UC Irvine manages a total of 721 acres of protected natural areas through the UC Natural Reserve System.
The Preserve is a 60-acre site on the southern edge of the campus located adjacent to University Hills, University Research Park, and the San Joaquin Transportation Corridor. It is a part of the UCI main campus and is managed by the UCI Office of Natural Reserves for the School of Biological Sciences. The Preserve is enrolled in the Nature Reserve of Orange County.
Ecologically, the Preserve consists of coastal sage scrub and disturbed grassland habitats, and it currently sustains seven nesting pairs of the threatened California gnatcatcher and four pairs of the coastal cactus wren – both sensitive species associated with coastal sage scrub.
The Preserve is used for research and is a cherished and scenic campus asset. Its panoramic view encompasses much of the campus, with the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island as a westerly backdrop. The Ecological Preserve has seen extensive research efforts over the years, including many publications, theses, and surveys of plants and animals ranging from bobcats, California gnatcatchers, and cactus wrens to research focused upon restoration ecology and plant-animal interactions.
The 202 acre San Joaquin Marsh Reserve is adjacent to the main campus and includes a variety of wetland habitats. Along the Pacific Flyway, the marsh is a stopping place for over 100 migratory bird species. The marsh also serves as an educational and research location for the University.
The Steel Burnand Desert Research Center is a 78 acre site near the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County. Located within the Sonoran Desert, the site contains a variety of plant and animal species native to the region.
The 306 acre Burns Pinon Ridge Reserve is located in the western Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Habitats within the reserve include pinon-juniper woodland, Joshua tree woodland, montane chaparral, desert wash, and freshwater seep.