Science for a Blue Planet

Featuring cutting-edge work, discoveries, and challenges of our scientists, our partners, and the larger conservation science community.

Celebrating Women in 2020

During the month of March we are highlighting some of the awesome women scientists at Point Blue on our home page in honor of Women’s History Month. Our scientists are grateful for the pioneering women in history like Roger Arliner Young, Hallie Daggett, and Rosalie Barrow Edge who have helped pave the way for women in conservation today. We proudly carry the torch and are actively working to light the way for the next generation of women scientists, especially women of color.

More about the women on our home page

Kriss Neuman, Lead Ecologist, Coastal Monterey Bay Program

As a Waterbird Ecologist with the Pacific Coast and Central Valley Group at Point Blue, most of my work is focused on the ecology and conservation of snowy plovers in the Monterey Bay region.

After receiving my BA in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz in 1993, I studied seabird reproductive biology in Alaska and Maine and shorebird migration in the Midwest. After joining Point Blue in 1996, I completed an MS in Environmental Studies at San Jose State University in 2003 where my thesis work focused on the effect of predator management on reproductive success of snowy plovers.

In addition to snowy plover conservation and management, my primary research interests are ecology of sandy beach shorebirds and the impacts of human disturbance on shorebirds and other waterbirds. Other projects I have managed have included a study of the effects of human disturbance on shorebirds at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, and a study of the effects of beach morphology on the distribution of shorebirds in Monterey Bay.

Featured Work and Resources

Climate-Smart Conservation of Beaches and Dunes for Western Snowy Plover Recovery in Monterey Bay, California. K.K. Neuman, R.W. Stein, C.R. Eyster, and T. Gardali. 2019. Point Blue Conservation Science.

Success of captive-rearing for a threatened shorebird. Neuman, K.K.. L.E. Stenzel, J.C. Warriner, G.W. Page, J.L. Erbes, C.R. Eyster, E. Miller, and L. Henkel, Endangered Species Research 22:85-94, 2013.


Meredith Elliott, Senior Scientist, ACCESS Program Biologist

As a Senior Scientist in the California Current Group, I investigate the diet of various seabirds to understand changing fish communities in coastal California. I am a Program Coordinator with ACCESS (, a partnership between Point Blue, our two national marine sanctuaries (Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank), and several other entities to conduct ocean research in our region. In addition to overseeing and synthesizing the many datasets related to the ACCESS partnership, I research zooplankton communities in our Sanctuaries and examine the effects of varying oceanographic conditions on copepods, krill and other important zooplankton taxa in our marine environment. I also supervise the Point Blue laboratory, where our seabird diet and zooplankton studies happen with the help of our awesome interns and volunteers!

I earned my B.S. in Zoology from the University of California, Davis. I earned my M.S. in Marine Biology from San Francisco State University, investigating the diet of the California Least Tern colony at Alameda Point (formerly the Naval Air Station, Alameda).  After finishing my undergraduate work and trying to figure out what to do next, I was advised to apply for a seabird research assistant position on the Farallon Islands, and I have been hooked on seabirds ever since! I was hired soon after my season on the Farallones to help monitor Double-crested Cormorant populations on the Richmond-San Rafael and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges. Other Point Blue projects I have worked on include monitoring breeding success and diet of the Alameda Point Least Tern colony and documenting seabird mortality during oil spills as part of the Processing Strike Team within the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

When I’m not in the field (assisting in nest surveys in Alameda or on a research vessel in the Sanctuaries), I can be found in the Petaluma headquarters.

Featured Work and Resources

ModelingNonresident Seabird Foraging Distributions toInform Ocean Zoning in Central California. Studwell AJ, Hines E, Elliott ML, Howar J,Holzman B, Nur N, et al. (2017). PLoSONE 12(1): e0169517. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0169517

Waiting for your Tern. November 14, 2019.


Elizabeth Porzig, Working Lands Group Director

As Working Lands Director, I lead our work in studying ecological function on rangelands throughout California in collaboration with our amazing team of partner biologists and other scientists, ranchers, researchers, and conservation partners.

I grew up in California where the diverse habitats, landscapes and wildlife inspired me to pursue a career in conservation.  I attended Stanford University, with additional coursework at UC Santa Cruz. Soon after, I began working for Point Blue as a songbird banding intern in the Eastern Sierra and the Palomarin Field Station. At Palomarin, my fascination with ecology and birds grew and lead me to pursue a PhD in ecology at UC Davis. My dissertation research focused on population and community response of landbirds at Palomarin to the rapid successional changes in the vegetation community.

When I’m not studying birds, plants, and soils on rangelands, I enjoy playing outdoors with my husband and our chocolate lab.

Featured Work and Resources

Habitat suitability through time: using time series and habitat models to understand changes in bird density. Porzig, E.L., N.E. Seavy, T. Gardali, G.R. Geupel, M. Holyoak, J.M Eadie. 2014. Ecosphere 5(2): 12.

Forty-five years and counting: reflections from the Palomarin Field Station on the contribution of long-term monitoring and recommendations for the future. Porzig, E.L., K.E. Dybala, T. Gardali, G. Ballard, G.R. Geupel, J.A. Wiens. 2011. Condor 113(4):713-723.


Marian Vernon, Sierra Meadow Adaptation Leader

As the Sierra Meadow Adaptation Leader, I work with Point Blue’s partners to catalyze climate-smart meadow restoration in the Sierra Nevada. I am based at Point Blue’s headquarters in Petaluma. Prior to joining Point Blue, I worked at Sonoma Land Trust, where I was involved in conservation strategy, strategic planning, and evaluation of the organization’s progress in meeting strategic goals.

I consider myself to be an integrative conservation scientist and practitioner. I am motivated by the idea that integrating social and natural sciences is necessary to improve conservation outcomes and address the urgent challenge of climate change. I hold a Masters of Environmental Science degree from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where I focused on wildlife conservation, policy, and management. My thesis research examined the institutional and social dimensions of wildlife management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, for which I received the Lasswell Prize from the Society of Policy Scientists. I received a B.A. in Environmental Studies from DePaul University in 2011.

In my free time, I enjoy climbing, hiking, yoga, playing board games, and geeking out with science fiction novels.

Featured Work and Resources

Integrating climate adaptation into land conservation: A climate-smart framework for land trusts. Vernon, M. E. 2020. Point Blue Conservation Science Contribution Number 2271. Petaluma, CA.

A guide to climate-smart meadow restoration in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades. May 2019. Marian E. Vernon, Brent R. Campos, and Ryan D. Burnett. Point Blue Contribution Number 2232.


Alba Estrada Lopéz, Conservation Educator and Roger Arliner Young (RAY) Marine Conservation Diversity Fellow

I grew up in the Central Coast in Greenfield, California surrounded for miles by agricultural fields. Wanting to explore the world beyond my little town, I then attended University of California, Los Angeles where I majored in Biology with a double minor in Mexican Studies and Spanish. During my last quarter at UCLA, I applied to the Roger Arliner Young (RAY) Marine Conservation Diversity Fellowship Program that in collaboration with Point Blue, allowed me to merge my passion for education, science, and social justice.

I currently am a Conservation Educator within Point Blue’s STRAW program located in Petaluma and surrounding Bay Area. When I’m not at work, more often than not you can find me behind some type of science fiction book or a camera taking rookie photos of anything and everything.

Featured Work and Resources

Pilot Project for Community College Students: Lessons Learned & Future Direction. October 23, 2019 (Presentation starts at 3:30 minutes)

Restoring Hope: The Role of Place-based and Culturally Relevant Education in the Environmental Field. July 2019. (Presentation)


Carina Fish, Point Blue Graduate Student and UC Davis Ph.D. candidate

As a geology Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Davis, my research seeks to understand the marine biogeochemical history of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. While I am primarily based out of Bodega Marine Laboratory, I get to visit the sparkling seas multiple times per year and even peek underneath the surface both in person and using ROVs. My career has afforded me varied pursuits and hats to wear, most proudly as a marine biogeochemist, SciComm enthusiast, environmental justice advocate, and PADI Divemaster.

I credit my semester at The Island School for my love of the ocean, and my first research cruise from Bermuda to the Azores with the Langmuir group for my affinity for sea-going fieldwork. I have also dived for research both in Puerto Rico to collect and culture foraminifera, and in Indonesia to conduct a site comparison belt transect study. Besides research diving, I have worked as a divemaster in both Thailand and Malaysia.

A product of public schools, I seek to give back to the youth by engaging them with STEM fundamentals and exposing them to the breadth of marine sciences. I am passionate about environmental justice and delight in the creativity of science communication. I admire the environmental justice work of Dr. Robert Bullard, and aspire to have a career like that of Dr. Jane Lubchenco.

I received my A.B. from Harvard College in 2013 where I was a joint concentrator in both Earth and Planetary Sciences & Environmental Sciences and Engineering. I completed an undergraduate thesis with Dr. Andrew Knoll, and worked as a research assistant in the Shaw structural geology group, the Langmuir solid earth geochemistry lab, and the Whitesides research group. I later worked at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in the Hönisch paleoceanography group. In 2018, I was awarded both the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship as well as NOAA’s Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship. When not at sea or in the lab, I can be found dancing lindy hop in Golden Gate Park or hiking with my husky Cleo.

Featured Work and Resources

Lipski, D, Williams G, Howard D, Stock J, Roletto J, Cochrane G, Fish CR, and Graiff K. 2018. Discovering the Undersea Beauty of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, in Raineault, N.A, J. Flanders, and A. Bowman, eds. 2018. New frontiers in ocean exploration: The E/V Nautilus, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, and R/V Falkor 2017 field season. Oceanography 31(1), supplement, 126 pp.

Changing Seas Episode 1101: The Cordell Bank: A National Treasure.  

Carina Fish Explains Soft Robotics, Harvard University. (YouTube Video)


Want More?

Revisit Our Celebrating Women in Science Point Blue Quarterly for more inspirational stories about how women are moving the conservation science field forward.

Blog post compiled by: Lishka Arata, Senior Communications Coordinator