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.


CRI Services

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:

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 time.


Environmental Assessment:

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.


Environmental Impact:

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.


Interdisciplinary Management:

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 Regional Planning:

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 resources departments.


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.


Water Quality:

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.


Sustainable Agriculture:

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 analyzed.


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 activity.