Seabees train with Search Dog Foundation in Santa Paula

The old fenced-in dog park standing on its last leg at your neighborhood park has nothing on what the trained search-and-rescue dogs at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation in Santa Paula call a playground. On Friday, Aug. 12, the Navy Seabees reservists hosted a tour of the work they began in 2014 building “Search City,” an apocalyptic mock neighborhood featuring wrecked faux rubble and even a partially collapsed house, all in the name of training.

The Seabees began work in 2014, funded by the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program, working in two- to three-week stints during the summer months. The reservists work on a volunteer basis, learning real-world construction skills, all the while assisting the nonprofit in its bid to become the star of search-and-rescue dog training.

The foundation has been called upon to search for survivors of earthquakes, floods and tornadoes. In 2008, the foundation acquired the 125-acre property in Santa Paula, moving administrative offices from Ojai in June of 2016.

Other additions to the training area include a concrete-covered trench and a county-certified rubble pile. Future plans include a collapsed freeway, a destroyed convenience store and a replica of a hotel that collapsed during the 2010 Haiti earthquake

“They’ve been very valuable. It’s been a really good partnership,” said Serenity Nichols, executive assistant and liaison between the foundation and the Navy, of the reservists. “They’re getting the training they need to deploy while they’re building props that our search teams train on to be ready for deployment.”

The reservists will be on hand through the end of August and will return in 2017.

Island fox no longer endangered

A small dog.

An Island Fox.

You can call it a comeback: The endangered Island fox, a species of mammal unique to the Channel Islands, has been removed from the Federal Endangered Species List after making the fastest recovery of any mammal ever under the Endangered Species Act.

The fox lives on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Santa Miguel islands, where its population had declined by 90 percent due to predation by golden eagles. At one point, only 15 foxes remained of 1,780 on San Miguel Island; 55 on Santa Cruz, down from 1,400.

Captive breeding began in 1999, when the problem was identified. After the last remaining golden eagle was relocated from Santa Cruz Island in 2006, the captive-bred foxes were returned and they thrived.

The fox, much smaller in comparison to its mainland relatives at 3 to 6 pounds in weight, is just one of 37 species to have come off the list since the Act’s inception 43 years ago.

Moorpark College re-launches photovoltaics program

Just as Superman can harness the power of the sun, so too can the mere mortal folk through the science of photovoltaics — i.e., solar energy — by enrolling in Moorpark College’s revitalized solar voltaics program.

Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, accounting for one out of every 83 new jobs in 2015, according to a census conducted by The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census.

The college has three “mock roofs” where students can practice installation of solar panels and systems. The course, led by Dr. Peter T. Parrish, who holds a Ph.D. in solid-state physics and has been certified as a PV Professional by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, says that the college has “one of the best facilities in Southern California to teach solar photovoltaics and to train students for jobs in the industry.”

Students who enroll in and complete the course will receive a Proficiency Award in photovoltaic technology in one to two semesters, over four courses. An optional internship at a local solar company can also be pursued.

Classes begin on Saturday, Aug. 20. For more information, contact Moorpark College Sciences and Student Engagement Division at 553-4133 or