A Message from Our President & CEO
By Ellie Cohen.
We have a remarkable and accomplished history that has led to who we are today: leaders in pioneering efforts to reduce human-driven impacts on nature, building on our decades-long bird ecology expertise.
Founded in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, the primary focus of our first 25 years was on just that—studying and monitoring bird populations at Point Reyes National Seashore, the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge and Bolinas Lagoon, among other places.
By the late 1980s, we began to use our long-term data to understand how both natural and human-caused changes affected birds and their habitats. We hired our first “statistical ecologist.” This, along with the world-changing addition of desktop computers, took us to the next level of bird conservation by analyzing this vast data to reveal hidden conservation insights. Around the same time, The Nature Conservancy of California and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invited us to assess a major restoration project along the Sacramento River using birds as indicators.
Acknowledging this growth in purpose and work, in 1991 the Board of Directors changed our name to the acronym ‘PRBO’ with the tagline, Conservation through Science. By the early 2000’s, studying birds as indicators in the context of entire ecosystems became central to our work. This was reflected in our 2002 name change to ‘PRBO Conservation Science’ and our member-approved updated mission that continues to this day.
In this simplified history, our third phase began in 2005 and 2006. We documented complete breeding failure of Cassin’s Auklets for the first time in nearly 40 years of daily studies on the Farallon Islands. Highly unusual ocean conditions and a sudden absence of food caused this unprecedented event. A year later, during the longest drought on record to date, we found that birds in the desert Southwest were not even attempting to breed. Our science was detecting the signals of climate change and extreme events.
At the same time, we grew our information technology capacity. We began making our data, as well as data from partners across the country and the world, readily usable by habitat and wildlife managers. With the recent addition of STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) and our initiative to “re-water” California’s grazing lands, we have added community-based restoration and management to our powerful conservation science tool-box.
Why Point Blue?
Seven years after Point Reyes Bird Observatory was founded, this “blue marble” image of Earth was taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts and widely disseminated. We think of this as the original “point blue” – a pivotal moment in human history when we first understood the fragility and isolation of our home planet. It was a moment that catalyzed the modern conservation movement and fostered a shared commitment to protect the only place capable of sustaining us.
PRBO has reached its own “point blue” – a pivotal moment of realization that we must confront the largest threat to the biosphere in the history of our species- climate change.
We are changing our name to Point Blue Conservation Science to directly address climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people.
We are changing our name to Point Blue to place our work in the context of the entire biosphere, the "blue" of our planet from afar when it is healthy, and the “blue” of clean water and Earth’s atmosphere that are essential to sustaining all life. We are changing our name to Point Blue to better communicate our highest priorities, reach new audiences and expand our influence to achieve our urgent goals, with bird ecology still at our core.
At Point Blue we are working hand-in-hand with our partners to point the way forward to achieve the best conservation solutions. Thank you for joining with us to sustain a healthy, blue planet teeming with life for generations to come.