PRBO Conservation Science
Quarterly Journal of PRBO Conservation Science, Number 162, Fall 2010: The Water Issue


From Ocean Surveys to a New Field Station

PRBO Highlights

California's Water Legacy
CEO's Column
A Shorebird Saga
Willows and Warblers
Profile of Dave Shuford
PRBO Highlights
TomKat Ranch
Len and Patti Blumn
Staff Migrations

Humpback whales were among the species feasting on krill this summer and fall, as found on cooperative ocean-going surveys by PRBO and NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries. Photo by Annie Schmidt / PRBO.

Ocean-going research this summer found abundant krill and the greatest concentrations of seabirds and marine mammals since 2004. A guest on the June 2010 research cruise, and ashore for her fist visit to Southeast Farallon Island, was Undersecretary of the Interior Jane Lubchenko, PhD. The latest news from our "ACCESS-Partnership" with NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries is posted on Facebook.

There are now 100,000 acres of private land restored to wetlands in California's Wetlands Reserve Program (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service). Catherine Hickey and Geoff Geupel both received awards recognizing their roles in this milestone, at an October event in the Sacramento Valley.

Water began flowing along dry stretches of the San Joaquin River this past March for the first time in decades, with court-ordered water releases from the Friant Dam. To celebrate the rewatering of California's second longest river, the San Joaquin River Partnership (non-profit organizations including PRBO) held a gala conference in October in Fresno. Highlighting birds as measures of restoration success, Chrissy Howell, PhD, gave a talk on PRBO's riparian monitoring in the San Joaquin Valley, and Geoff Geupel led a festive bird walk.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership (PRBO, The Nature Conservancy, and Audubon California) is building on three-plus years of cooperative work to increase and enhance inland habitat for shorebirds and waterbirds. The focus is on partnering with private landowners in three priority regions, the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley, and Klamath/Modoc (see map that accompanies "California's Water Legacy" in this issue).

"Thaw deal: Climate change could leave penguins in the dark," in Scientific American, summarizes a paper by Grant Ballard, PhD, and others in the journal Ecology. As temperatures in the Antarctic continue warming, Adélie Penguins face an environmental squeeze. Retreating ice will force them further pole-ward, where scarcer daylight will make finding prey more difficult.

Returning to the Middle East in mid-summer (see Observer 160, Spring 2010), at the invitation of the U.S. Forest Service International Program, was Nat Seavy, PhD. He led two workshops on analyzing monitoring data--for Israeli biologists, near Haifa, and for researchers from the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, in Amman, Jordan.

At the Bay-Delta Science Conference Matt Reiter, PhD, Julian Wood, Catherine Hickey, and Nat Seavy, PhD, all gave presentations. This biennial meeting brings together findings on water supply and ecosystem function in the San Francisco Bay Estuary's vast inland reaches.
Pigeon Guillemots were among the seabird species that found abundant food near the Farallon Islands during their breeding season this year. Photo by Ron LeValley.

The seabird breeding season on Southeast Farallon Island was highly successful for some species, whose food was plentiful near the island. Many Pigeon Guillemot pairs fledged two chicks, and Cassin's Auklets had the highest rate of double-brooding on record, with 70% of pairs producing second broods.

The first geolocator tag placed on a Golden-crowned Sparrow last winter was safely retrieved on October 19th. The bird had migrated to northerly breeding grounds and returned to overwinter near the Palomarin Field Station. This study investigates migratory songbirds' habitat needs (see Observer 160, Spring 2010).

Two major ocean conferences took place in early September. At the California and the World Ocean Conference, in San Francisco, Jaime Jahncke, PhD, was a panelist on "Scoping Climate Change Impacts in California Coastal Marine Ecosystems," and Dan Robinette on "Ecosystem Considerations in Fisheries Management." At the World Seabird Conference, in British Columbia, PRBO scientists gave eight presentations, including one on seabird hotspots in the California Current by Nadav Nur, PhD.

For siting solar installations in California, Chrissy Howell, PhD, contributed to a report that provides scientific guidance. She also participated in a climate change adaptation workshop for the Fresno, California area, convened in August by the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy. "Fresno County is the top agriculture-earning county in the U.S.," she says, "so people there are particularly concerned about climate change."

At a science camp for 7th- and 8th-grade girls from the S.F. Bay Area, held by the American Association of University Women, PRBO conservation educator Lishka Arata met with "girls expanding their perceptions of science and math career paths--and also developing confidence and leadership qualities."
Rinchen Singye, a PRBO intern from Bhutan, holds a bird in the Palomarin Field Station banding lab. Photo by Renée Cormier / PRBO.

Interns this fall at the Palomarin Field Station include Iselda Vega, from El Salvador, in the cooperative Park Flight program with the National Park Service, and Rinchen Singye, our first-ever intern from Bhutan. PRBO has now hosted interns from Belgium, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Germany, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Panama, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In new honors for PRBO staff, Tom Gardali was elected council member of the Association of Field Ornithologists, and Jaime Jahncke, PhD, was appointed to the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) Advisory Council in addition to his post on the Cordell Bank NMS Advisory Council.

"PRBO: In the Forefront of Conservation Science" is a YouTube video produced by Earth News TV in which CEO Ellie M. Cohen describes the scope and impacts of PRBO's work. Please share this excellent introduction to PRBO with people you know! Find a link at or search for "PRBO" at

You can now follow PRBO on Facebook: news from our studies, conservation insights, and more!

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