Younger Lagoon Reserve

Aerial view of Younger Lagoon Reserve and Coastal Science Campus

In 1974, Santa Cruz residents Donald and Marion Younger donated approximately 40 acres of land on the open coast near Monterey Bay for the development of a UCSC coastal marine research station. Approximately 25 acres of the donated land became the Younger Lagoon Reserve.

Located directly adjacent to UCSC’s Coastal Science Campus, Younger Lagoon Reserve represents a unique site within UCSC’s Natural Reserve portfolio. One of the few relatively undisturbed wetlands remaining on the California Central Coast, the Younger Lagoon Reserve encompasses a remnant Y-shaped lagoon on the open coast. The lagoon system provides protected habitat for 100 resident and migratory bird species. Reserve habitats include salt and freshwater marsh, coastal strand, backdune, pickleweed flat, steep bluffs with dense coastal scrub, a pocket beach, grassland, seasonal wetlands and dense willow thickets. The location of the reserve provides unparalleled opportunities for students to learn about the environment, implement field projects, obtain hands-on experience, and become actively involved in research and stewardship projects. As a result, the reserve serves as an outdoor classroom and living laboratory for hundreds of UCSC students and dozens of faculty on an annual basis. Younger Lagoon Reserve staff and student interns are working to restore approximately 47 acres of former agricultural land to native grassland, scrub and seasonal wetland habitats over a 20-year period. These lands were farmed for nearly 70 years, and restoration efforts require extensive weed control, propagation of native plants, planting and maintenance efforts (similar to farming or gardening, but in a wild-land setting). Each quarter, the reserve sponsors dozens of undergraduate interns who participate in all aspects of restoration and stewardship activities.

CONTACT: Elizabeth Howard (, Younger Lagoon Natural Reserve Manager