PRBO Conservation Science
Quarterly Journal of PRBO Conservation Science, Number 149, Summer 2007: Celebrating Four Decades of Farallon Island Research

Making a difference for marine conservation


Highlights from PRBO's Farallon History

Welcome to the Farallones
Understanding Ecosystem Change
Historic Highlights
Farallon Islands Blue Ball

People Power. PRBO biologists first came to the Farallones in June 1967 and have maintained a year-round presence since April 1968. The Farallon journal is a daily record of sightings (e.g., birds, amphibians, butterflies, whales, sharks), weather, boat days and personnel. More than 700 PRBO biologists (the vast majority of them volunteer interns) have worked on the island for periods ranging from a few days to the equivalent of several years!

Stewardship. When our Farallon program began, marine and island wildlife were subject to a host of human impacts. With most island areas now wilderness (off-limits even to PRBO), and stewardship constant, wildlife populations have recovered dramatically. Scientific findings from the Farallones have also contributed to new protective measures for marine species (e.g., white sharks) and management decisions (e.g., regulating gill-netting).

California Current Indicators. Flowing from British Columbia to Baja California, the California Current is one of the world's most productive ocean regions. Strong seasonal upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water supports the abundance of marine life here, but the system is highly variable.Seabirds are outstanding indicator species. PRBO's long-term data from the Farallones translates into detailed knowledge of this critically important marine ecosystem.

Data Power. PRBO's data sets on Farallon wildlife are some of the largest and longest-term in the world. To study known individual birds throughout their lives, in four decades we have banded more than 20,000 Western Gulls and 14,500 Brandt's Cormorants as chicks.
PRBO scientists shelter behind the USFWS sign to admire big waves, with landing conditions impossible.

Staying Power. During the 1983 El Niño (a climate wake-up call), island biologists went 2.5 months without a Farallon Patrol boat. The PRBO winter crew began counting lentils after hearing the National Weather Service report "storms off the coast stacked up from here to Hawaii!"

Climate Change. We are now starting to see Farallon wildlife responses—and ocean-climate anomalies—that are unprecedented in nearly four decades of monitoring. Our goal for the future is to place current PRBO findings into the long-term context and help address critical question of the day—such as how climate change is affecting marine ecosystems.

Endowing the Farallon Program. Help us ensure that research on the Farallon Islands continues for another 40 years—through your outright or planned gift to the Farallones Endowment Fund. To learn more about helping sustain this invaluable effort, please contact in confidence PRBO's Director of Individual Giving, Nancy Gamble, at 707-781-2554 or

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