Each year, thousands of scientists from around the world conduct field research in the protected landscapes of the UC Natural Reserve System. The UCNRS draws investigators for many reasons. This network of natural landscapes represents a living library of California's diverse ecosystems. Reserve lands are protected for the long term, enabling researchers to conduct experiments without fear of the land or their equipment being disturbed. Data archives enable scientists to build on decades of previous research. Overnight accommodations, laboratories, reference collections, Internet access, and other amenities make field work more comfortable and productive.

Younger Lagoon Reserve is located on UC Santa Cruz's Coastal Science Campus.  It is comprised of two parts: the original 25-acre brackish lagoon and surrounding slopes, and the 47-acre "Terrace Lands".  The reserve has no facilities of its own, but in some cases, arrangements can be made for lab or bench space in UC Santa Cruz's Coastal Science Campus facilities.

Current research projects include investigations into best practices for native habit restoration, drought impacts, and the evolutionary ecology of fish in the lagoon.