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Extreme home makeover: plover edition

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- A Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer pulls an ice plant out of the sand during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover on Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Removing the non-native plant species allows the Plover to nest in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- A Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer pulls an ice plant out of the sand during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover on Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Removing the non-native plant species allows the Plover to nest in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Molly Astell, a Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer, pulls an ice plant during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Molly Astell, a Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer, pulls an ice plant during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Molly Astell, a Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer, pulls an ice plant during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Molly Astell, a Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer, pulls an ice plant during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Molly Astell, a Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer, throws an ice plant into a wheel barrow during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Removing the beach grass and ice plants allows the native plants to grow, creating a habitat for the Plover. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Molly Astell, a Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer, throws an ice plant into a wheel barrow during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Removing the beach grass and ice plants allows the native plants to grow, creating a habitat for the Plover. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Ria Boner, a Santa Barbara Zoo conservationist research coordinator, pulls an ice plant out of the sand during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Ria Boner, a Santa Barbara Zoo conservationist research coordinator, pulls an ice plant out of the sand during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Beach grass and ice plants are pulled out of the sand during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Removing the non-native plants allows for native plants to grow for the nesting habitat of the Plover. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Beach grass and ice plants are pulled out of the sand during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Removing the non-native plants allows for native plants to grow for the nesting habitat of the Plover. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Armando Alvarez and Molly Astell, Santa Barbara Zoo volunteers, pull beach grass and ice plants during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Armando Alvarez and Molly Astell, Santa Barbara Zoo volunteers, pull beach grass and ice plants during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Santa Barbara Zoo volunteers pull beach grass and ice plants during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Santa Barbara Zoo volunteers pull beach grass and ice plants during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- A Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer throws invasive beach grass and ice plants into a wheel barrel during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Removing the non-native plant species allows the Plover to nest in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- A Santa Barbara Zoo volunteer throws invasive beach grass and ice plants into a wheel barrel during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Removing the non-native plant species allows the Plover to nest in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Members of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron and Santa Barbara Zoo volunteers pull invasive beach grass and ice plants during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)
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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Members of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron and Santa Barbara Zoo volunteers pull invasive beach grass and ice plants during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Samantha Kaisersatt, 30th Civil Engineer biologist, pulls beach grass and ice plants during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Santa Barbara Zoo volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)
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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- Samantha Kaisersatt, 30th Civil Engineer biologist, pulls beach grass and ice plants during a conservation effort for the Snowy Plover at Wall Beach here Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Santa Barbara Zoo volunteers worked with the 30th Civil Engineer Conservation Office in an effort to aid local conservation and endangered species. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Santa Barbara Zoo teamed with Vandenberg personnel today in the name of endangered species habitat conservation.

Eight Santa Barbara Zoo conservationists met with 30th Civil Engineer Squadron biological scientist, Samantha Kiasersatt, at Vandenberg's Wall Beach to get down and dirty to protect the western snowy plover's nesting grounds.

"Today we are removing non-native invasive species," Kaisersatt said. "All this plant material out here that is brown, that's all ice plant from South Africa. It was introduced here to stabilize the sand but it prevents the plover from nesting in these areas. Before the beaches close Thursday for the breeding season we are removing this species from the area to benefit the snowy plover."

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the six-inch shorebird was added to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as threatened on March 5, 1993. The Pacific Coast population of the western snowy plover breeds primarily on coastal beaches from southern Washington to southern Baja California, Mexico. The population breeds above the high tide line on coastal beaches, sand spits, dune-backed beaches, sparsely-vegetated dunes, beaches at creek and river mouths, and salt pans at lagoons and estuaries.

Vandenberg's beaches are prime locations for plover nests and base officials take precautionary steps each year to maintain the recreational use the bases' coastline while protecting its endangered inhabitant.

"We [pull ice plant and dune grass] to increase the amount of habitat that is available to the snowy plover," Kaisersatt said. "Doing this is part of the agreement we have with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because of recreational beach access to areas that support snowy plover breeding. In order to compensate for the closed area the northern quarter-mile of beach is open during the breeding season. That's why we're increasing nesting habitat in the closed area."

The ice plant and dune grass ratio per person ratio was severely askew, so Kaisersatt enlisted the aid of the Santa Barbara Zoo.

"Part of our mission at the zoo is to support local conservation," said Ria Boner, Santa Barbara Zoo conservation and research coordinator. "We like to spread the message that conservation is something that can be done in your own backyard."

Zoo and base personnel worked together to cleanse the plover nesting area of these invasive species not just to increase the odds for plover reproduction, but also to show that conservation starts at home.

"Helping is not that hard, it just takes a lot of effort and sometimes all you need is more hands," Boner said. "Conservation isn't something that just happens in far away countries; there are plenty of local species that need your help too. It's good to just get out there and do what you can to help."