BSSC’s Restoration Trip to Piedras Blancas Light Station

In November, the Bren School Sustainability Committee (BSSC), a student-run organization, traveled to San Simeon to continue their restoration event tradition at the Piedras Blancas Light Station— Ivy Ku (MESM 2014 and BSSC’s immediate past president) founded this unique tradition last fall.  coast2

The drive up the coast towards San Simeon opened up fun opportunities for tide pool exploring and elephant seal observing.  Upon arrival, the team was given a tour of the grounds and was allowed to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the light station for a spectacular view of the California coastline.  With the help of park ranger Jodie Nelson, the committee constructed dune fences to protect breeding elephant seals, removed the remnants of a decommissioned water tower (allowing the materials to be reused for other purposes), and eradicated the infamous ice plant and other non-native plants that attempt to dominate the landscape.

BSSC values this relationship with the Light Station and sees it as a wonderful opportunity to get students outside the school walls and do something active.  For those that are disappointed to have missed this awesome trip, do not fret! They plan to return in February and again in the spring.

Here is one committee member’s poetic account of the trip:

We pulled up to the isolated rocky point just past the outskirts of civilization. The night was by far the clearest of the past two years of quarterly trips taken by our quaint sustainability club. The lighthouse’s illuminating rays were reaching the base of Hearst Castle in distant San Simeon.  The moon was non-existent, allowing for the stars to be as brilliant as anyone’s recent memory and rival the desert landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park.  After an evening of star-gazing, everyone retired with their sleeping bags to a cozy night of drinking hot totties to take the chill off their bones.  Ghost stories were told as the brutal pacific wind battered the windows of the lighthouse cabins.  

We who stayed up two hours past midnight were treated to a special excursion to the top of the lighthouse where we listened to waves crash on jagged rocks as the spirits of long dead ships eternally floated off the western seaboard.  

We awoke to batter frying in the kitchen the next morning with the dull bark of elephant seals in the distance.  When we got our fill of banana pancakes and hot syrup, we set out to fix the environment once and for all, one fence pole at a time.  

“Back to Bren.” we all shouted as we blasted 80s music and laughed as if we didn’t have exams to study for and papers to write waiting for us back on our desks in Goleta.


BSSC is actively engaged in promoting sustainability for the Bren School, UCSB, and the larger environmental community. BSSC members have the opportunity to take part in many sustainability initiatives, such as greening Bren Hall, beach clean-ups, and ecological restoration activities, such as the one at Piedras Blancas. In addition, BSSC is committed to community engagement, hosting Bren-wide functions (such as the famous BSSC BBQ at Goleta Beach) to facilitate networking among students, staff, faculty, and alumni. ‘Like’ their Facebook page to learn more about BSSC and hear about their other exciting events for this year. And check out their photos from the trip below!

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