Edward was born in Indiana, and started his university education there in the midwest, then moved and transferred to USC in Los Angeles, California.
My research has discovered that he studied the Los Angeles Coastal sand dune, a few miles south of the Ballona Wetlands, and therefore belonging to the Greater Ballona Wetlands Ecosystem. The specific site of his research was in present-day Manhattan Beach, near Sand Dune Park, in the historic housing tract known as Pecks Tract.
Attached below is an Afterword that I wrote approximately 5 years ago in 2004, which will provide further insight to the importance of Edward Couch today, as a prescient scientist, virtually 100 years later in 2010.
The Los Angeles Times, in 1950, on page A6, did a very brief story on the "life and times" of Edward B. Couch, however there is much more to the life of this man as a scientist and observer of nature of the coast of Los Angeles County, from circa 1910-1915.
Natural History of a Geography of Hope Via a Website
The early research by Edward Couch is not only important as a historical document related to the development of the science of Ecology, the fields of Conservation Biology, Environmental History, Historical Ecology, and Ecological Restoration will find this early classic report as essential and vital to doing "genuine" restoration of sand dunes on the coast of Los Angeles County. The data and some of the conclusions drawn by Edward Couch are useful beyond Manhattan Beach. For example, the data can be used for "genuine" restoration in Playa del Rey at the Toes "Sunset" Beach sand dune and the Ballona sand dune, the Los Angeles Airport sand dune, Hyperion sand dune fragments, El Segundo Chevron Refinery sand dune fragments, and at coastal sand dune fragments in Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Santa Monica, and Venice (Los Angeles).
In 2005, the Los Angeles County sand dune ecosystem studied by Edward Couch in 1913 is mostly developed with expensive coastal homes and businesses. This classic study of dune perennial vegetation is fortunate indeed, so much so that Edward Couch needs to be considered prescient for studying these sand dunes and that Edward Couch was affiliated with a university, that being University of Southern California (USC) as indicated by the affiliation beside his name. In the early days of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), prominent professors of biology were officers in ESA. Approximately 20 years later, another scientist from USC would study the sand dunes of Los Angeles County, just north of Manhattan Beach at the future location of LAX Airport. Her name was Edith Purer, and her professor advisor/mentor were also officers of the ESA, so that we see a continuity of interest by USC in ecology, coastal sand dunes, and student education.
Fortunately, a growing cultural movement has appeared that is interested in preserving and restoring natural ecosystems across the USA, and also across the earth. In California and in Los Angeles, the movement is growing too. As an example, even though so much sand dune habitat has been lost, a societal movement to save the last remnants of this ecosystem parkland is occurring. In Los Angeles County, several cities are beginning to connect their sand dune and coastal strand ecosystems together. A draft conservation scientific plan has been assembled. In essence, there is a renaissance occurring for the restoration of coastal sand dune and coastal strand that once stretched from Torrance to Santa Monica in Los Angeles County.
Perhaps the most important and significant feature of the research by Edward Couch is that his report of 90+ years ago can be used to guide us in the direction of "true" and "genuine" restoration. Currently, throughout the restoration efforts of coastal southern California, nearly every effort has been a failure due to using the "wrong" native plants. These mistakes are supported naively and ignorantly by state agencies with government funding. The reasons are complex but involve both politics by major corporations and landscape architects. These entities lack scientific understanding and awareness of what genuine native plants are for coastal southern California.
The list of plants by Edward Couch in his study is an excellent guide of the species to utilize but they must be deciphered still further for nomenclatural name changes, some misidentifications, and a comparison to photographs in his report. Furthermore, there needs to be a linkage to restoration of the fauna, not the the mere hope that animals will return if native plants are used. In nearly every situation, there will need to be a "planting" of the animals as well. Zoologists and conservation biologists actually refer to the restoration of animals as translocation and is a form of recovery, and can also be called animal restoration. And if this kind of animal restoration is not completed, no project can be termed genuine restoration.
About 20 years after the study of Edward Couch, a complementary investigation by another USC researcher named Edith Purer occurred in the early 1930s. She studied several plants in excruciating detail on the El Segundo Sand Dune for her graduate work toward a PhD, after moving here from Chicago, where she had just completed a Masters Degree. She studied at the dominant University of Chicago School of Ecology of the early 1920s. She had been tempted to do a sand dune study by virtue of the fact that she observed sand dunes around the shores of Lake Michigan near Chicago at the Indiana Dunes National Park. Her sand dune investigation is a classic in ecology and so are her later studies into vernal pools and salt marshes of San Diego County. She quotes the studies of Edward Couch in her own investigation of the El Segundo Sand Dune.
Although the study by Edward Couch and later by Edith Purer were focused on just a portion of the Los Angeles County sand dunes, their results are applicable to the entire dune system of Los Angeles County.
Their studies focused on plants, but there are animals that occur in sand dunes too. Fortunately, there were studies done in the 1930s by both entomologists and vertebrate zoologists so that we have a good idea of the original fauna too. Some of these animals are rare animals known to be associated with this sand dune complex. These faunal elements include several birds (Loggerhead Shrike is one example), reptiles (Silvery Legless Lizard), and butterflies such as the El Segundo Blue. THe University of California at Berkeley, via Jerry Powell, resulted in further studies of coastal sand dunes of Los Angeles County with a focus on insects.
Hopefully, the last remaining remnants of the coastal sand dunes of Los Angeles County can be saved. These last sand dune and coastal strand ecosystems stretch from Santa Monica to Venice to Playa del Rey to El Segundo to Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach to Redondo Beach to Torrance. This is a true "geography of hope." The real difficulty and challenge will be to do "GENUINE" restoration. This study by Edward Couch that was published in 1914, now 90+ years ago, will be vitally important as a source document for "GENUINE" restoration. For this reason I have labored to bring this article back-into-print in association with the Ballona Institute. The Ballona Institute has already conducted numerous field investigations and even some actual ecological restoration to recover the "GENUINE" flora and fauna of the Los Angeles County Sand Dune.