April 3, 2018
Exactly fifty years ago today, Point Blue (then the fledgling Point Reyes Bird Observatory) biologists officially began our research program on the Farallon Islands. It was at about 11am on Wednesday, April 3 of 1968 that Buddy Robert, C.J. Ralph, Malcolm Coulter, Fred Sibley, and Richard Bauer landed on Southeast Farallon Island and established what has become the Farallon Island field station. At the time we had no idea that it would be the beginning of 50 years of continuous research and stewardship operations on the island that hosts the largest seabird breeding colony in the continental United States. Every day since then Point Blue biologists and interns have maintained a presence on the island 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Working in close partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we monitor wildlife populations, conduct research that helps detect change and inform management, and conserve and protect the fragile ecosystem of the islands.
The journal page from April 3, 1968 describing day 1 on Southeast Farallon Island
Over these five decades, we’ve amassed invaluable long term data sets that are crucial for understanding and addressing threats to our climate, the ocean, seabirds, sea lions, seals, whales, white sharks, and the marine food web. Our research has led to significant outcomes including: the 1987 ban on gill-netting to protect seabirds from being killed as bycatch; the 1993 state law banning the hunting of White Sharks in California; the establishment of Marine Protected Area regulations around the Farallones in 2010; and new actions by NOAA and the US Coast Guard to reduce ship strikes on whales.
Of course, it takes a tremendous amount of effort and dedication to collect the 50 years’ worth of data that is so valuable for understanding and conserving this unique ecosystem. So Mike Johns (Farallon Biologist and current island resident) decided to make a graphic depicting the amount of time and energy it has taken to reach this milestone. The visualization below reflects the extreme commitment by some and smaller contributions by many dedicated biologists and interns over the years, expressed in terms of personnel days on the island. These names are only a subset of many others from various agencies, contracts, and universities that also sustain the work that happens on SEFI.
Today, we’re kicking off a celebration to mark this remarkable milestone. Join us on Twitter and Facebook in the weeks and months ahead as we use the hashtag #Farallones50 to share photos, videos, stories, and highlights of our work on the “Galapagos of California.” Please share widely with people you know that have put in the hours out on that wonderful rock and with anyone else who may be interested. Our goal is to collect anecdotes from the many people whose efforts have helped us to reach this milestone and whose lives have been impacted by the experience.
So tell us your stories and stay tuned for more updates from Los Farallones. And if you can, consider supporting us so that we can continue our groundbreaking science and stewardship on the island, day in day and day out, for the next 50 years.