Tahoe Environmental Research Center

Tahoe City Field Station: Eriksson Education Center

UC Davis opened a second education center at Lake Tahoe in 2010 to further showcase the university’s environmental research at the majestic Sierra lake. The center is at the old California state fish hatchery just east of Tahoe City, on the lake’s California side.

At a Glance

Eriksson Education Center at the Tahoe City Field Station (historic fish hatchery): 2400 Lake Forest Road, at the junction of Lake Forest Road and Highway 28 (North Tahoe Boulevard), about 1¼ miles northeast of Tahoe City. If you are walking or biking, you can use the paved path from Tahoe City; the path runs parallel to Highway 28 and goes past the field station.

Free, self-guided tours: Self-guided tours are available daily from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. during summer months (Memorial Day through Labor Day). Visitors are welcome to view the Eriksson Education Center located on the north side of the building or tour the grounds, which feature a half dozen interpretive panels among the demonstration gardens and test plots.

Guided tours led by volunteer docents: On Saturdays throughout the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day), volunteer docents are available to provide guided tours from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Visitors are also invited to conduct Citizen Science including water quality monitoring, bird watching, and plant phenology. Tours are also available by appointment; to make arrangements, call 775-881-7566 or send an e-mail to tercinfo@ucdavis.edu.

About the Tahoe City Field Station (Historic Fish Hatchery)

The state Department of Fish and Game closed the hatchery in 1956, and UC Davis took up residence there in 1975, using the hatchery as a base for research and field operations.

This work goes well beyond the university’s well-publicized annual reports on the lake’s clarity. Researchers also identify and track non-native species, monitor air quality, and develop new approaches for treating polluted storm water.

In October 2006, the university moved its base of Tahoe operations to the new Tahoe Environmental Research Center at Incline Village, Nev., on the lake’s northeastern shore. The TERC, including the Thomas J. Long Foundation Education Center, is housed in the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences, a collaboration between UC Davis and Sierra Nevada College.
 
Then UC Davis set about restoring the fish hatchery, dating back to the 1920s. The project cost nearly $4.5 million in federal, state and local grants, as well as private donations.

The university renovated the main building, added the education center and removed obsolete buildings. In addition, the university restored a small section of Polaris Creek and nearby wetlands, creating a living laboratory for scientists, students and the public.

Officially, it is the Tahoe City Field Station. Unofficially, it is the historic fish hatchery. Author John Steinbeck once worked as a caretaker at the hatchery, living in a cottage behind the main building, and during this time completed his first novel, Cup of Gold.

The 3,000-square-foot main building comprises offices and a conference area, wet lab, scuba locker, workshop and storage.

A small addition houses the Eriksson Education Center, named in memory of Paul and Helen Eriksson. “Donor Paula Mathis named the center after her grandparents, who used to bring Paula to the hatchery when she was a little girl,” said Heather Segale, education and outreach coordinator for the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

With the opening of the Eriksson Education Center, the public has access to the hatchery for the first time since it closed in 1956. The education center includes video of the hatchery in operation — courtesy of the family of the late Harley Groves, who shot the film when he worked at the hatchery.

Other video presentations showcase the university’s lake research, including a recently launched project to try to rid the lake of invasive Asian clams.

The education center also includes three interactive exhibits: Life Cycle Quiz, about the progression of fish from egg to adult; Species ID, about the lake’s fish and other critters; and the Invasive Species Timeline, about some of the lake’s non-native invaders and where they came from.

“These are all done in cartoon style and designed for kids,” Segale said.

A timeline tells the history of the building and ecological changes in the lake.

Outside, a path runs through upland and wetland demonstration gardens. A half dozen interpretive signs tell about native plants and wetlands wildlife, development impacts, the restoration of Polaris Creek and the importance of wetlands, as well as the research that is under way in test plots. Segale said the center will provide seasonal plant, bird, butterfly and wildlife field guides.

With the gardens, the Tahoe scientists are showing area residents how they can create truly “green” landscaping, and best management practices for protecting the lake’s water clarity.