Science for a Blue Planet

Science for a Blue Planet

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To Everything There is a Season

By | June 19, 2018


Personal Note from Ellie

Dear friends,

Ellie_speakingAfter 19 years at the helm of Point Blue, I have decided to step down from my role as CEO.  Leading Point Blue during this time of profound environmental change—and consequently this time of great opportunity—has been a tremendous honor.  I am filled with pride looking back over the past two decades on the difference we’ve made together for our collective future.

I am also deeply grateful for your support and friendship throughout my journey here…. And what an incredible journey it has been!

We’ve come a long way together

When I started in 1999, Point Blue’s annual budget was $2.5 million with 30 staff working out of a former house provided by Audubon Canyon Ranch.  Today, our budget is almost $14 million with over 180 staff, we own our 20,000 square foot Petaluma headquarters, and we recently acquired the 3,000 square foot Rich Stallcup Intern House, also in Petaluma.

Building on our long term studies of land birds, seabirds, shorebirds, and vegetation, we now also study krill, whales, soil, water, carbon, microbes and more.  When I began, most of our data was entered by hand, stored in paper notebooks. Today, we are an informatics powerhouse, providing cutting edge decision-support tools and managing over one billion ecological observations collected by partners from across the Western Hemisphere—all stored electronically in the “cloud”— to advance climate-smart conservation.

In 1999, we had dozens of mostly public wildlife, land and ocean management agencies as our key partners.  Today we’ve expanded our circle to include over 1000 ranchers and farmers, 50,000 students and teachers, as well as land trusts and other NGOs, advancing conservation on one million privately owned acres—through our STRAW, rangeland, flooded agriculture, and meadow restoration partnerships. Our career-building efforts have fledged from informal internships to a world-renowned conservation science training program empowering youth, college students, and post-docs.

From PRBO to Point Blue Conservation Science, and from Point Reyes to the United Nations – with official observer organization status at the global climate change body (UNFCCC)—we’ve come a long way together!

What’s next?

Former Board Chair Ed Sarti is leading a transition committee that will engage an executive recruitment firm to launch a national search for Point Blue’s new CEO.  They will manage a transparent and inclusive process engaging staff, members, partners and funders.  I plan to remain on staff through the end of the year unless my successor is hired sooner.

I’m excited for this new leader to guide the organization in taking bold action to increase the pace and scale of climate-smart conservation.  Thanks to your support, Point Blue is stronger than ever, with the Board and staff poised to achieve even greater impact in the years ahead.

Thank you for your continued generosity to Point Blue, particularly important during this transition.  Please consider making a one-time special gift today to lay an even stronger foundation for our new CEO and to ensure Point Blue’s continued success (

This is a bittersweet time for me personally.  Please know that Point Blue will always be a part of me and I will always be a part of Point Blue.  Thanks again to each of you for giving me the honor of a lifetime these past two decades.

With heartfelt gratitude always,



Collaborative Accomplishments from 1999-2018 

We've done so much together!

We’ve done so much together!

I often describe Point Blue as having 3 names: first name “science,” middle name “partnership” and last name “family!”  Following is a list of just some of our many collaborative accomplishments since 1999 that demonstrate these essential qualities.  –Ellie Cohen, June 19, 2018


A letter from our Current and Immediate Past Board Chairs

Megan Colwell,  Chair, Point Blue Board of Directors

Megan Colwell, Chair, Point Blue Board of Directors

Combining vision with passion and nearly two decades of hard work, Ellie Cohen transformed Point Blue from a bird and animal research organization to a powerhouse of conservation science. With that transformation came growth—more scientists, more partnerships, more revenue, and, ultimately, more impact to conserve nature and make the planet a better place for all living things.

As members of Point Blue’s Board of Directors, we have been honored to support and work alongside Ellie. Her contributions are far too numerous to fit in this note, but some deserve special attention, especially her leadership on climate change. Thanks to Ellie, Point Blue has never been a follower when it comes to climate change. She understood early on that we needed a paradigm shift in how we approached conservation science. Not everybody was ready—change is hard. With tenacity, patience and, most importantly, passion, she catalyzed the conservation community to prioritize climate change– and worked with our scientists and partners to infuse climate into all aspects of our work. Point Blue is now on the leading edge of climate-smart conservation.

Ed Sarti, Immediate Past Point Blue Board Chair

Ed Sarti, Immediate Past Chair, Point Blue Board of Directors

Vision and passion are essential in a leader, but Ellie also has the business savvy to manage over 180 employees and interns, multiple offices throughout California, hundreds of contracts with federal, state and local agencies as well as projects spanning the Americas and Antarctica. None of that would be possible without assembling and nurturing the strongest leadership team–at all levels—that Point Blue has ever had, which is perhaps the best legacy any CEO could hope to leave behind.

While we were deeply saddened to learn of Ellie’s decision to leave Point Blue, she will be leaving the organization strongly positioned for future success. Thank you, Ellie. In the months ahead, we will be reaching out with our plans to celebrate her many contributions and achievements.

In the meantime, the Board of Directors has established a transition committee to identify and recruit a new Chief Executive Officer, and to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. The committee plans to engage an executive search firm to perform a national search to find a great new leader for Point Blue.

With appreciation,

Megan Colwell, Board Chair

Ed Sarti, Immediate Past Board Chair

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  1. Nancy Scolari

    June 19, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    What an incredible person. It has been a pleasure to work with you, Ellie. You have really contributed to our work in important ways and always with a big smile. Thank you for sharing your ideas, science and collaborative spirit with us for so long. Best to your future!

  2. Andy Jones

    June 19, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    I was blown away by Ellie from the day I met her. I knew I could support Point Blue after talking with her for just a few minutes. Dynamic, resourceful, insightful, and more. Real leadership! I think the search committee has a real challenge in store!
    Thanks, Ellie! Andy (Farallone Patrol)

  3. emily johnson/dick bricker

    June 19, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Emily goes waaaay back to PRBO to the ’70s when she began volunteering and attending any gatherings possible. Dick became active in the mid ’90s. The only thing preventing these joyous activities now is age (E: 88 — D: 94) and health.
    Ellie has carried this organization on to international importance and recognition. How sorely this evironmentalist/engaging lady will be missed — altho we seriously doubt she has any intention of leaving the environmental field activities any time soon! Applause, much love, and may your health continue great!!!

  4. Brian Collins

    June 19, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Ellie Cohen, we’ve only worked together a tiny bit in passing over the years but I want to state most sincerely that I’m glad to know ‘ya. I so respect your years of dedicated focused energy, your incredible smarts and passion for the wild things we share this blue point in space with, your strategic engagement, your embrace of emerging scientific tools and your simple and genuine positive human energy will live on as a hopeful, living, conservation legacy. Please know that we will continue to work for a saner, healthier, reality-based and ecologically enlightened future. Best wishes to you now and always.
    Brian Collins

  5. nora pearl

    June 19, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    I am so proud and amazed at the work this organization has done.
    Am a member now, think it is still current?, and wish Ellie the very best in the next chapter of her service and live,

    Blessing to Ellie and the team.

    Nora Pearl

  6. Cecilia Riley

    June 19, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks Ellie for all you have done for science, for birds, and for conservation. I have always admired you as I followed your organizational accomplishments during my time as Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. Three years ago I too opted for retirement after 19.5 years at the helm. Certainly a much smaller organization, but it was bettered by yours! Wishing you all the best, don’t stay too long- once the decision is made, all are better off going onto their new lives. Contact me if you need a friend. Leaving your home grown org is kinda tough! Respectfully, Cecilia

  7. Wanda Yurkunas_Sarti

    June 21, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Thank you Ellie for all you have done as the leader at Point Blue. Your passion for the environment is so evident in everything you say and do. It is contagious! It is a great pleasure to have known you. I do hope we will meet again. All the best in your future endeavors. With love and gratitude,

  8. Arthur Roth

    June 21, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    If ever an individual and a task were meant for each other, surely that’s true of Ellie Cohn and Point Blue. Honored to be part of the search committee that first interviewed Ellie back in ’98 I recall how there was no question in our minds that she was “the one”. Ellie’s special gift for visualizing how latent talents might be brought to bear in solving problems has been key to the extraordinary success and growth of Point Blue. She was a joy to work with when our ACT teams from the Stanford Business School partnered with PRBO in helping it toward global recognition as a leader in climate conservation science. Planet Earth has never had a better friend than Ellie Cohn.

  9. nancy digaudio

    June 23, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    We wish you well in your journeys ahead. you’ve done so much and accomplished so much at PRBO – Point Blue! May you always enjoy your work and life many years onward!

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