PRBO Conservation Science
Quarterly Journal of PRBO Conservation Science, Number 158, Fall 2009: Notes From The Field


Field Work, Findings, Accomplishments

PRBO Highlights

Conservation Success on Private Lands
CEO's Column
International Conservation Mission
Kenya Connection
Mixed Marine Signals
Teacher At Sea
PRBO Highlights
Securing Our Future
Focus on Outer Point Reyes
Staff Migrations

Page One News! PRBO's research on changing ecosystems is drawing public attention. Twice in September, our findings appeared on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Due to climate change, the Acorn Woodpecker's distribution in California is likely to shift. Photo by Tom Grey.
"Vast Shift in Bird Species Expected from Warming" headlined a September 2nd story on work by PRBO and colleagues that shows how climate change will likely reshuffle California's bird communities. By the year 2070, bird species are expected to shift their statewide distributions independently, resulting in combinations of co-occurring species that have not been seen before. The story, drawn from our scientific paper in the prestigious online journal PLoS ONE, was also covered by other media outlets.

On September 22nd, page one of the Chronicle featured a report from PRBO's at-sea research across the Gulf of the Farallones with colleagues from NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program. Environment writer Peter Fimrite quoted Director of Marine Ecology Jaime Jahncke about conditions in the marine ecosystem this year: plentiful krill (shrimp-like plankton), but small fishes—needed by many seabirds—extremely scarce (also see this Observer).

KQED public television, on its science program "QUEST," aired a segment on October 13th called "The Farallon Islands—California's Galapagos". PRBO's Russ Bradley appears in this mini-documentary and discusses Farallon seabirds' unprecedented responses to a changing marine environment.

Bay Nature magazine for October–December 2009 spotlights Brandt's Cormorants' nest failure this year, citing PRBO's Sara Acosta about Alcatraz Island and Russ Bradley about Southeast Farallon.

Links to all the latest news from PRBO are found at

Partnering for Bird Conservation.Throughout the Central Valley of California PRBO is part of a new initiative for migratory bird populations. With The Nature Conservancy of California and Audubon California, we are building the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership, now in its second year. Catherine Hickey, Associate Director of PRBO's Wetland Ecology Division, says, "With our strong relationship with the California Rice Commission, we can effectively help implement 'compatible agriculture'—practices designed to enhance bird habitats and benefit private landowners."
Google Grant for Online Mapping. To help predict climate-change impacts on California birds, PRBO Informatics scientists, supported by a grant from Google, will develop an Internet-based mapping tool. "People will be able to see what the future may hold and make better decisions about our conservation investments today," says Chief Conservation Science Officer John Wiens. The project will use the wealth of bird information already housed in the California Avian Data Center.
River Restoration in the Face of Climate Change. In the journal Ecological Restoration, PRBO and six other organizations evaluate how protecting and restoring river ecosystems (riparian areas) can enhance their ability to cope with climate change. Says PRBO's Nat Seavy, "Restoration is a critical step toward protecting the integrity of ecosystems and the benefits they provide—including clean water, pollination, and flood protection—in a time of rapid climate change."
Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium. A new group founded by PRBO and eight public agencies will develop science-based strategies for addressing the impacts of climate change on ecosystems throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Participants include NOAA (several branches), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and other key members. BAECCC will serve as a demonstration project for cross-agency, adaptive management of natural resources, given accelerating climate change.
Delivering Results: A Sampling. Scientists from PRBO and U.C. Davis used an aerial laser technology to predict where different bird species occur in the Cosumnes River Preserve in Central California. In the journal Ecological Applications, they discuss this new tool's potential for identifying areas that should be protected in order to keep common birds common.
  • From our cooperative work in Antarctica, a recent paper in Marine Mammal Science considers cetaceans' continued role as "keystone species" in Southern Ocean food webs.
  • As published in The Condor, data from PRBO's Palomarin Field Station show no negative effect on nesting birds' success due to mist-netting.
  • Among the major meetings where PRBO has recently presented: The Wildlife Society national conference, Monterey; State of the (San Francisco) Estuary conference, Oakland.
    Field Season Notes. In early August, 90 counters organized by Audubon California and PRBO surveyed 130 sites in the Central Valley and counted more than 21,000 Long-billed Curlews—a significant portion of this species' world population.
    Yellow Warbler. Photo by Tom Grey.
  • Native birds continue returning to restored habitats in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, as documented by PRBO biologists. Nesting Yellow Warblers are up from one pair in 2002 to 28 in 2008; this year, pairs used a seven-year-old restored site.
  • Up to 20 of the 753 California Gulls banded as chicks at Mono Lake this year (to study whether they might later nest in San Francisco Bay) have been sighted at Southeast Farallon Island, another at Morro Bay.
    International Interns. In our eighth year partnering with the National Park Service, PRBO is hosting two interns in the Park Flight Program. Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela from Colombia is focused on landbird research, Cynthia Resendiz from Mexico on education and outreach. Bienvenido!

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