosted by California Conservation Corps
  • July 25, 26 & 27, 2017: Hand-pulling of invasives, and sheet-mulching of hand-pulled and mastication areas done by North Bay Conservation Corps volunteer crew
  • April 22, 2018: Hand-removal of invasive species by volunteers sponsored by Friends of Copeland Creek campus club.
  • October 2017: Workday canceled due to North Bay fires.
  • November 2017: Maintenance of previously treated areas, including hand-pulling of invasive plant regrowth. Done by student volunteers on workday sponsored by JUMP. On this day, regrowth of native California Blackberry was discovered in areas where Himalayan blackberry had been previously removed.
  • May 5, 2018: Hand-removal of invasive species (primarily Himalayan blackberry and Poison Hemlock) by student volunteers. Workday sponsored by SSU Join Us Making Progress (JUMP).
  • December 7, 2018: Hand removal of invasives by student volunteers, planting buckeye seeds (collected along creek), and coast live oak seedlings.
  • March 8, 2019: Invasive removal workday
  • May 10, 2019: Invasive removal workday sponsored by the Center for Environmental Inquiry

See Maps and Photos (Google Maps) for details of the areas treated.

Native Plant Propagation and Planting

Students in the Plant Propagation class grow native plants and distribute to restoration sites, including the SSU Copeland Creek restoration site on campus. Restoration ecology students (GEP445) and volunteers plant native species along Copeland Creek in accordance with the conceptual planting plans. For, descriptions of number of plants grown, number of plants planted, and number of plants distributed, see: CC Plant Propagation 2017-present.xlsx(Herrmann 2018)

Planting Dates:

  • December 8 & 9, 2017: Blog post:
  • December 5, 2018: Restoration Ecology planting Zones 8 – 11. Juncus patens – 30, Scraphulacaea californica (bee plant) - 4, Carex sp - 20, Rosa californica 3
  • December 7, 2018: Coast live oak seedlings and buckeye seeds: Quercus agrifolia - 8, Aesculus californica Buckeye (collected seeds) – 12

Monitoring Effects of Restoration Effort

Students in the Restoration Ecology and other courses annually monitor the ecological health of Copeland Creek.

iNaturalist Species Database: Sonoma State Biodiversity -

Pre-Treatment Monitoring

  • 2015: Problem tree assessment, including GPS locations for 103 trees (10 species) targeted for removal. 
  • 2016: Problem species assessment (includes blackberry cover)
  • Christian and St. John 216: Plants, animals, and stream Monitoring protocols and baseline results


Annual Monitoring

Spring 2017

  • Entomology(BioL 323): Aquatic invertebrates April 2017. CC Aquatic Invertebrates 2017.xlsx (Data 0.7 Mb)
  • Clifford et al 2017:Streambed substrate April 2017. CC Pebble Count 2016-17.xlsx (Data .2 Mb) - sampling by A Watershed Year FYE (SCI 120)
  • Miles et al 2017: Water quality April 2017. CC Water Quality 2017a.jpg (Data 0.7 Mb), Copeland Creek Water Quality 2017b.jpg (Data 0.7 Mb) - sampling by A Watershed Year (SCI 120).

Fall 2017

  • Monitoring of treatment areas not completed due to October wildfires.
  • Entomology(BIOL323): Benthic macroinvertebrates assessed by Entomology. Samples collected in April 2017 were identified. Data included in overall creek database.
  • Krissa Arnold-Klein: Avian surveys by Krissa Arnold-Klein throughout the Fall semester. Data included in overall creek database.
  • Coverboards placed in restoration site in November to monitor invertebrates and small vertebrates

Spring 2018

  • Global Environmental Systems (GEP201): Non-native and native blackberry monitoring by students during week of May 7, 2018. GPS points recorded for California blackberry plants.
  • Régine Jackson and Mariah Chastain: Field Biology (BIOL314)- Avian surveys by students during spring semester. Raw data included in project database.
  • Jesica Rodgriguez and Wendy St. John. Understory and canopy vegetation monitoring by Jesica Rodriguez and Wendy St. John. Raw data included in project database.
  • Josh Cariaso, Holly Lyon, Hannah McKeown, and Jesica Rodriguez: Wildlife monitoring (camera surveys). Raw data included in project database.
  • Field Biology (BIOL314):Terrestrial invertebrates and small vertebrate surveys. Raw data included in project database.

Fall 2018

  • GEP201 & BIOL320: Non-native and native blackberry monitoring.
  • Restoration Ecology (GEP445): Vegetation transects surveyed by) students
  • GEP445 & BIOL333: Wildlife Camera surveys.

Spring 2019

  • Bio314 & Bio323: Benthic Macroinvertebrates surveyed by students (St. John data 2019)
  • BIOL314: Wildlife camera surveys on Copeland Creek performed by students
  • BIO314: Streamflow and deposition assessed by students.
  • Goman 2019:  Blackberry monitoring – native and non-native blackberries mapped as part of a long term restoration success monitoring – (Goman data 2019).


Project Results

Title Format Download Students
"U.S. Coastal Conservancy Application" grant proposal Vanessa Fonti, Noah Henry, Shaunice Newton, Megan Stock, Nick Stone
Example Grant Application grant proposal Teresa Vignale, Karina Berry, Angelica Andrews Buot, Kathleen Grady
      Josh Cariaso
"Copeland Creek Restoration" presentation Samantha Elias, Tyler Owens, Hector Garcia-Cabrales
Language for Proposition 68 proposal report Samantha Elias, Tyler Owens, Hector Garcia-Cabrales, Jessica Yost, Aileen Winkler, Nicole Griep, Irina Zhuravskaya