Lynne Stenzel

Senior Wetland Ecologist

As a member of the Pacific Coast and Central Valley Group at Point Blue Conservation Science, my work has focused on shorebird ecology and behavior. My interests range from the aquatic birds that use our coastlines for breeding, migration, and wintering; to the physical and biological dynamics of coastal ecosystems; to a particular shorebird found on our coast year-round, the Snowy Plover.

I first became involved with Point Blue (then, Point Reyes Bird Observatory) in September of 1971, when wetland biologist Gary Page was initiating  an ecological study, focused on shorebirds, at Bolinas Lagoon. This beautiful coastal estuary, very near our organization’s first headquarters, was also the site of my field work then ‒ in marine biology. Because Gary aimed to include not only the shorebirds but also their predators (raptors) and their prey (invertebrates), there was an opportunity for me to apply my budding expertise in sampling and identifying intertidal invertebrates. It was exciting to be invited to join this study, uncommon at the time. Our small but energetic team of student interns led by Gary set about documenting the distribution and abundance of shorebirds and their mud-dwelling prey on the lagoon, as well as the activities of shorebirds’ avian predators, such as Merlins and Peregrine Falcons!

Birds, especially shorebirds, soon displaced invertebrates as my primary research interest. That interest led me from the muddy shores of Bolinas Lagoon, to wetlands throughout the West that are integral to the Pacific Flyway and crucial to migratory shorebirds, to Mono Lake and the California coast in studies of the Snowy Plover, and especially to Monterey Bay where Point Blue works collaboratively to document the well-being of the plover’s population and ensure its survival.

We have continued censusing aquatic birds at Bolinas Lagoon through an uncommonly long time span, now totaling 42 years. In the process we have discerned changes in the array of birds using the estuary as the lagoon’s morphology has changed. Another example of the value of long-term study, a hallmark of Point Blue, is our constant effort to document the survivorship of Snowy Plovers from year to year in the Monterey Bay area. It will help us evaluate this important population’s viability, as well as responses to accelerating environmental change.

In my career at Point Blue I’ve had the privilege of coordinating and working with hundreds of citizen scientists in our studies. It has been gratifying to see how exposure to the scientific method ‒ and to counting and observing birds in the wild ‒ touch so many participants and inspire them to become knowledgeable and enthusiastic advocates for the natural world.